How to Plant Container-Grown Trees

Transfer a tree from its container with this step-by-step guide.

Materials Needed

  • container trees of choice
  • garden fork or rake
  • watering can or garden hose
  • fertilizer
  • shovel
  • stick or bamboo cane
  • mulch
  • wooden stake (optional)

Step 1: Prepare ground before planting

Remove Weeds and Prepare Soil for Sod

Remove Weeds and Prepare Soil for Sod

Before laying sod, prepare the soil by removing weeds, adding in organic matter, and digging in sand to help with drainage.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Loosen the soil with a fork to improve drainage, remove weeds, and incorporate some organic matter and all-purpose fertilizer at the specified rate over 6-10 feet (2–3 m) of ground surrounding the planting area to ensure that your tree is well nourished.

Step 2: Dig a hole

Planting a Tree

Planting a Tree

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Soak the tree roots thoroughly. Dig a planting hole the same depth as the root ball and up to three times as wide. Break up any compacted soil around the sides with a garden fork.

Step 3: Place tree in hole

Check Tree Planting Depth with Bamboo Cane

Check Tree Planting Depth with Bamboo Cane

Check the planting depth of a tree by placing a stick or cane across the top of the planting hole. The stick should lay flat across the hole and the root ball.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Check the planting depth by laying a stick or bamboo cane across the top. This may be easier if you remove the container first.

Step 4: Remove container and scrape excess soil from base of trunk

Tease Out Encircling Roots

Tease Out Encircling Roots

Photo by: DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Be sure to also tease out any roots that have grown around the edge of the root ball.

Step 5: Put the tree back in hole and spread roots out evenly

Hold Planted Tree Upright and Fill In with Soil

Hold Planted Tree Upright and Fill In with Soil

Place tree in hole and spread out the roots evenly. Hold the tree upright while refilling the hole with dirt and water well.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Water in well, thoroughly soaking the roots. Ask someone to help you hold the tree upright while you replace the excavated soil.

Step 6: Replace excavated soil in and around the roots

Firm in Newly Planted Tree Using Foot to Compact

Firm in Newly Planted Tree Using Foot to Compact

Firm in the replaced soil around newly planted tree with foot to eliminate any air pockets. Water tree well, and use mulch around the trunk.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Firm the soil in well with your foot to eliminate any air pockets, but be careful not to compact the soil. Water the tree well. Apply a mulch, leaving a gap around the trunk. Stake large trees after planting to prevent damage from wind-rock.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Grow an Avocado Tree: Guac 'n' Roll

Tips for turning that avocado pit into a thriving avocado tree and your next bowl of guacamole.

How to Make Sheet Music Christmas Trees

Bring the unexpected to your table with miniature Christmas trees made out of cut and curled sheet music. These fluffy trees will add texture and whimsy to any holiday arrangement.

How to Make a Front Porch Christmas Tree

Create a country-style look on the front porch this holiday season with some indoor/outdoor materials — and a few gifts from Mother Earth.

How to Plant and Grow Persimmons

Experts pick their best tips on how to achieve persimmon perfection.

Twig Newton: How to Grow a Fig Tree

This resilient fruit tree thrives in colder regions and provides a yummy snack.

How to Build a Tree-Encompassing Deck

Bring nature into your outdoor entertaining area with a deck built around existing trees.

How to Grow Pineapple Plants

Learn how to grow a pineapple plant in your yard or in a pot.

How to Plant Evergreens in Containers

Learn how to properly plant evergreens in containers to keep color alive in your garden all year around.

How to Grow Zucchini Plants

Zucchinis are a winner for being one of the quickest — and easiest — members of the squash family to grow.

How to Plant a Cactus Container Garden

Yee-haw! Turn a container into a desert landscape by filling it with prickly cacti and other succulent plants.