Tree and Shrub Planting Tips

Here are ten easy planting steps to ensure your new trees and shrubs get off to a great start. At the bottom of this page, we also provide a link to a handy one-page guide with pictures that illustrate the steps.

Water First — All plants should be well-watered before you plant them in addition to after you plant them. A pre-moistened root ball makes for a healthier plant.

Size of Hole — The size of your hole depends on the size of your plant. Typically, the hole should be 2-3 times wider and 50% deeper than the container or root ball.

Soil Amendments — Our staff can help you pick the right amendment for your soil type.  Blend the amendment with your native soil whenever possible.  Make sure to remove all large rocks from your planting hole.

Soil amendments

  • Master Nursery Planting Mix – Your best choice when planting rhododendrons, conifers, dogwoods and Japanese maples. Mix up to 100% with your native soil.
  • Nurseryman’s Bumper Crop Soil Builder – Our general-purpose soil amendment for most soils. Mix up to 50% with your native soil.
  • Nurseryman’s Black Forest Compost – Helps break up heavy clay soils. Mix up to 50% with your native soil.
  • Nurseryman’s Gardeners’ Choice Planting Mix – When you don’t have enough native soil to mix into any of the other amendments, this is your choice. You can mix up to 75% of this amendment with your native soil.

Garden Elements Natural & Organic Starter FoodFertilizer – This is your best opportunity to get starter fertilizer down into your plant’s root zone. Choose either Master Start or Garden Elements Natural & Organic Starter fertilizer to help new plants get off to a healthy start. Following the package directions, mix some of the fertilizer in the bottom of your planting hole, and the rest into your amended soil to be used for back fill.

Loosen Roots – For container-grown plants, remove the container and loosen the root ball with your fingers. Using sharp pruning shears, remove any broken roots and roots matted on the bottom. For B&B plants (with burlap around their root ball), do not remove the burlap or loosen the root ball. Once the root ball is placed in the planting hole, cut and loosen the rope from around the trunk.

Container tree planting diagram

Click Image to Enlarge

Planting — Refill your hole with amended soil until it’s about 1/3 full. Place the plant root ball in the hole so that the plant sits slightly higher than finish grade to allow for settling. Refill the hole about half way, then water thoroughly. Once the water has soaked in, fill the hole to the top of the root ball — no higher, build a berm just outside the width of the planting hole to make a watering basin, and thoroughly water again. Watering in with one teaspoon of Master Nursery’s Root Master B-1 mixed per gallon of water helps minimize transplant shock and stimulates new root growth.

Staking – Not all plants need to be staked. Only stake your plant if it cannot support itself under normal, windy or snowy conditions. Tighten the tree ties enough to provide support, but don’t eliminate all movement as this will keep the tree from developing a strong trunk.

Mulch – Both decorative and functional, mulch helps keep moisture in and weeds out! Some mulches we recommend:

  • Master Nursery Fir Bark
  • Master Nursery Shredded Cedar Bark
  • Nurseryman’s Black Forest Compost
  • Cocoa Hull Mulch

Doe on Trinity River bankDeer Fencing – The best deer repellent is a fence. For individual trees and shrubs, a length of tall wire fencing can be firmly staked around the plant to keep pests at bay. Make sure the diameter of your fence is at least equal to the diameter of your tree’s branch canopy. Deer are not only attracted to foliage, but to the trunk as well — they can kill plants by damaging their bark. So, even though your tree or shrub may be deer resistant, you may want to protect it with a fence while it’s young. See our article on Keeping Pesky Deer Away for some other deer repellent options.

Regular Watering – All newly planted trees and shrubs need deep, regular watering even if they are expected to be drought-tolerant once established. Establishment can take 2-3 years. To know if your plant is getting enough water, check the soil. Your plant needs a deep watering when the soil an inch below the surface is dry. Soil conditions, weather and plant type all play a part in how often you’ll need to water your trees and shrubs. Ask any of our staff about the requirements of your plants.

Click Tree Planting Tips to download a one-page illustrated version of these tips.