The Essential Guide to Planting and Caring For Trees

Planting a tree is a great way to enhance your property and create a greener environment. But it takes a little planning and attention to detail for your tree to thrive and survive for a long time.

Once you have selected your site and gathered all the necessary materials, it’s time to plant! Whether it’s a container or bare-root tree, the following tips will help you care for your new addition.


Tree planting is one of the most engaging, environmentally friendly activities that people can take part in to make the planet a better place. They enhance air quality, slow heavy rains and reduce flooding, provide shade and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

They also help cool the planet by absorbing and storing harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into their trunks, branches and leaves — and releasing oxygen back into the air. An acre of trees can store 13 pounds of carbon and change 48 pounds of that into oxygen in a year.

Adding trees to your landscape enhances your property’s beauty, tranquility and home value. They also help lower your energy costs by providing shade in the summer and windbreaks in the winter, cutting down on heating and cooling your home.

Planting your trees right is critical for their longevity and success. There are a few steps you can follow to ensure your trees establish and grow up healthy, including the following:

1. Dig a hole that is deep enough to hold the root ball of your tree but not too deep that it will struggle to grow.

2. Cover the bottom of the hole with a layer of soil and tamp it down gently.

3. Apply mulch, which will insulate the soil, retain water, help keep weeds out and reduce soil temperatures.

4. During the first few growing seasons, your tree will be working hard to establish roots in its new environment. During this period, deep watering will be especially helpful for the newly planted tree.

Once your tree is established, you can focus on its long-term health and happiness. The Essential Guide to Planting and Caring for Trees is here to help you achieve that goal!


Pruning is a maintenance process that involves cutting off excess branches from trees and shrubs. It’s important to prune them because it can help control their size, promote growth, and improve the aesthetic appeal of your landscape.

Pruning can also be done to remove damaged or diseased branches, which are a safety hazard. Removing these limbs can prevent damage to nearby structures and power lines as well as reduce the risk of storm damage from broken branches.

In addition, pruning can reduce the amount of leaf disease on trees by promoting air flow through their canopy. This can benefit other plants residing underneath the tree’s canopy, as well.

There are many different types of pruning, including thinning, topping, raising, and reduction. They each have different benefits.

When pruning, cut back branches outside the branch collar, which contains the trunk or parent branch tissue. Branches should be cut to a height of about 12-18 inches from the branch collar, depending on how long they are and their weight.

For young trees, this may be as little as 25% of the total canopy. Middle-aged and mature trees should be trimmed to 20%.

Regardless of the type of tree, pruning should be done at least once a year to encourage healthy growth. It’s best to do it in winter when wounds heal quickly and reduce the risk of fungi or diseases developing.

Other reasons to prune include controlling pests and insects and ensuring safe access for children and pets. Insects and worms that colonize in dead or decaying branches can be harmful, spreading disease or killing the plant if not removed. In addition, a tangled mess of branches can impede your ability to see and navigate around your home.


Watering is essential to the health of all plants, but trees have special needs. They can thrive in dry weather but may experience stress if they are not watered properly or are left without enough water for extended periods of time.

The amount of water a tree requires depends on a number of factors, including the age and species of the tree, the season, and soil type. Younger trees generally require more frequent watering than older, established trees.

When watering, try to get into the roots. This is best done using a soaker hose, which will release the water slowly so that it can reach down into the soil to hydrate the roots.

Another great way to water is to fill a bucket and pour it over the entire root area of the tree. This will help to keep the roots hydrated and reduce watering frequency.

You can also use a drip irrigation system that will allow the water to soak into the soil and move down to the root zone. These systems are more efficient than overhead sprinklers, which tend to run off and waste water.

Finally, mulch is the ultimate water retaining tool for your trees. Spread it about 3 to 4 inches deep all around the trunk of your tree. This will keep the soil moist and prevent invasive plants from growing.

Newly planted trees should be given water every few days during their first week or two to help establish a healthy root system. After that, they should be given less water as the roots grow and become established. Overwatering can cause the roots to die.


Trees, like other plants, need a good balance of nutrients to thrive. The three macronutrients required are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Healthy trees are more resilient to disease, drought and pests.

In natural settings, trees absorb nutrients from the soil. Trees also recycle nutrients in leaves and twigs that break down on the forest floor, supplying their root systems with essential minerals needed for growth. But in the urban landscape, leaf removal often removes this organic layer from the ground, which makes it harder for trees to take in nutrients and build up a strong root system.

To make up for this shortfall, tree care providers offer fertilizer programs. The most effective fertilizers are applied to the top of the soil in a large area near the trunk, allowing nutrients to be dispersed and absorbed by the roots.

A typical application of fertilizer to a mature tree should be made in early spring and again late in the growing season. During the spring, trees are in active growth and their metabolic rates are highest.

Fertilizer applications to young trees should be very small. Applying too much fertilizer, especially to young saplings, can burn the tree’s roots and trunks. Instead, consider a slow release, organic-based fertilizer that releases its nutrients slowly over time and helps protect the tree from insect damage.

If you’re unsure whether your tree needs fertilizer, consult with a tree care provider or a professional landscaper to find out the best way to help your tree thrive. Some signs that your tree is in need of nutrients include pale green or yellow leaves, mottled patterns between the veins, dead spots or stunted or early loss of leaves.

Disease Control

Trees are important components of your landscape, but they are susceptible to diseases that can cause significant damage. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to help your trees stay healthy and vibrant.

In addition to regular pruning, watering and fertilizing, it’s also important to address disease issues as soon as possible. The earlier a problem is detected, the easier and more cost effective it can be to treat. If you’ve ever wondered what is stump grinding, it’s a useful tree service that prevents your tree from re-growing should you decide to have it removed due to disease.

Diseases that affect tree trunks, branches and leaves are typically caused by fungi. These fungi can cause damage to the wood, leaving necrotic areas or causing the tree to die.

The best way to protect your trees from tree bark and root diseases is by avoiding the infections in the first place. This means maintaining good tree health, using sound tree care practices and utilizing an eco-friendly chemical control program when necessary.

One of the more common conifer tree diseases is diplodia tip blight, which causes new growth to stunt and become yellow or brown. It’s most common on stressed pines and can be treated by removing infected cones, tips and branches, as well as disinfecting pruning tools between cuts.

Another common tree bark disease is hypoxylon canker, which injures weakened branches and leads to the death of the tree. This tree bark disease is induced by pathogenic fungi that penetrate through bark cracks or other mechanical injuries such as frost, fire or sunscalds.

The treatment for this tree bark disease usually consists of fungicide spraying or removing infected branches. However, if the fungus is resistant to these methods, tree removal may be necessary. It’s also important to consider what other stressors are affecting the health of your trees, such as high tree density, poor soil quality or pest infestations.