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Planting a Container Tree

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Container grown trees spend at least part of their life in a pot. If you are planting a container tree, these trees transplant well from early spring into fall.

Before planting the tree, examine it carefully:

  • Make sure the tree is not potted bare rootstock. The root mass will come out of the pot intact if it is a container-grown tree. Check for plenty of feeder roots (thin, hair-like roots) but make sure there are not so many roots that the tree has become pot-bound.
  • Check the roots for damage. If you see evidence of chewing, tunnels, or holes, it indicates rodent damage.
  • Avoid any tree with a rotten odor coming from the root area; it is probably diseased.

Here are steps for planting a container tree:

  1. Make sure you have the proper tools: a garden fork, a shovel, two wooden stakes or tree supports, tree ties, and mulch.
  2. Using the container as a guide, mark out the planting with the shovel. Make the hole about three times the width of the container.
  3. Dig the hole about one and a half times as deep as the height of the pot.
  4. Use the garden fork to scarify (loosen the soil) the edges of the hole. Loosening the soil makes it easier for the roots to properly expand.
  5. Pound the two stakes into the ground angled outward, with enough room between the stakes for the root ball to fit.
  6. Water the tree in its container, and then gently lay it on its side.
  7. Remove the pot and gently tease the roots out with your hands. A small cultivator would also work.
  8. Backfill some of the soil into the hole. Place the tree in the center of the hole. Make sure that the edge of the hole is level with the height of the container, adding soil if needed.
  9. After the tree is at the correct height, fill in the hole with soil, tamping (packing) it down as you go.
  10. If your climate is dry, or if water drains away quickly, dig a moat around the tree to retain water.
  11. Fasten the tree ties to the stakes and the tree, not too tightly, to ensure that the tree receives adequate support for its first year in the new area.
  12. Making sure that the mulch does not touch the tree trunk, apply two to four inches of mulch around the planting area.
  13. For the next year after planting a container tree, water the tree well and keep the soil moist.
Updated: November 22, 2013 — 9:53 am

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