Angie's List | Planting a tree

Trees are a great asset. They can add up to 15 percent to the value of your home if they are well-maintained. But when planning and planting, you need to be sure you're accounting for what they will be like when they are full grown. Sometimes, people make the mistake of planting them too close to their driveway or to their home, which could cause their driveway to buckle or their foundation to crack.

Trees grow slowly so you can't afford to make a mistake by planting them in the wrong location or overlooking something that puts the tree at risk. Trees will thrive as long as they are planted in the right location.

Once you have found the ideal location, it's time to select a healthy tree.

Nursery Owner Jeff Gatewood says, "The most important thing really is the framework of the tree, the wood part. A good, clean, straight trunk and a good even branching habit. More important than anything else is the framework because it's going to be there year after year."

Trees are usually sold as bare root or in a root ball or container.

"When it's in a pot it has its entire root system underneath it in the pot, whereas a ball one has been cut and dug up out of a field so it hasn't got all of its roots and it has to spend the first two years regenerating all of its roots. A tree in a pot immediately can start growing on top where the customer wants to see it grow," Gatewood explains.

A common mistake is the planting depth. The top of the soil in the pot should be exactly level with the soil in your lawn or even a tiny bit above. If you go a little below, like an inch or two too deep, it's could eventually kill the tree.

Gatewood advises, "You never want the grass to grow around the trunk of the tree. Always take out a big circle of sod, four to six feet in diameter, plant the tree in the middle, mulch it."

When it comes to mulch, do not pile it up along the trunk because the mulch stays moist and that attracts insects and causes rot.

Newly planted trees should get an inch of water a week.

"Before planting a tree, the first thing you want to do is call 8-1-1 which is a free service that will come out and mark where your utilities are in your yard. That way you don't run the risk of cutting an utility line which could upset your neighbors if you end up cutting their electricity," suggests Angie Hicks.

Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated tree service companies for some tree planting tips:

When to plant a tree: Experts says the ideal time to plant a tree is in the dormant season – in the fall after leaf drop or in the early spring. The cooler temperatures reduce stress on the tree because roots establish before spring rains and high temperatures spur new growth.
How to select a tree: To avoid problems down the road, purchase a healthy tree. A high-quality tree should establish more quickly after transplanting, and will be more likely to fight off disease and survive heavy storms. Avoid trees with crushed or circling roots or obvious wounds on the trunk. Look for a tree with one, dominant truck and a uniform canopy. If the tree is staked in the nursery, remove the stake to ensure the tree can stand on its own. Trees are usually sold as bare root or in a root ball or container. Bare-root trees should have visible, fibrous root system that is moist and not dried out. When purchasing a tree in a container, watch out for roots that have grown into the container.
Where to plant a tree: Avoid planting trees that will grow large under power lines or other trees. Trees planted too close to foundation, driveways, or sidewalks can cause concrete to crack and buckle. Fruit-bearing trees should be kept away from driveways, patios and sidewalks because the fruit will be a nuisance and stain the pavement.
Call before you dig: Once you've scouted a location, call 811 to schedule an underground utility inspection. The service is available nationwide at no cost to the homeowner. Otherwise, you risk digging through a utility line, potentially knocking out power to your neighborhood.
What could go wrong? When planting a tree you risk transplant shock. Symptoms of transplant shock include wilted leaves and slow growth. Consult with an expert about maintenance and how to keep your tree healthy and thriving.

Angie's List Tip:
Before you plant a tree, seek the consultation of an expert: A certified arborist can help determine what trees will work best in your yard -- and your geographic region -- and can help come up with a variety of trees to beautify your landscape. Some states require an arborist to be licensed so check with your state's licensing department before hiring. Also check for membership in professional organizations, such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).


Print this article Back to Top