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Planting and Growing

811 logoHow to Plant and Care for Your Young Tree 

Check out these step by step instructions for locating, selecting, planting, and caring for a new tree. Before you start, it is always best to call 8-1-1 to have the utilities marked.

Step 1. Select the Right Place

Carefully planning the tree location is the first step to ensuring that the tree you plant survives for years to come without causing serious infrastructure conflicts or excessive maintenance. It is especially important to avoid utilities by calling 8-1-1 to have the underground utilities marked and by planting small trees (less than 25' when fully grown) under power lines.

Tree Selection Postcard


Step 2. Select the "Right" Tree

While there is no one "right" tree for any location, some trees perform better in some locations than others. Understanding how a tree is likely to grow over time and what conditions it prefers can help you figure out what kind of tree might do well in your yard or right-of-way (the planting strip next to the street).

Tree selection postcard

Step 3. Plant a Tree

Trees can be grown in a variety of different kinds of conditions, such as in a container, field grown and then dug up and wrapped in burlap (referred to as balled & burlapped), field grown and then shipped without soil (often called bare root), or in a fabric bag (also called a root control bag). Regardless of how a plant is grown, special care is needed when planting the tree in the ground.

General Planting Guidelines:

  • Dig a wide hole. 
  • Remove all packaging (container, burlap, bag, twine, etc).
  • Place the tree in the hole and make sure that the trunk flare is above ground. It can be helpful to place a shovel across the hole to make sure that the trunk flare is not buried under soil.
  • Look for roots that are circling the tree and pull them away from the tree. Circling roots can suffocate the tree as they grow.
  • Fill the hole with soil and gentle pack the soil between the roots.
  • Water the tree immediately after planting.

tree planting postcard

Step 4: Caring For Your Tree

Newly planted trees must be watered regularly through the dry season for the first three years. From June to October, water your tree with fifteen gallons of water a week. Note that irrigation for lawns is typically not enough water for the tree.


Easy methods of hand watering include:

  • Watering bags - bags such as TreeGators, Ooze Tubes, etc. Fill and walk away while the bag drains slowly to the root system.
  • Drip hose - Be sure to wrap around the root mass several times to ensure enough water is delivered and turn on for a few hours. Adding an inexpensive timer to the hose can be helpful.
  • Clean five gallon bucket - Drill several small holes in the bottom of the bucket, place next to the trunk of the tree and fill. Fill a few times to deliver the correct amount of water for your tree, or use several buckets. Be sure to bring buckets in when not in use as they tend to grow legs and walk away.    

After one year, remove any stakes or supports installed with planting after one year.

After two or three years, the tree may need to be pruned to train the tree for street, alley and sidewalk clearances. For more information about proper pruning, please visit our Pruning web page or enroll in a free workshop at EnviroHouse.

Maintain a mulch circle around the trunk of the tree. Mulch helps retain moisture, suppress weeds and adds nutrients to the soil. Having mulch around the tree will also help prevent damage to the bark from lawn mowers and string trimmers. Do not pile mulch up around the trunk of the tree as this leads to trunk decay.

Tree Care Postcard

Tree Postcards for Download

Tree Placement Card provides guidance on determining where to plant the tree, including recommendations for how far to place trees away from property lines and utilities.

Tree Selection Card lists various trees that you might consider.

Tree Planting Card provides recommendations for tree planting including how much mulch to place around the newly planted tree.

Tree Care Card provides guidance on how to prune (or how not to prune) your newly planted tree.