Tree Planting Guide


The best time to plant most trees is spring or fall; however, many containerized trees can be planted any time if handled properly.


Avoiding unnecessary damage and stress to trees prior to planting will ensure better success.

  • Keep the root ball moist
  • Handle the tree by the container, not by the trunk.
  • DO NOT let the tree drop or fall from your truck or trailer; this can damage the root ball and result in the death of the tree.   
  • Remove the bag, container, and/or strings from around the trunk.  The burlap and wire cage on a B&B tree can be removed from the top of the root ball after it is planted and staked.  Removing the entire wire basket is unnecessary and can result in damage to the root ball. 
  • If roots are excessive and circling the inner walls of the pot, score the outer edge of the root ball by slightly severing or scratching the root system. Do not cut deeply into the root ball itself.


Preparing the planting area properly before planting is very important.

  • Dig the planting hole two to three times the diameter of the tree’s root ball and no deeper than the root ball itself.
  • If your soil is hard and full of clumps, replace it with good topsoil.  Hard clumpy soil will not settle around the root structure properly, making it difficult for your tree to take root.
  • For clay soil, mix topsoil with Marcum’s own Redbud Compost.
  • For sandy soil, mix topsoil with peat moss and Marcum’s Redbud Compost.


Monty Glenn recorded a video of planting a tree to give you a really good visual.  If videos aren’t your thing, we also explain the steps in greater detail below.



    Fill in the planting hole (backfill) with a mixture of native soil and Marcum’s Organic Redbud Compost. Tamp lightly. We recommend one 40lb bag of Redbud Compost for every 10 gallons of plant material (e.g. a 10 gallon tree requires one 40lb bag of compost).

    • Water the tree thoroughly and again use your shovel to settle the soil around the root ball. If the soil settles, continue adding more topsoil until it remains at ground level.
    • Use any excess soil to build a soil ring around the outside of the root ball. Fill the water ring with a Marcum’s Root Stimulator and fish emulsion and let this mixture soak in well.

    Newly planted trees should be watered well at the time of planting and throughout their first two years. Sprinkler systems DO NOT provide enough water to meet the moisture needs of newly planted landscape trees; natural rainfall is usually not enough to meet the moisture needs either. Newly planted trees may need to be watered two or three times a week in extremely hot, dry, and/or windy weather. Deciduous and evergreen trees will also need ample water during the winter months. Apply water slowly at the base of the tree to allow for deep soaking. If you have several young trees and shrubs, a drip irrigation system would be a wise investment. Treegator® Slow Release Watering Bags are also an easy way to ensure proper watering of trees. Watch for signs of wilting as an indicator that the tree needs water. Check your soil’s moisture before watering and allow it time to dry out between sessions. Be cautious not to overwater or the amount of oxygen in the soil will be lowered to a level that will damage roots.


    Stake trees when top-heavy or planted in windswept areas. The material used to attach the tree to the stake should be broad, smooth and somewhat elastic. Do not stake the tree too rigidly and always allow for sway. Stake trees on the north and south sides. Support stakes should be removed after one growing season. If staking is left in place for more than two years the tree’s ability to stand alone may be reduced, and the chances of girdling injury are increased. We recommend staking your new tree for at least one year to help keep it in place. Use nylon tree straps as opposed to garden hose. Move the straps on the trunk of the tree every three months to keep from girdling the tree.


    New trees can be mulched two to four inches deep and five to six feet in diameter; keep mulch at least two to four inches away from the tree trunk. Do not mound mulch against the tree trunk. Mulching helps reduce turf/weed competition for water and nutrients and regulates soil temperature and moisture.



    Heavy fertilization is not recommended at the time of planting. Marcum’s Root Stimulator or fertilome® Fish Emulsion Fertilizer is safe to use at planting. Marcum’s Slow Release 18-6-12 is a suitable fertilizer for all established trees and shrubs for annual fertilization. 


    Avoid over pruning new trees. During the growing season remove injured or diseased branches only. Heavy pruning can be done in the winter as needed. A pruning sealer can be applied to open cuts to keep out wood boring insects.


    Trunk wrapping materials provide protection by regulating temperatures and bark moisture for thin-barked trees such as ash, birch, linden, and maple.

     If misused, however, damage may occur from trunk girdling or constriction, insects, diseases and excessive moisture.

    • Normal application of tree trunk wraps is October – March for the first two growing seasons.
    • Remove wraps each spring prior to spring growth.
    • Wrap loosely from the base of the tree up to the first branch by overlapping for shingle effect.
    • Plastic guards should fit loosely and include holes or slits.
    • Inspect for damage and insects and spray for borers when necessary.


    Hillcock, D., Schnelle, M. (2017, April). Tree Planting Guide. Retrieved from