Tree Planting Techniques


Matching Plants to Planting Site

The first step is to select a suitable plant for the planting site. Things to consider include:Is the species suitable for the climate and growing conditions

  • Is the species suitable for the climate and growing conditions
  • What type of soil is present
  • How much root space is there
  • Are there any structures or utilities nearby that could be damaged
  • How big will the tree be in 10 years, 20 years or more
  • What level of maintenance will be required

Plant selection

The quality, structure and size of a tree is important to it success and how it looks. Most trees for planting are container grown and can have a number of faults that must be checked before purchasing When selecting a tree to plant things to consider include:

  • The smaller the tree to start with the greater the chance of success.
  • Root systems should be well developed and evenly spaced. The container should not be root bound.
  • Kinked and girdling roots can eventually restrict the flow of water and nutrients from the roots to the tree and may affect tree stability in the future. A number of container designs that prevent circling roots are preferable.
  • The stem should have even taper from the base to the tip for good trunk development and should be able to support itself. It should have fairly even branch spacing and a good structure to work with. Check for included bark crotches and codominant leaders.

Site Preparation

When preparing the planting site, a larger prepared area will provide better root growing conditions for faster tree establishment. The hole only needs to be 300-600mm deep. Loosen soil in a hole as wide as the site and time will allow. Ensure the sides of the hole are not so smooth as to prevent root penetration.


When removing the tree from the container, inspect the roots and remove any that are circling around the sides and bottom and any circling close around the trunk. The root ball can be teased or cut to help spread out the roots.

The correct planting depth is to have the top of the soil in the container level with the top of the surrounding soil. If planted too deep the root system may not get the correct levels of oxygen and moisture. If not planted deep enough, the roots may dry out too quickly. When orienting the tree consider where it will be viewed from and the direction of sunlight. Backfill with loose soil and compact it as you fill. Ensure there are no air pockets.

Once the tree is planted, water it in with a good soaking. A small ridge can be built to help retain water. Mulch the area to a depth of 50-75 mm 0f mulch.


The plant will sometimes require little or no pruning. Some of the following can be pruned out at planting if required. Keep pruning to a minimum as the new tree will require as much foliage as it can to help it get established.

  • Broken branches and twigs
  • Crowded branches
  • Reduce or remove codominant leaders
  • Reduce or remove branches with included bark crotches


If possible avoid staking a tree. The tree will develop better trunk taper and be a much stronger tree. If the tree is larger and the size of the root ball may not hold it up then support may be necessary. 1, 2 or 3 wooden stakes with webbing usually provides good support. Place the webbing loosely around the stem to allow trunk movement, but to stop it from falling over if there are stronger winds. This is usually just above the point where the tree needs to be held up for support, but below 2/3 the height of the tree.

After care

Check on the tree regularly for the following:

  • The trees crown is growing well
  • Getting adequate irrigation
  • Mulch layers are OK
  • Stakes and webbing not wounding the tree
  • Any further formative pruning


These Tree Planting Techniques are a guide only. Each tree planting situation may have specific requirements. Always check with a qualified Arborist for site specific requirements.