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Planting Depth

Proper Planting Depth

Too Low


Too High




         The root flare should be at ground level, exposed to the air.  If the flare is buried in soil or mulch it smothers the tissue that is designed to interface with the air, and will allow for easy access to soil-borne pathogens.   Also make sure that the first roots are only an inch below the surface not above exposed to the air, however this is better than being too deep.  A tree's absorbing roots are in the first 6 or so inches of the soil, even when mature.  If the tree starts out planted 6  or more inches too low it will also struggle to absorb water, have dificullty 'breathing', and be more susceptible to diseases.
ISA Tree Planting Guide
Invasive Plants

How to plant a tree

Best time to plant is in the Early Spring or Fall.  Think about trying to give the tree the best acclimation time before the harsh temperatures of Summer and Winter.

Select appropriate tree for the spot.  Try to do some research before planting.  Find a species that is going to work in the place you would like it.

Dig hole – The hole should be exactly the depth of the root ball or container.  No deeper.  Make sure not to dig and loosen the soil deeper than the size of root ball as it will tend to settle and sink as it gets watered.  The hole should be 2 to 3 times the width of the root ball if possible.  Loosen and save the soil for later.  Adding foreign soil or amendments while planting is complicating the transition.  The soil from the hole should be used if possible.   

Position the tree in the hole so the root flare is at ground level.  This is the most important step.  Getting the planting depth right will significantly increase the tree’s survival chances, and long-term health.  Carefully lift the tree by the root ball and not the stem.  Lifting by the stem will damage the absorbing roots and put unneeded strain on the tree.

If the tree is in a container remove container by cutting it away rather than pulling it out.  The roots should be sliced to discourage girdling roots.  Just a few vertical cuts will prune the roots to start fresh and continue outward where, before, the container was diverting roots directing them in a circular motion.
If the tree is in burlap, remove the top and sides as much as you can without breaking apart the root ball.  If the twine, burlap, or wire is left at the top portion it can girdle the stem and interfere with root growth.

Fill in around the root ball with the soil you saved, and gently push it in to reduce large air cavities.  A trick is to use a hose to add water as you add the fill.  It creates a muddy slush mixture high in water and it breaks down the larger clumps that create large air cavities, which dry out roots.  Remember that this mush is ONLY for the initial planting. The tree does not like it that soggy on a regular basis. Do not pile soil up against the stem.  Often with the extra soil a donut shape can be made at the outer edge of the root ball to help collect and direct water to the roots.  Just a slight mounded ridge will help with getting the tree established. 

Add Mulch to the top, about 2 to 3 inches, and again don’t pile it near the stem.  The Mulch will help control the environment helping with moisture and temperature levels.

Water.  Keep the soil moist by watering when needed.  In dry times water more often, but still keep an eye on the soil.  If the soil is still moist, no need to water it.  Encourage deep roots by watering slow and long.  Frequent quick spritzing encourages surface roots that tend to dry faster in droughts.
How To Dig A Hole