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How to Plant Containerized Trees & Shrubs

Step-by-step instructions for planting containerized trees and shrubs

1.  Dig a hole 3 to 4 times wider than the container. The hole should have sloping sides like a saucer to allow for proper root growth. The depth of the hole should be the same as the height of the rootball.

Planting a Containerized Tree

 

 

2. Lay the tree on its side and carefully remove the tree from the container, keeping the soil around the roots intact. It helps to tap the outside of the container.

 

 

3. If the root ball comes out of the pot as a solid mass and roots appear to be “circling”, score them with a sharp tool. Cut an X across the bottom of the root ball and four vertical slices along the sides about 1 inch deep. Don’t worry, you aren’t hurting the plant. We just want the roots to be relatively loose so they can grow quickly into the surrounding soil.

If roots are not circling and the tree comes out of the pot with loose soil, plant the tree as is.

Root Ball "X"

 

4. Set the tree in the middle of the hole. Avoid planting the tree too deep. See picture below for correct planting depth. The goal is to position the root flare (at the base of the trunk) just above ground level.

Using some soil, secure the tree in a straight position, then fill and firmly pack the hole with original soil using a shovel and your hands. Do not use your feet- this overly compacts the soil.

3

 

 

5. If you choose to mulch the tree, mulch at a 3 to 4 inch depth around the root zone. Be sure not to pile up mulch around the base of the tree. It can cause disease and this unfortunate practice, though common, is NOT good for the tree.

 

Keep Mulch Away from Trunk

 

 

References:

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/forestry/publications/PDF_files/F-376.pdf

http://www.arborday.org/trees/planting/containerized.cfm

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