Planting a New Tree

National Arbor Day isn’t until the end of April, but you can celebrate early with the annual Missouri Arbor Day Tree Giveaway at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Whether you pick up one of the native Missouri tree saplings available at the Garden’s Kemper Center or acquire one elsewhere, you may be a bit nervous about planting your new tree, especially if it is your first attempt. Luckily, tree planting is a pretty simple process if you follow a few key steps.

Step 1: Location
The first, of course, is choosing the right place to plant. In addition to focusing on aesthetic factors, be sure you also know how tall the tree will get in full maturity and how much sunlight it needs.

Step 2: Depth
Gardeners often want to dig too deep a hole for a new tree. The hole shouldn’t be any deeper than the root ball, and should be two times as wide. Fill the hole with native soil and cover the top of the root ball with mulch.

Improper “volcano” mulching

Step 3: Mulching
Avoid “volcano mulching.” Instead, spread a thin layer, 1 to 2 inches, of organic mulch in a circle. Extend the mulch ring out 2-3 feet, ideally to the tree’s drip line. Make sure that the root flare of the tree is clear of mulch or debris. Burying a root flare encourages girdling roots and can eventually kill a tree.

Double-ground hardwood mulch or leaf compost work great for trees. A trick for free mulch is to mow and bag your autumn leaves, and use those as top dressing. Leaves contain a lot of mineral nutrients that are important to trees.

Step 4: Watering
After you’ve got your tree planted, make sure it gets 5 gallons of water a week for the first four to six weeks. You can leave the hose trickling on it, or just water it heavily. There’s little risk of overwatering—transplanting a tree is stressful, and water will help move the nutrients.

If you’re looking for more detailed information for your new tree, check our the Kemper Center Fact Sheets.


Cathering Martin
Public Information Specialist


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