Tree & Shrub Planting Tips

Whispering Hills Nursery & Garden Center is committed to providing our customers with both the product and knowledge they need to craft a beautiful home landscape year after year.

Below is a step-by-step guide to planting trees and shrubs written by our resident horticulturalist, with some additional information from William Aldrich's and Don Williamson's "Tree & Shrub Gardening for Illinois" ISBN: 1-55105-404-3 (Also available at the Whispering Hills gift shop).


When to plant: Optimal planting time depends on the type of tree or shrub being planted, but trees and shrubs can generally be planted any time of the year. Planting in spring is always a safe option because it gives the tree or shrub time to establish itself before the heat of the summer and the deep cold of winter. Plant in the morning or evening to avoid the midday heat.
Diagram courtesy of TreesAreGood.
To enlarge: Right-click on the image,
then click "open link in new window"

1) Dig a hole 1.5-2 times wider than the width of the root ball or container. Make sure the hole will allow the plant to be 1-2 inches above the ground to avoid planting too deep.
*Tip: Rough up the sides and bottom of the hole to boost root transition and water flow.

3) If your plant was grown in a container, take it out and score any matted roots with a sharp knife. Loosen the compacted soil.

4) Place the plant into the hole carefully. If your plant is ball and burlap (B&B), then remove all rope and burlap from the top of the root ball.

5) All newly planted trees and shrubs will benefit from the addition of organic material at the time of planting. If you have clay soil it is best to combine one third of a soil conditioner containing pine fines with two thirds of existing soil. Mix thoroughly; this will help aerate the clay, allowing water and air to reach the roots. If you have sandy soil, add one third peat moss to two thirds of existing soil. This will help with the soil's water retention.

6) Fill half the hole with the amended soil, then water until a puddle forms in the hole. (This is a good time to add any root starters you may have). Allow the water to drain completely, then add the rest of the amended soil. Water again until the soil is saturated. This will help eliminate any large air pockets that might be left in the soil after planting.

7) Large shade trees and evergreens may need to be staked if they are planted in windy locations. The stakes need to remain on the tree for at least one full growing season.

8) After watering, put a 3-4 inch layer of mulch around the tree. Keep the mulch 3 inches away from the trunk of the plant to avoid any rot issues.