Tree Planting & Care

The best time the plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.

The extent of a mature tree's roots

Roots from a tree will spread out a lot further than you realize, the illustration below is representative of the spread of a mature tree.  We talk about the dripline, but the roots can extend a lot further than that.  Keep it in mind when deciding where you should plant your trees and where you need to apply fertilizer, compost, and water!


Dig a hole 2-3x the width of the rootball to accommodate the entire root system without crowding.  Make sure the hole is no deeper than the rootball.*  Remove the pot and any fabric covering the root ball and tease out the roots.  Check for any circling roots, and if they cannot be straightened remove them with clean pruners.

* If the planting site has shallow soil, such as in rocky areas of the Hill Country, mix in high a quality garden soil with the native soil and create a raised bed with enough depth to plant in.  Pecans and pears should only be planted where there is at least 3 feet of native soil, as they grow into large trees that need an extensive growing medium.

Be sure to tease out the roots (a small hand cultivator is good for this) and remove circling roots before planting.

Place the tree in the hole ensuring that the root flare is at the same level as the soil surface.  For bare root trees, build a small, firm hill in the center of the hole.  Place the tree on top and spread the roots out along the sides of the hill.  For greater nutrition add a mineral supplement and mycorrhizal fungi.

Take care not to plant the root flare too deeply.

Carefully backfill the hole with native soil, ensuring that soil is placed around the roots with no air pockets or voids.  Do not tamp down the soil too hard as this could cause compaction, rather backfill firmly.  Watering periodically while backfilling helps to reduce air pockets.  The finished soil level should be a little above the native soil to allow for settling.

Add a dose of liquid seaweed when watering to ease transplant shock.

Rake in 1-2″ of compost across the top of the whole planting area once the hole is backfilled avoiding the stem or trunk.  Finish off with a 3″ layer of mulch (either ground hardwood or pine straw) on top of that compost layer, ensuring that there is a mulch-free area about 3-4″ wide immediately around the base of the tree.  Mulch must not touch the trunk of the tree or stem of the bush.

Mulch to seal in moisture, but don't cover the trunk.


For trees planted within the last two years:

September – May:  Water weekly if no rain that week.

June – August:  Water 2-3 times per week when soil drains quickly, particularly if temps exceed 100°F.

Mature native trees:

During cooler weather, typically October – April if there has been no significant rainfall, water deeply every two months.

May – September, if there has been no rain, water deeply once a month.

When the temperatures reach 100 degrees, water deeply every 2-3 weeks.

Mature fruit & ornamental trees

During cooler weather, typically October – April, if there has been no significant rainfall, water deeply every month.

May – September, if there has been no rain, water deeply twice a month.

When the temperatures reach 100 degrees, water deeply every 1-2 weeks.

Use the guidelines below to care for any tree, but these will be particularly helpful to trees suffering stress due to sickness or freeze damage.

Water deeply:  Ensure that the tree is receiving adequate water – see our watering guidelines above for more details.

Compost and Mulch:  Spread at least ½” compost all over the root zone, and beyond the dripline if possible.  Do not put compost or mulch on the trunk or root flare.  On areas that do not have lawn, cover the compost with 3-4” of mulch.  Compost provides a host of beneficial bacterial and fungal organisms, as well as organic matter, nutrients, and enzymes.

Liquid Seaweed:  Use as a root drench at least once a month. Seaweed provides trace minerals and plant hormones and helps to stimulate root growth.

Compost Tea:  For sick trees, spray leaves and soil with undiluted compost tea once a week for the first month. Thereafter, and for healthy trees, spray diluted once a month.  Our aerobically-brewed compost tea is available only Thursday through Sunday, and must be used within 8 hours of purchase.  When diluting, ideally it should be mixed with non-chlorinated water, according to package directions.  Compost tea provides nutrients, enzymes, and most importantly, beneficial microorganisms.

Plant Success Organics Soluble : It contains mycorrhizae, bacteria, and trichoderma. It is easily watered in and will instantly establish beneficial soil microbes as well as enhance plant and root growth. It also contains seaweed extract and humic acids to feed beneficial soil organisms.

Actinovate:  Apply to root zone according to package directions.  Inoculates the roots with beneficial bacteria that protects against soil-borne diseases and improves root growth.

These treatments are intended to nourish the tree’s natural ability to heal itself.  Do not fertilize a sick or stressed tree.