DIY Network

How to Plant Trees and Shrubs

Planting trees or shrubs in the fall, before the first freeze or frost, gives the roots time to wander through the soil. Here are a few other ways to improve your success rate.

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  • Time

    Under Half Day

  • Price Range

    $50 - $100

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Think About Location

Choose where you'll plant before you purchase a tree or shrub that you like. Make sure that the tree won't become a nuisance in the coming years by blocking a view or other treasured plants or by growing too close to the house or drive.

Step 2: Dig to the Proper Depth

Set the tree or shrub in a hole in the ground that's the correct depth. Soil should not cover any part of the trunk, nor should the root ball rest above the hole, or it will dry out.

set plant in hole dug to correct depth

Step 3: Fertilize Before Placing the Plant

Before you place the root ball in the ground, scatter some time-release fertilizer in the hole. Measure the fertilizer carefully and follow the manufacturer's recommended proportions. Measure how much fertilizer your hand holds with a gardening glove on and then you can use your hand as a measuring device.

Step 4: Untangle the Root Ball

After you've taken the shrub from the burlap or container it arrived in from the nursery, make certain to break up the compacted root ball with your hands, and loosen the soil. That will allow the roots to venture out where they can get water before it freezes, instead of continuing to grow in the circular shape of the container.

break up the compacted root ball by hand

Step 5: Create a Water Ring

When you fill in the hole with soil, also create a "water ring" by mounding soil in a ring around the root ball at the tree's drip line — the point where the outer leaves allow water to drip to the ground. When it rains or you water the shrub, the water will stay near the root ball instead of running off into the surrounding yard.

create water ring by mounding soil around root