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Planting Trees: 4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Planting Trees: 4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Though we’re well into fall and heading for winter weather soon (at least at our nursery!), it’ll be springtime – and time to plant again – before we know it. Whether you’re brushing up on your skills for planting trees the next season, or you just finished your fall plantings, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

And today, we have a guest post from Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez to help explain the ins and outs of planting trees…and common mistakes to avoid.

Joshua is an editor in Florida who loves gardening and who is working on making his green thumb a little greener. When he isn’t writing or spending time in the garden, he enjoys taking road trips, visiting theme parks, and going for long walks on the nearest beach. 

On Planting Trees

I recently bought my first home – it’s on a quarter acre with plenty of space to plant trees. Yay! But, as a first-time homeowner, that also means I’m doing my own major landscaping projects for the first time. That can be fun, but it’s also challenging because I’ve got to know what kind of trees to plant, how to plant
trees, where to plant trees, and how to take care of trees once I’ve planted them.

And not only are tree planting mistakes costly, they can also be depressing…I mean, I don’t want to see that proud new tree I’ve just planted turn into a sad, brown, wilting stick.

So, I’ve been taking time to find out how to avoid these mistakes when planting trees.

Gorgeous Growth


1. Don’t Buy the Wrong Tree

I live in Central Florida, which has a unique mix of flora and fauna. We’ve got many of the subtropical palms and colorful broad-leaved plants like you’d find further south in Miami and even on some of the tropical Caribbean islands. Yet, we also have a wide variety of deciduous trees that are more associated with the rest of the United States – and some of these native trees, such as red maple and bald cypress even change colors in the fall. Yes, we really do get some fall color in Florida!


But unfortunately for me, I’m a couple hundred miles too far South to successfully grow fir trees. I found this out using the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, which can help you determine what kinds of trees and plants will grow in your landscape based on important climate factors such as average annual temperatures and frost dangers. Simply type in your zip code, and you’re good to go.


2. Don’t Plant Too Close to Structures

Planting Trees

Little trees are cute, aren’t they? When young trees come all nice and neat in a relatively small pot, they may seem perfect for planting near a window of your home, near the walkway of your home, or as a perfect yard ornamental near your koi pond or water garden. Of course, most little trees become big, and when these growing trees are planted near your home, walkways, or other features in and around your yard, little problems can and will become bigger by the year.

Also, trees planted too close to your home may send roots into your basement or foundation causing serious damage to your property during hurricanes or blizzards. And don’t forget what wind storms can do to trees. Think ahead at least 20 years before planting your trees too close to something that can’t be moved!

3. Dig an Adequate Hole 

So, you’ve perused the USDA Hardiness Zone information and you now know what kinds of trees will grow in your yard. Cool! You’ve also figured out where in the yard you want to plant your trees. You’re all excited about planting your trees and start digging holes in your yard to plant them. But there are two things you’re going to want to do when digging holes to plant trees:

  1. Call 811 (or your local authority) before you dig to make sure you’re not going to cut into any underground electrical wiring, gas lines, or anything else that could cause harm. Oh, and take a lesson from my experience: 811 workers generally won’t be able to detect PVC pipes buried underground, such as those used for sprinkler systems.
  2. Next, you’ll need to make sure you’re digging holes large enough for planting trees. The conventional rule of thumb is to dig no deeper than the root ball but to create a hole at least twice as wide as the container. Why dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball? Because the roots are going to need room to spread out and grow, and if the planting hole is too narrow, the roots of your new tree may eventually strangle themselves. This weird phenomenon, known as girdling root, can cause issues but is easily avoided.

Bonus Tip: Immediately before planting trees, sprinkle some Root Rocket fertilizer into the hole. This will help give your trees an initial boost of essential nutrients for a long, flourishing life.




4. Don’t Neglect After Planting!

Once your tree is properly planted in the ground, you’ll probably water it for the first day or two and then, if you’re like a lot of busy people, forget about it. Understandable, but the best strategy for growing healthy trees is to follow all irrigation and care instructions well. It’s fairly simple – just water according to your tree’s instructions, and be careful not to water your trees during the heat of the midday sun, which could scorch the leaves.

Furthermore, mulching around the base of your tree is excellent for reducing weed growth and helping to keep the soil around the base of your tree moist. And of course, as your tree grows, watch for premature or unusual color changes, curling leaves, or other signs of illness.

And if you’ve got a tree problem you can’t figure out on your own, ask the experts!


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