A correctly planted tree will grow more quickly, will be healthier and more attractive, and will live longer than an incorrectly planted one. A healthy tree will also have a stronger and larger root system better able to draw moisture from the soil. This allows it to better withstand the periodic droughts of arid New Mexico.

When you purchase a new tree from a nursery, it will come one of three ways: As a container tree, a ball and burlapped tree, or a bare-root tree. A containerized tree is simply a tree in a container (usually a plastic pot). Balled-and-burlapped trees are usually larger specimens that have been dug out of the field. After the tree is dug up, its root ball is wrapped in burlap fabric and covered with a wire cage. A bare-root tree, as the name implies, has no covering on the roots at all.  This is often the case with fruit trees.

Container tree

Balled-and-burlapped tree

Bare-root tree

To plant a containerized tree, follow the steps below:

  1. Remove soil and roots from the top of the root ball to expose the root collar. Carefully remove the root ball from the container and set the tree on undisturbed soil in the center of the hole. The root collar should be even with the existing grade of the landscape soil after planting. (see sketch for more information.)
  2. Loosen the soil three to five times the width of the root ball (or as wide as possible) and as deep as the root ball. Tree roots grow best in loosened soil that has pore spaces for water and oxygen. The walls of the hole should be tapered away from the hole.
  3. Trim back roots that have begun to circle the root ball.
  4. Partially fill the hole with soil and firm it slightly. Water thoroughly and finish backfilling the hole with soil. Pack the soil firmly but not tightly around the root ball.
  5. Build a small berm of soil around the root ball. Fill the berm with water two or three times to make sure the soil is completely moist. Thereafter, begin a regular watering schedule.
  6. Place a protective circle of mulch, three feet wide or wider, around the tree. The mulch should not touch the root collar and should be installed at a depth of 3 to 4 inches for best results.
  7. Water your tree regularly. (See post on how to water a newly planted tree)

To plant a balled-and-burlapped (B&B) tree, follow the steps below:

  1. Remove soil and roots from the top of the root ball to expose the root collar. Carefully set the tree on undisturbed soil in the center of the hole. The root collar should be even with the existing grade of the landscape soil after planting. (see sketch for more information.)
  2. Loosen the soil three to five times the width of the root ball (or as wide as possible) and as deep as the root ball. Tree roots grow best in loosened soil that has pore spaces for water and oxygen. The walls of the hole should be tapered away from the hole.
  3. Carefully place the root ball in the center of the hole. The top of the root ball or bottom of the root collar (see photo) should be even with the soil level. Take note of the tree flair in the sketch.
  4. Remove twine or string, burlap, and if the root ball is surrounded by a wire basket, cut and remove the wire basket. Be careful to avoid breaking up the root ball.
  5. Partially fill the hole with soil and firm it slightly. Water thoroughly and finish backfilling the hole with soil. Pack the soil firmly but not tightly around the root ball.
  6. Build a small berm of soil around the root ball. Fill the berm with water two or three times to make sure the soil is completely moist. Thereafter, begin a regular watering schedule.
  7. Place a protective circle of mulch, three feet wide or wider, around the tree. The mulch should not touch the root collar and should be installed at a depth of 3 to 4 inches for best results.
  8. Water your tree regularly. (See post on how to water a newly planted tree)

 

PRO TIP: If possible, plant trees in valleys and depressions in the landscape so rainwater will naturally collect and give the tree a good soaking. Direct roof downspouts and canals towards trees.

Staking a tree is not necessary unless your tree is located in a super windy spot. If you do stake the tree be sure the tie is not too tight. Promptly remove it one year after planting the tree.

Soil amendments are not necessary if you choose the right tree for the native soil conditions in your yard.