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Tree Planting

Plant in Fall! Seattle's dry, hot summers are very hard on young trees. Give your tree a great start by planting it in fall and letting it benefit from our fall and winter rains.

There's more than meets the eye when it comes to tree planting and care. The first step to a strong, healthy, mature tree that adds beauty and grace to your home and neighborhood is proper planting. Below are 9 easy steps you can follow to make sure your tree gets the right start in life. Follow the links on the left for more information on selecting the right tree, caring for your tree, street trees, and more.

How to Plant a Tree

  1. Remove the tree from the pot. Gently roll the pot from side to side on the ground then tip it upside down. Be sure to carry/move the tree by handling the pot, not the tree's trunk.
  2. Locate the root flare. Remove any excess soil piled on top of the root flare. The root flare is the area where the first major roots extend out from the trunk (see photo). Once planted, the root flare should sit just above the top of the soil.
  3. Examine the roots. Roots that are circling should be redirected to grow out into the soil. If this is not possible, it is better to cut a root than to allow it to continue growing in a circular fashion. Circling roots will stunt the growth of the tree and can eventually lead to the tree’s death.
  4. Remove any bamboo stakes or tags still attached to the tree. These will not help support your new tree, and will only cause harm to your tree down the road.
  5. Dig a shallow, wide planting hole. Dig the hole only as deep as the root ball and about 2-3 times as wide. Do not loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole, which will cause the tree to settle over time.
  6. Place your tree into the hole and orient. Think about where you want the main branches to point. Be sure the root flare is aboveground. A buried root flare will lead to rotting over time, compromising the health and safety of your tree.
  7. Fill in the hole using the native soil and pack in firmly. Avoid amendments such as fertilizers and compost, which will not help your tree grow strong.
  8. Water your tree in. Give your new tree a nice drink of water and help remove excess air pockets.
  9. Mulch. Spread 2-3" of bark mulch or arborist wood chips around the base of your tree, keeping it about a handswidth away from your new tree. Learn more about the importance of proper mulch.

Planting a street tree? Click here.

Check out this tree planting and care video for more information:

Further Resources

Looking for help planting trees in your yard? Try the Trees for Neighborhoods program.

New tree planting information and diagram

More tree planting tips

Selecting and Planting Trees

Translated Planting and Care Brochures

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