Image by Annie Spratt

How to Plant a Tree!


Bare-root Trees

Bareroot trees are trees that are lifted, transported, and transplanted during the dormant season of November to early April. They should be planted within 7-10 days of receiving.


It is important that the bare roots are never allowed to dry out, so store and transport in a sealed container such as a plastic bag.

The trees are measured from soil level to the top of the plant. The taller they are the more expensive they become.

Bareroot trees are cost-effective and grow well, they are environmentally friendly as it takes fewer resources to produce them than a pot-grown tree. But they are seasonal and need to be treated gently.

Potted Trees

Potted trees are trees that been raised in containers, often potted or in small soil plugs. They provide year-round planting and are easier to store if planting is delayed for whatever reason, but they cost more to produce than bare-root trees.

The pots or containers must be kept moist and never allowed to fully dry out.


Careful preparation of the planting site is required to ensure that trees mature into healthy trees. Do not plant trees in areas overshadowed by tall trees, buildings or near walls. If the tree will grow to 30m in height make sure that the planting site is at least that distance from buildings so that it gets enough light. Trees up to one metre in height do not need a stake. Trees over one metre should be supported with a stake. If planting more trees, dig your next hole about one spade length away. Avoid planting in straight rows and vary the species you choose.​

The best time to transplant trees is from October to April. Autumn is the optimal time for many species. If the tree has been grown in a container it may be planted at any time of the year.

Dig a hole big enough to take the root ball of the tree very comfortably. 
With the tree in the hole, position where the stake should be bearing in mind it should on the prevailing wind side. Remove the tree and hammer the stake into place.

If it is a bare-rooted tree, dip its roots into water. Place the tree in the hole and spread the roots close to the stake. Top with compost or well-rotted manure and also add some compost or manure to the back-soil.

If the young tree was grown in a container, make sure that the root ball is firmly placed and surrounded with soil.

When roots are covered, top with the soil to bring it level with the ground which should be just above the root ball of the tree. Firm the soil with the back of your heel.

Always use a suitable tree tie.  Long life tree ties are adjustable and do not damage the tree. Hammer the tie onto the stake which will ensure the tree tie stays where it should.

If the soil is dry, soak thoroughly after planting. If the tree is greater than 2m in height you could also sink a piece of pipe, perforated with holes, into the planting pit to ensure that the water gets down to the roots and does not evaporate in dry weather.

If the tree is exposed to grazing animals e.g. rabbits and deer then a plastic tree protector or metal mesh surround may be necessary.


Maintenance is as crucial to tree survival as correct planting. Maintenance should be undertaken for at least the first two growing seasons, and should involve the following:

Maintain a one metre weed-free zone around the base of the tree. A mulch of organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure, placed around the base of the tree will help conserve water and control weeds, thereby encouraging rapid establishment.

Watering should be carried out regularly during the first two growing seasons.  There is often a dry period during May and June, and many newly planted trees die during this time due to drought.

Check the stakes and tie regularly - adjust or remove ties as tree grows.

Cut back broken branches to a strong shoot or to the main trunk. Paint the wound with a sealing compound.

Replace dead or vandalised trees at the end of the growing season.

Keep and eye out for the signs of distress such as drought, wind exposure, disease, or grazing by animals that may compromise your newly planted tree.