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Best Ways to Plant Tree Saplings

There are not many things that are more rewarding than planting a tree sapling. Planting a young tree is an investment in the hope of the future. Trees are incredibly beneficial to our environment. They beautify the landscape, provide shade from the sun, produce oxygen, supply fruit, and nuts, and invite essential bees and birds to your property. Trees continually purify the air around us.

They absorb harmful pollutants from the atmosphere through their pore-like stomata and filter these chemicals out of the air. They do their part to prevent soil erosion, store water, assist with adding beneficial nutrients to the soil, and help to counteract the effects of global warming. We’ll explain the best ways to plant tree saplings to give them their very best start on their journey to maturation.

Beautiful green conifers in wooden pots.

What is a Tree Sapling?

Saplings are simply young trees that have grown to a diameter of between 1 to 5 inches and have reached a height of at least  4½ feet. Tree saplings can be packaged in the form of root balls, burlap-wrapped, bare-root plants, or in containers.  A tree sapling can be purchased at a local garden center, online, and via a catalog.

Japanese Maple in a nursery.

Materials for Planting a Tree Sapling

  • A Large Bucket
  • Organic Mulch
  • Compost
  • Water
  • Garden Shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Scissors

How to Plant A Tree Sapling

The optimal time for planting a tree sapling is in Springtime. If your sapling has been nursery-grown in a container, then it can be planted a little bit later, providing that it has been watered regularly.

  1. Choose an open sunny spot to plant your tree sapling. Be sure to think ahead and consider how much space the tree will need when it matures fully. Find a location that will not interfere with the root system of a fully developed tree.  Select an area that is approximately 15 feet away from your home or other obstructions like sidewalks, driveways, powerlines, and trees.
  2. It is vital to keep the roots of your sapling moist at all times. Consider placing the roots of the tree sapling in a large bucket of water to soak while you are preparing for planting, particularly if you are delaying your planting after purchase time. If roots get dry, the sapling will suffer.
  3. Call your local municipality and access your town’s ‘Call Before You Dig’ program. They will assist you with alerting gas and electric companies so that they can send a representative out to mark the underground lines before you start digging on your property.
  4. Measure the diameter of the root ball, then dig a hole that is two or three times the width of the root ball and inch or two less deep.
  5. Assess the roots of your sapling. If roots encircle the pot in a dense circular pattern, use your pruning shears to score the bottom of the root ball with a few cuts and break up any roots that spiral around the root ball. Trim off any dry or damaged roots.
All Natural Garden Soil Organic Plus

Kellogg Garden Organics

All Natural Garden Soil

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male hands holding soil
  1. Remove any excess soil from the root ball and locate the first main root before planting. Plant the primary root at or slightly below the soil line.
  2. It is crucial to plant your tree sapling at the proper depth. Naturally occurring trees have roots that begin at or below ground level, so you should try to mimic this when planting your sapling.
  3. Remove any netting, tree tags, or zip ties that can disfigure trunks and branches as the tree grows, and pull any burlap away from the stem and root ball.
  4. Add well-decomposed compost, filling in the hole and then press down firmly with your boot. Continue to add soil until all air pockets are removed, and the soil is level with the ground.
  5. Mulch generously with organic mulch. Layer the mulch about three to four inches deep and spread outward all of the way from the trunk of the tree to the drip line. Leave an inch or two of space between the bark on the tree and the mulch for air circulation and to ward off fungal diseases.
  6. Water the young tree in well.

Caring for Your Tree Sapling

You’ve successfully planted your tree sapling, and now it needs continued care to ensure that it has all that it needs to thrive in its new location.  Water the new tree every day for the first six weeks until your saplings become established and watch your little tree sapling flourish over time.

There are so many ways planting young trees protects the environment. Take some time to plant a variety of saplings around your home, and not only will you reap the rewards, but the environment will too. Restore a better quality of life within your community and help protect the environment.


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Saplings in pots with red leaves with text, "Best ways to plant trees"
Hand holding soil to plant a tree with text, "planting saplings"

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