August 20

The Top Tree Planting Myths to Avoid



Planting a tree is a big undertaking, especially for those who have not done it before they attempt it. Trees are hardy and can withstand a lot once they have been established, but trees require a gentle hand and guidance when they aren’t planted and when they are first put into the ground.

While everyone can plant flowers or even shrubs after watching a few YouTube videos, the same cannot be said about planting trees. You not only have to think about the tree today – but the tree twenty years from now. You need to know how the root system will go, how much sun it should get, whether or not it plays nicely with other plants, and even if the location is legal.

Looking to plant a tree? Here are some myths you may want to reconsider before starting:

1. Anyone Can Plant a Tree Safely

Credit: Alicia Bramlett
  • Most of us know someone who has done it
  • You don’t just dig a hole
  • Requires experience

Many people think that planting a tree is easy – but they are wrong. Not anyone can safely plant a tree. This is the biggest mistake that we see and it can result in many different things. Some people will do just fine and have a tree that is healthy. However, it may not be as beautiful as it could, it may not live as long, or it could be unsteady. Incorrectly planted trees tend to have more problems than those that were planted properly.

Trees Are Good reminds us all that planting a tree is a lifelong investment. If you are going to plant a tree, do as much research as you possibly can, talk to a professional tree care company and planting, and even take a look at the trees in your neighbor’s yards. This is not a decision you should make quickly – think about it.

2. If You Don’t Want Roots To Show, Plant Deeper

Credit: Alex Indigo
  • Trees have different root depths and sizes
  • Plant trees at the proper depth for growth – not roots
  • You can kill trees easily by planting too deep

Most people believe the tree planting myth that planting a tree deeper will mean there is less of a chance that the roots will show in the yard. This is not true at all. In fact, you might kill the tree doing it that way. Roots will grow as deep as they have to for the tree to be healthy. Research trees and find out the common root system construction and match it with your needs. Trees are all like people – they are unique. Don’t expect a tree to do exactly what you want.

The Arbor Day Foundation warns, “Set the tree in the middle of the hole. Avoid planting the tree too deep. If the root collar sits below the top of the hole, compact some soil under the tree so that the root flare at the base of the trunk is slightly above ground level. Using some soil, secure the tree in a straight position, then fill and firmly pack the hole with the original soil, making sure there aren’t any air pockets. Keep backfilling until the soil is just below the root collar.”

3. You Will Get The Tree Ready to Go

Credit: PNW Region 5
  • Trees need care before planting
  • You may want to prune the tree
  • Make sure the tree looks healthy

Before even purchasing a tree, you want to inspect it so that you know it is healthy. Look for signs of disease, infestation, or rot. This is important because nurseries are large and cannot always check every tree or plant. If you grab something and buy it without inspecting it, you may get a tree that has problems before it is even planted.

If your tree doesn’t look healthy, you may want to give it a drink before you plant it. This will help to get it ready for the big transition that is coming its way. Growing a Greener World also suggests keeping the soil and tree watered extremely well in the first few months.

Pruning the tree before planting can help to balance out the tree’s crown, but can do quite a bit of damage. Plant the tree, even if it is “ugly.”  You can do this once established and give your tree a fighting chance.

4. You Should Add To The Soil

Credit: jalexartis Photography
  • Do not add anything that will harden the soil
  • Can impede root growth
  • Mulching can help or hinder

Too often, people think that bolstering the soil as soon as they plant the tree is the best bet, but that isn’t so. You can actually overwhelm the tree and confuse the root system. Stick with soil that is balanced and don’t add anything of your own to it (such as compost) until the tree has been established.

You may want to add a little bit of mulch. Some people try to add a bunch of mulch, which isn’t a good idea. Spread a nice thin layer of mulch evenly around the tree to help hold in the moisture that the tree needs to grow, but do not cover up the trunk of the tree because that could lead to root rot. For more information, The Morton Arboretum has a great guide to mulching that will keep your trees, shrubs, and plants safe when they are planted and long beyond that.

Contact Menchhofer Tree Care for all of your tree care needs – we can help you at any stage of the tree process, from planting and taking care of your tree to pruning and cutting it down – and of course, any seasonal problems that you might have with your trees. If you are having trouble making decisions about how to best care for your tree, we are here to help. Remember that acting sooner rather than later will help you to get the most out of your trees and keep your home safe.

Call us today at 317-661-4240.

Header photo courtesy of Alex Indigo on Flickr!

Menchhofer Tree Care

About Steve Menchhofer

Steve Menchhofer has been caring for the trees of the Indianapolis, Indiana metro area for over 40 years. Steve and his team of experienced, certified arborists are members of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Indiana Arborist Association.

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