10 Steps For How to Plant a Tree

Our team is all about getting out and reconnecting with nature, and we think that a major part of that should include taking time to help restore it! One of the best ways to help your local ecosystem is by planting native trees (and other native plants!).. Now, if you want to plant some native trees, there are a few key steps to follow for the best results. Here we will briefly talk about why you should plant native trees, and then of course, how to plant a tree! 

Why Plant Native Trees? 

Trees are an essential part of many ecosystems and planting them can help to restore areas that have been disturbed by human activities. Now, you will notice that we keep stressing that you plant NATIVE trees. This is because if you want to truly benefit an area, you need to plant trees that are originally from that ecosystem. This way, the trees will be able to provide ecosystem services, like food and shelter, to other native animals. If you plant trees that aren’t from the area, you are taking up valuable space, resources, and more, without giving much back to the area. So, it is crucial to make sure that you do your research to check which trees are native to your area!

Once you plant trees you will be helping with a lot of issues. Trees are beneficial for things like: 

-Providing shelter to animals

-Controlling the climate (shade and lower temperatures in the forest!) 

-Providing food in the form of fruits, cones, or seeds

-Preventing soil erosion 

-Big trees also allow shade-tolerant understory plants to grow

Trees are essential to most ecosystems. Planting them can help recover areas that have previously been cleared to make lawns, for farming, building, and many other things. 

How to Plant a Tree 

Though you could just dig a hole and stick a small tree in the ground, and it will probably grow, there are things you should do when planting a tree to give it its best chance at survival. It is also important to follow these tree planting steps not only for your tree’s health, but because  a healthy well-planted tree that has its needs met won’t cause problems in terms of breaking up sidewalks and going after tubes in your home. So here are the steps to planting a tree: 

A drawing showing how to plant a tree. The hole is 2-3 times the width of the original pot and the base of the tree lines up with the ground.

10 Steps for planting a tree the right way 

  1. Find trees native to your area.
  1. Do a quick search on the best time of year to plant the tree you want.
  1. Go buy your tree from the local nursery or garden store. Some towns also have foundations with plenty of native plants for sale. 
  1. Pick a spot to plant the tree – this will also depend heavily on your tree type. Consider the following:
    1. Does the tree like drier soils with drainage or wet areas? 
    2. Does it like direct sun or more shade? 
    3. How big is it expected to grow? – Are there any power lines or structures that will be in the way once your tree is big? 
  1. Prep your soil and dig a big hole! Your hole should be about 2-3 times as wide as the pot diameter. 
  1. Add some nutritious soil to the hole – tree and shrub soil that you can buy is great. If you have your own compost, even better! This will give a nutrient boost to your sapling.
  1. Place your tree in the hole making sure that the base is level with the ground or even a bit lower. DO NOT mound a bunch of soil up around it to cover the roots. Also, it is best to not stake your tree. This way it will grow stronger and be ready to resist winds when it is larger. 
  1. Add some mulch. However, it is really important that you do not pile a bunch of mulch in a “volcano” fashion. This can cause too much moisture, encourage fungi, and suffocate the roots, among other issues. Instead, form a bit of a donut, with an open ring around the base of the tree. Do not cover the “root flare”. There is a useful video about tree mulch here!
  1. Water the tree and make sure to give it some water frequently while it is getting used to its new home!
  1. Watch it grow!

Congratulations! You have now planted a native tree and you are officially part of the fight for a better and healthier planet! By planting native trees we can restore nature so that people can enjoy it for generations to come! Last but not least, if you aren’t able to plant trees for whatever reason, you can always plant (or have pots of) native bushes and flowers to help out native pollinators. Every little bit helps! 

Check out our video to see Rob and Jonas tackle planting trees in North Carolina! 

About The Author
Kirstynn Joseph

Kirstynn Joseph

Kirstynn is an Ecologist and Science Communicator with a passion for nature, writing, science, and conservation. She was born in Yukon Territory, and is currently living in Ecuador, where she is working on various projects and exploring as much as she can before she figures out the next big adventure. For now, her main goal is to share the wonders of our big mysterious world with as many people as she can.