Planting a New Tree

Trees are an investment that will last a lifetime. Here in Hawaii we are lucky – we can plant a tree any time of the year. In places with intense seasonal changes, it’s recommended that trees are planted during the dormant season – in fall or early spring. This allows the tree to establish before seasonal factors prompt a growth spurt like spring rains or summer heat.

Let’s plant a tree in some easy steps:

  1. Do your research.  What kind of tree are you planting?  How big does it get?  What type of soil does it do best in?  How much sun and water does it need?  Is it high maintenance?  These are things you should think about before you purchase anything.  Your vendor should know this information – we discuss this kind of thing before any type of sale at our nursery in Waimanalo.  But don’t be afraid to find out more with an internet search or trip to the library.
  2. Identify power and utility lines before you start to dig.  Hitting utility lines can be expensive and dangerous.  Make sure you know where they are before you grab your shovel.
  3. Find a location in your yard that fits the tree.  Make sure you plant your tree far away enough from your house, walls and other structures so when it reaches maturity it won’t damage your foundation.
  4. Dig a hole 2 or 3 times as the rootball is wide and as deep as the rootball is tall.
  5. Take your tree out of it’s container and prep for planting. Cut back damaged roots or straighten ones circling around the base of the plant.
  6. Place tree in the hole. Lift by root ball, not by trunk.  Identify the trunk flare – where the trunk starts to expand at the base of the tree. It’s a good marker for how deep you should plant your tree. Remember, too shallow and your tree’s roots will be exposed to damage. Too deep and your tree’s trunk will rot out.
  7. Position your plant before backfilling.  Step back and take a look.  Make sure the tree is straight, whichever side you like is facing the most foot traffic, etc.
  8. Fill hole with a combination of mulch and dirt removed from area. Mulch is nutrient rich and great to add to the mix. Pat dirt in gently but firmly. If your tree is a little wobbly, consider staking the plant.
  9. COMMIT TO A MAINTENANCE PROGRAM. No matter what kind of plant you have, regularly watering, fertilizing and cleaning are essential to ensure health of the plant. Especially when transplanting.

Many trees experience something called “transplant shock” after planting. This is common for larger plants, or plants where roots are damage during transplanting. When trees are transplanted the natural balance between the root system and the crown are disrupted. (The crown is all of the tree’s parts above ground.) Symptoms include slowed growth, leaf discoloration and drop and an overall sad looking tree.

Are you looking for a landscape contractor on Oahu? Give us a call, we’d love to help!

Transplant Shock: Severity dependent on tree size and restoration of root-shoot balance
By Dr. Gary Watson, Morton Arboretum

New Tree Planting