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Planting steps for your tree or shrub

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Planting a shrub
Photo: Space for Life (Michel Tremblay)
A shovel and a shrub about to be planted.

Notice that the steps are different depending on whether you are planting a balled and burlapped, bare root or container grown tree or shrub. Follow the steps outlined below and choose the appropriate technique.

Tip: Make sure to assess the soil drainage before you start planting any plants. If your soil drains poorly, choose plant species that are suited to your site's conditions or follow the steps for raised planting.

Bare root trees and shrubs

  1. Dig a hole wide and deep enough to hold all the roots. Set aside the soil from the hole, and amend it as necessary with compost.
  2. Cut off any dead, diseased, broken or crossing branches. Prune away any dead or damaged roots.
  3. Place the plant in the hole, making sure that it is straight and that the collar is even with the ground. Spread out the roots, making sure that the longest one is facing the prevailing winds. Be careful with a taproot tree in order not to damage its root system.
  4. If you are planting a tree or shrub on stem, stake it.
  5. Backfill the hole, in layers, using the soil you set aside when you dug it. Lightly tamp the soil around the roots. Add more soil until it is even with the ground level and the plant’s collar, without covering the collar.
  6. Build up a shallow rim of soil to form a saucer to trap water around the planting hole.
  7. Water thoroughly and deeply. Add more soil if necessary.
  8. Add organic mulch to the saucer and water it to hold it in place. Make sure that the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk.
  9. Remove anything on the trunk and branches (wrapping, twine, tags, etc.).

Bare root trees and shrubs

Balled and burlapped trees and shrubs

  1. Open up the top of the root ball to expose the plant’s collar. Measure the height of the root ball to this point. This is how deep your planting hole needs to be. The hole should be twice as wide as the root ball.
  2. Dig the planting hole, making sure that it is wide and deep enough, with sloping sides. Set aside the soil from the hole, and amend it as necessary.
  3. Cut off any dead, diseased, broken or crossing branches.
  4. Place the plant in the planting hole, making sure that it is straight and that the collar is even with the ground.
  5. Carefully remove the material covering the root ball, being careful not to break it. If it is not possible to remove it completely, remove it at least on the top half of the root ball. Make incisions in the remaining material to allow root development.
  6. Stake the tree, if necessary.
  7. Backfill the hole, in layers, using the soil you set aside when you dug it. Lightly tamp the soil around the roots. Add more soil until it is even with the ground level and the plant’s collar, without covering the collar.
  8. Build up a shallow rim of soil to form a saucer to trap water around the planting hole.
  9. Water thoroughly and deeply. Add more soil if necessary.
  10. Add organic mulch to the saucer and water it to hold it in place. Make sure that the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk.
  11. Remove anything on the trunk and branches (wrapping, twine, tags, etc.).

Balled and burlapped trees and shrubs

Container grown trees and shrubs

  1. Cut off any dead, diseased, broken or crossing branches.
  2. Remove the plant from the container, trying to keep the root ball as intact as possible.
  3. Prune the roots if the plant is root bound
  4. Open up the top of the root ball to expose the plant’s collar. Measure the height of the root ball to this point. This is how deep your planting hole needs to be. The hole should be at least twice as wide as the root ball and measure at least 50 cm.
  5. Dig the planting hole, making sure that it is wide and deep enough, with sloping sides. If you are planting a hedge or creating a mass planting, dig a continuous trench. Set aside the soil from the hole, and amend it as necessary with compost.
  6. Place the plant in the planting hole, making sure that it is straight and that the collar is even with the ground.
  7. Stake the plant, if necessary.
  8. Backfill the hole, in layers, using the soil you set aside when you dug it. Lightly tamp the soil around the roots. Add more soil until it is even with the ground level and the plant’s collar, without covering the collar.
  9. Build up a shallow rim of soil to form a saucer to trap water around the planting hole.
  10. Water thoroughly and deeply. Add more soil if necessary.
  11. Add organic mulch to the saucer and water it to hold it in place. Make sure that the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk.
  12. Remove anything on the trunk and branches (wrapping, twine, tags, etc.).

Container grown trees and shrubs

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