Planting Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs are generally purchased as bare-rooted or containerised specimens.

As a general rule containerised trees can be planted at any time,and bare rooted specimens are best planted between Weeks 35-45 before the soil cools down, or Weeks 15-20 when the soil is warming up again.

Some would advocate it is better to plant out containerised specimens at these times as well, rather than say high summer when the may dehydrate too rapidly.

Planting hole:

It is essential that once planted, the whole root ball should be in contact with the surrounding soil.

To ensure this, exacavate the planting hole larger than the rootball of the tree / shrub being planted.

This additional space will enable you to comfortably compact the compost around the rootball.

Prior to planting, ensure that the bottom of hole is flat.

Siting the root ball on an uneven surface e.g a hump, will create the potential to have voids under it.


Whatever the size of tree or shrub, the planting method is basically the same.

The most important thing is, is to ensure that the tree / shrub is planted at the depth that it is already being grown in the container, or up to the soil mark on a bare rooted tree.

Ensure that the planting hole is deep enough to cater for this.

Carefully remove the tree or shrub out of its container.

Aim to keep the root ball intact.

Place the tree / shrub carefully into the hole.

At this stage, subject to the size of the tree / shrub, assistance may be required to hold the tree /shrub vertical until the hole is filled.

This can be done in a couple of ways.

1) Ask a friend or colleague to assist you.

2) Drive a stake in to the bottom of the planting hole and tie the tree/shrub to this.

When filling the hole it is advisable to improve the quality of the excavated soil first.

Do this by mixing in liberal amounts of organic matter and granular slow release fertiliser into it.

Adding some water crystals at this stage, will allow them to absorb any excess moisture from the surrounding soil which can be used by the tree /shrub later.

Fill the hole in in layers compacting each layer with your feet.

In the case of bare rooted trees/shrubs spread the roots out evenly and carefully work the first layer of soil backfill with your hands.

Ensure that their are no voids between the roots.

Then proceed as you would with a containerised tree/shrub.


The length of stake will be subject to the height of the tree being planted.

Normally a treated stake 1.5 - 1.8 metres (5-6ft) long will suffice.

By means of a post driver or sledge hammer, drive the stake approximately 600mm (2ft) into the soil.

This meassurement will be less if the stake has been driven into the base of the hole, i.e. on completion the stake should be sunk in 600mm (2ft) below finished soil level.

Tie the tree / shrub to the stake with a purpose made expandable rubber tree tie.

Do not use wire or rope, otherwise, as the trunk expands, these will cut into the tree /shrub.

This method is best suited to supporting a containerised tree /shrubs as the stake can be driven down the side of the root ball.

With a bare rooted trees /shrubs there is a possibilty of damaging the buried roots that have been spread out below.

Meaning it is safer to drive the stake in between the roots prior to backfilling.

Finally, give the whole planting area a thorough soaking with water.

A few points to remember:

The planting hole should be two or three times wider than the root ball or container.

Cut away any damaged roots and gently tease apart the remaining roots prior to planting.

Do not plant out in frozen or waterlogged soil.

If practical, avoid planting out during the summer months when trees are likely to dry out.

Ensure the tree's root system is kept moist, especially during hot weather.

In heavy clay soils make autumn plantings as early as early as possible, or wait until spring the following year.

If the ground is heavy clay add sharp sand or horticultural grit.

Improve the infill soil by adding organic matter and fertiliser, particularly in poor soil areas.

Fill in the hole gradually, treading in the soil with your feet to prevent air pockets.

If applicable, do not cover the graft union with soil.

Plant the specimen no deeper than the soil line it was planted at before.

Stake plants securely before covering roots and tie-in with a purpose-made tree tie.

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