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Plant trees now through midwinter

News Release Distributed 11/23/11

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

November, December and into mid-January are excellent times for planting trees in Louisiana. During this period, the soil is still warm, encouraging vigorous root growth, and trees will have several months to get established before summer’s heat.

At the same time, the weather is cool, and the trees are going dormant. This reduces stress. Generous rainfall during the winter also makes constant attention to watering unnecessary.

Planting at this time of year is especially beneficial for balled-and-burlapped trees, because they lose so much of their root systems when they are dug.

Plant trees properly using these steps:

– Dig the hole at least twice the diameter of the root ball and no deeper than the height of the root ball.

– Remove a container-grown tree from the container. If the root ball is tightly packed with thick encircling roots, try to unwrap, open up or even cut some of the roots to encourage them to spread into the surrounding soil. Place the root ball in the hole.

– Place balled-and-burlapped trees into the planting hole. Remove any nails, nylon twine or wire basket that has been used to secure the burlap. Then fold down the burlap from the top half of the root ball or remove the burlap.

– Make the top of the root ball level with or slightly above the surrounding soil. It is critical that you do not plant trees too deeply.

– Thoroughly pulverize the soil dug out from the hole and use this soil, without any additions, to backfill around the tree. Add soil around the tree until the hole is half full. Then firm the soil to eliminate air pockets, but do not pack it tightly. Finish filling the hole, firm the soil again, and then water the tree thoroughly to settle it in.

– Generally, do not fertilize trees planted during the fall, although you can apply some slow-release fertilizer next spring. The use of a root stimulator solution is optional.

– Stake the tree if it is tall enough to be unstable; otherwise, staking is not necessary. If staking, drive two or three stakes firmly into the ground just beyond the root ball. Use strips of cloth or nylon stockings – or use wire covered with a piece of garden hose where it touches the trunk – tied to the stakes and then to the trunk of the tree. Leave the support in place no more than nine to 12 months.

– Keep the area 1 to 2 feet out from the trunk of a newly planted tree mulched and free from weeds and grass. This encourages the tree to establish more quickly by eliminating competition from other plants. It also prevents lawn mowers and string trimmers from damaging the bark at the base of the tree, which can cause stunting or death. The mulch should be 2 to 4 inches deep and pulled back slightly from the base of the trunk.

Good trees for Louisiana include, but certainly are not limited to, green ash, deciduous oaks (nuttall, willow, shumard, southern red, cherrybark), elms, maples, Southern magnolias, bald cypress, crape myrtles, Southern live oak, oriental magnolias, Japanese maples, loblolly bay (also called gordonia), sweet bay magnolia. Know the tree’s growth rate and determine the planting location prior to purchase. Also, educate yourself on the characteristics of the individual tree species and the mature height and spread.

Proper planting and proper selection go a long way in long-term success with your shade trees in home landscapes.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to or

Rick Bogren
Last Updated: 12/5/2011 1:13:44 PM

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