Plant A Tree For Arbor Day; Heres How!

Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A.

Get It Growing

Get It Growing News For 01/16/04

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Arbor Day, a day we set aside to appreciate trees and plant them, is celebrated on the third Friday in January in Louisiana.

If you are thinking about adding some trees to your existing landscape, planting ideally should be done from now through early March – while it is cool and plants have a chance to make root growth before it gets hot.

Trees generally are sold in one of two forms, container-grown or balled-and-burlapped.

Balled-and-burlapped trees are grown in the ground. When they reach the desired size, they are dug up with a soil ball, which is then tightly wrapped with burlap and fastened with nails and secured with twine or placed in a wire basket. When they are dug, the plants lose much or most of their root system and are prone to transplant shock, so they are best planted during the cooler months – October through early March.

Container-grown trees are the most common way people buy trees. These plants have well-developed root systems and suffer less transplant shock when planted. For those reasons, you may plant them virtually year-round. Still, it is best to plant them from October through March during the milder weather we have then. Avoid planting in the stressful summer months.

There is no one perfect tree for Louisiana. All trees have advantages and disadvantages – depending on the planting location and desired characteristics.

Here are some points you need to consider:

–Select a tree that will mature at the appropriate size. I cannot stress this too much. Generally, small trees are those that grow from 15-feet to 25-feet tall, medium sized trees grow from 30-feet to 55-feet tall and large trees are those that grow 60 feet or taller.

–Decide if you want a tree that retains its foliage year-round (evergreen) or loses its leaves in the winter (deciduous). Deciduous trees are particularly useful where you want shade in the summer and sun in the winter.

–Choose trees that are well adapted to Louisiana growing conditions.

–Check the location of overhead power lines, and if you must plant under them, use small, low-growing trees. Also consider underground water lines and septic tanks, as well as walks, drives and paved surfaces that may be damaged by the roots of large trees. Locate large trees at least 15 feet away from your house and any paved surfaces.

–When planting a tree, 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 its container and place the tree gently onto the firm, undisturbed soil in the bottom of the hole. A root ball tightly packed with thick encircling roots indicates a root-bound condition. Try to unwrap or open up the root ball to encourage the roots to spread into the surrounding soil.

–Set balled-and-burlapped trees in the hole with the burlap in place. Once the tree is in the hole, remove any nylon twine or wire basket that may have been used and fold down the burlap from the top of the root ball.

–The top of the root ball should be level with or slightly above the surrounding soil. It is critical that you do not plant the tree too deep.

–Thoroughly pulverize the soil dug out of the hole and use this soil, without any additions, to backfill around the tree. Research shows that blending amendments such as peat moss or compost into the soil used to fill the hole slows establishment. As a tree grows, its roots will grow out well beyond the reach of its branches. Since the roots will spend most of the tree’s life growing in native soil outside of the planting hole, they might as well get used to it from the beginning.

–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 again and then water the tree thoroughly to settle it in.

–Adding fertilizer to the planting hole is not recommended, although it is OK to use some slow-release fertilizer in the upper few inches, if you like. The use of a root stimulator solution is optional.

–Stake the tree properly if it is tall enough to be unstable. Otherwise, staking isn’t necessary. Generally, leave the support in place no more than 9-12 months.

–Keep the area 1-foot to 2-feet out from the trunk free from weeds and grass. This encourages the tree to grow faster by eliminating competition from grass roots. It also helps to prevent damage to the bark at the base of the tree from lawn mowers and string trimmers.

–Water a newly planted tree whenever the weather is dry, particularly during the hot summer months. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure its survival. To properly water a tree its first year, turn a hose on trickle and lay the end on top of the ground within 6 inches of the trunk. Let the water trickle for about 30 minutes. This should be done once or twice a week during hot, dry weather.

Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.


Contact:     Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or
Editor:        Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or

4/21/2005 8:05:58 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture