Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.
News Release Distributed 01/17/14
By Allen Owings
LSU AgCenter horticulturist
HAMMOND, La. – Now is a great time to plant a tree in Louisiana. We observe Louisiana Arbor Day this year on Friday, Jan. 17.
You can choose from many recommended trees for the state – including our native trees, such as the Louisiana state tree (bald cypress) and Louisiana state flower (Southern magnolia). Other great trees to consider include river birch, crape myrtles, maples, oriental magnolias, nuttall oak, southern live oak, shumard oak and willow oak.
The Louisiana Super Plant program has recommended Sweetbay magnolia, vitex, southern sugar maple and willow oak.
During late fall and through winter, soil is still warm enough to encourage 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 winter also relieves us of the constant attention to watering.
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 deep.
– 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 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 faster by eliminating competition from grass roots. 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.
Follow these steps and you will be successful with your tree planting efforts.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.