In Florida, Arbor Day is next week



Arbor Day is a simple notion. Set aside one day a year to plant a tree. National Arbor Day is April 27. However, individual States observe Arbor Day during different times of the year. Florida celebrates this day on the third Friday in January (19).

Planting a tree comes with many advantages. Just to name a few, trees help tame stormwater and air pollution issues, can help in saving energy costs and they provide habitat for many plants and animals.

Here are 10 steps to proper tree planting from UF/IFAS Extension that will ensure a successful Arbor Day.

Step 1: Look up. Or, as a principle of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program – right plant, right place. In other words, make sure you pick the proper location to plant a tree. Avoid electrical wires, security lights and buildings. Not only can these objects interfere with tree canopy growth, poor planting practices like this can cause a major headache and can be costly later, when tree removal is necessary.

Step 2: Dig a shallow and wide planting hole. Measure the distance between the top roots and the bottom of the root ball. Dig the hole to compensate for this depth, but allow for no more than 2 or 3 inches of root ball above the soil, approximately 10% above grade. Digging too deep will aid compaction. This will lead to root system decline. Also, be sure to dig your hole in a popcorn bowl shape, as opposed to digging straight down. A popcorn bowl shape will allow for a faster and stronger root system establishment, as it gives the emerging roots the area to expand in loose soil.

Step 3: Clean up any root defects. When shopping, look for a tree that has visible emerging topmost roots from the base of the trunk. If you purchase a tree with topmost roots they are not showing, they’re most likely buried down in the root ball. These trees are a greater disadvantage if planted without cleanup. If this is the case, remove excessive soil to expose the top roots before planting. Also, cut or spread out any circling or kinked roots. Circling roots don’t always strangle the trunk, but the tree may develop a severe lean in the future.

Step 4: Be careful when planting tree in the hole. If heavy, use straps to lift tree into place. Never lift the tree by the trunk. Be sure to remove any burlap or plastic wrap round the root ball.

Step 5: Positon the topmost root to be 2-3 inches above the landscape soil. Most horticulturalist agree that it is better for the root ball to be planted too shallow instead of too deep.

Step 6: Be sure the tree is level and straight in the hole. Before you add the backfill soil, have someone view the tree from deferent directions.

Step 7: Remove any synthetic materials. Discard any string, rope, burlap, plastic or any other material that will be slow to decompose in the soil. Leaving material could cause root system issues.

Step 8: Add backfill soil. Make sure soil is loose, so break up any clumps. Do not over pack the soil. Add 10-20 gallons around the root ball and backfill area.

Step 9: Cover backfill area with mulch. Now that the tree is placed in hole, simply mulch around trunk, 2-3 inches in depth with a diameter of a few feet. Mulch reduces soil temperature fluctuations and helps control weeds. Mulch materials can include leaves, pine needles, bark, compost and wood chips. Peat moss and cypress chips should not be used. These materials tend to hold moisture for long periods, and can be a factor of root rot.

Step 10: Stake and prune. Tree plantings with a trunk diameter of more than 1.5 inches rarely need stacking. However, if location is in an area where wind is often a factor, this may be needed. Attaching stakes with traps in three directions, positioned ¾ from the ground to the first branch is a best practice. Be sure to prune any damaged or broken branches.

Following these best management practices will provide a health start for your newly planted tree. For more information please contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200.

Supporting information for this article and further information can be found in the following the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Planting and Establishing Trees – Publication # ENH 1061”, by Edward F. Gilman & Laura Sadowski:


UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.