Tree planting tips

Planting native trees is not difficult. Here are some key points:


  • Pick a good tree for your location. Check that it will fit your site when it grows, and remember that roots grow and spread as well. For help making the choice, you can consult our tree choice "hotline."


  • Don’t add “better” soil. Native trees prefer local soils. 


  • Dig a hole twice the diameter of the roots. Spread the young tree’s roots and place it in the hole so the root crown is level with the surface. Add the soil back to the hole, a little at a time, watering as you go to settle the soil around the roots. 


  • Mulch lightly to control weeds, but don’t pile mulch up to the tree trunk. Leave a gap between trunk and the mulch. 


  • During its first year, make sure the tree gets water regularly. 


  • Fall is the best time to plant most trees, because fall is when most root growth happens. Spring and winter are okay as well (if the ground is not frozen.) Don't plant between May 15 and the end of September.


  • Young trees may need protection from deer.

  • Plant small - it takes one year per inch caliper (diameter at 6 inches above the ground) for trees to establish, and they will need watering that entire time. The smaller the tree, the less watering is needed. Smaller trees also transplant better. They are likely to need some pruning after they get established to direct their growth properly - read about it here, and be sure to make a note to yourself to do it at the proper time.


After getting established (one year for seedlings and very small saplings, two or three for larger trees), well chosen native trees require little or no care, because they are perfectly adapted to local conditions. More details about native tree planting and maintenance can be found here - - and in the Fairfax County Tree Basics booklet.

Adult and child planting a tree.JPG