Planting Guides: How to Plant Evergreen Trees

Planting Guides: How to Plant Evergreen Trees

The moment has finally arrived – your brand-new trees have been delivered, and you are about to embark on the exciting journey of planting them in your garden. These trees will stay with you for many years to come, so it is crucial to give them the best start possible. In this guide, we will focus specifically on pot-grown evergreen trees, which retain their leaves in winter. Whether you have broad-leaf evergreens like Southern magnolia or needle-trees like spruce, pine, or Thuja, we have you covered. So, let’s get started!

In a Nutshell

Here’s a quick summary of the steps involved in planting your evergreen trees:

  • Remove all packaging
  • Water the tree in its pot
  • Choose a suitable planting site for the needs of your tree
  • Prepare the soil
  • Dig a hole the depth of the pot
  • Put the tree in its hole and replace most of the soil
  • Water well, let the water drain and put back the rest of the soil
  • Put a mulch around your tree and water once a week for the first season

Remove your trees from the box

The very first thing you need to do is unwrap your trees. Remove all the wrapping materials, take the trees out of the box, and discard any wrapping around the trees themselves. If you notice that your evergreen trees are growing in plastic pots, you’re in the right place. However, if you find that the roots of your evergreen tree are wrapped in burlap and rope, our guide for planting Ball & Burlap trees applies to both deciduous and evergreen trees.

Remember to handle the trees by picking up the pot and avoid lifting them by the trunk or stem when moving them around.

Care Before Planting Time

Your trees have been on a journey and are likely a bit stressed. To help them recover, place them in a shady area of your garden and provide them with a good watering. Avoid storing them in the garage, shed, or house, even if the weather is cold. Leave them in their pots until you’re ready to plant, but if your tree thrives in sunny conditions, move it to a sunny location after a day or two in the shade. Remember to water your trees every day or every second day, depending on the temperature. Avoid letting the pot dry out completely. If it does become very dry, place it in a bucket and half-fill the bucket with water to ensure the soil can soak completely.

Choosing a Planting Location

Once planted, it’s best not to move your tree again. So, take some time to choose the perfect spot in your garden. Consider the tree’s needs for sun or shade and find a suitable location accordingly. Make sure to leave enough space from buildings, fences, and walls, considering the tree’s potential width. If you plant right on your property line, your neighbor may have the right to cut back your tree to the property line, which may not look very nice. To avoid any issues, plant your tree well within your property, giving you control over its growth and pruning. If you’re planting a screen or hedge, we have special guides just for that!

Preparing the Planting Site

Proper soil preparation is crucial for your tree’s success. Use your soil as it is and avoid buying soil from elsewhere to fill the hole. If your soil is poor, simply add extra organic material. The goal is to create a large area of loose soil that allows the young roots to penetrate easily, obtain nutrients, and establish quickly. Dig an area at least three times the diameter of the pot and as deep as your spade will go. As you dig, incorporate organic material into the soil. You can use well-rotted manure from animals like cows, sheep, or horses, garden compost, topsoil from a garden center, or peat moss. Any organic material will do the job, and a bucket per tree should be sufficient. Additionally, trees need fertilizer to develop their roots. You can use rock phosphate, bone-meal, superphosphate, or any tree planting fertilizer available.

Remove any weed roots and stones larger than your fist from the area. Smaller stones can be left as they help with drainage. Turn over the soil, mix in the organic material and fertilizer, level it off, and get ready to plant. Remember to keep some organic material aside for mulching after planting.

Preparing the Tree

The evening before you plan to plant, thoroughly water the pots. This ensures that the root ball remains moist during the planting process. If the root ball is dry when you plant, it may stay that way and cause your tree to suffer from dryness, even if the surrounding soil is damp.

Digging the Hole

Now it’s time to dig a hole in the exact spot where you want your tree to be. Make the hole two or three times the diameter of the pot, but only as deep as the pot itself. If you’ve dug the soil deeper than that, press down on the bottom of the hole with your foot to form a firm base. This prevents the tree from sinking deeper into the hole after planting.

Removing the Pot

Take your tree to the planting hole and gently slide the pot off. You may need to tap the edge a couple of times to release the roots, but it should slide out easily. In most cases, the roots will fill the pot, and the root ball will stay intact and not fall apart.

Keeping the root ball undisturbed is key to successful evergreen tree planting. Avoid shaking off the soil or cutting the roots. If the root ball inside the pot seems unstable, which can happen, leave your tree in its pot. Take a sharp knife and cut around the bottom of the pot, removing the base. Once you’ve positioned the tree in its hole and added some soil to stabilize it, cut down the sides of the pot in one or two places and gently slide the pieces out of the hole while leaving the root ball undisturbed.

Planting the Tree

Now it’s time to place the tree in the center of the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Replace about three-quarters of the soil in the hole, pressing it down firmly around the tree’s roots. If you left the pot on, follow the same steps, but once you’re finished, cut the pot and carefully remove it from the soil. Finish by firming down the soil with a gentle foot or hand pressure.

Watering the Tree

Fill the hole with plenty of water, allowing it to soak into the ground and the root ball. Use an ample amount of water, and wait until it has all drained away. This ensures that the water reaches the roots, where it is needed the most.

Finishing the Planting

Now, add the remaining soil back into the hole, gently firming it down. Make sure that you have only covered the top of the root ball with a thin layer of soil, no more than one inch. It’s important to ensure that the soil is flat, not sloping away from the tree. This helps to retain water when you water the tree instead of letting it run away. Some gardeners prefer to create a low soil wall around the tree, approximately twice the diameter of the pot, to retain water. While this is optional, it can be beneficial. Lastly, add a layer of organic material, about two inches deep, over the root area and water the entire area thoroughly.

Planting in Clay and Wet Soils

If you have heavy, clay soil that tends to stay wet for long periods, there’s a special trick to help your tree establish itself better. Rake some soil from the edges of your planting area into the center, creating a slightly raised mound. Plant your tree on this mound, leaving the top inch of the root ball above the final surface of the soil after planting. This allows water to drain away from the roots until your tree adapts to its new environment. Don’t forget to use mulch over the roots as well.


In most cases, staking is not necessary. Modern arborists prefer to let the wind strengthen the trees, as staking can often cause breakage of the upper part of the tree.

However, in very windy locations, you can use two short stakes well driven into the soil, showing just a foot or so above the ground level. Place these stakes on opposite sides of the tree, outside the area where the roots are. For example, if the prevailing wind is from the north, place one stake on the north side and one on the south side. Wrap some cloth around the trunk to protect it, and tie a strong rope from each stake to the trunk. It’s important to allow some movement in the upper part of the tree, as it doesn’t need to be held rigidly. After one growing season, once the roots are well-established, remove the stakes to allow the tree to continue growing naturally.

Follow-up Care of the Tree

Until your tree becomes fully established and its roots have spread out, it will require regular watering. The frequency depends on the weather, but a good, slow soaking once a week is generally recommended. In hot weather, you may need to water twice a week. Ensure that you water the whole area around the tree, not just up against the trunk.

That’s it! Your new evergreen tree is now set for a healthy and vibrant life. With a little care and attention, your tree will reward you with vigorous growth and beautiful foliage all year round. For more tips and information on tree planting, visit Tips Tree Planting.

Remember, taking the time to properly plant your trees is an investment in their future and your garden’s beauty. Happy planting!