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June/July 2004
How to Plant a Tree

Want to plant a tree, but don’t know how? Or, want to conserve energy around your house? Then why not plant a tree?

The following is a sort of primer, published by American Forests, for how to plant a tree or a tree seedling—indoor or out—and how to strategize tree placement for energy conservation. Go ahead, plant a tree!

How to Plant a Tree
• Choose at least a five to six foot tree grown to nursery standards.

• Select a site with enough room for roots and branches to reach full size. Avoid overhead and underground utilities.

• Prepare a planting area as deep as the root ball and three to five times its diameter by loosening the soil. Dig a hole in the middle of the area and set the root ball even with the ground level.

• Use water to settle soil and remove air pockets in planting area.

• Stake the tree to flex with the wind only if it is unable to stand up to wind.

• Spread a two to three inch layer of mulch on entire area, but not within six inches of tree trunk.

• American Forests can plant trees for you as part of their Global ReLeaf program. Each tree is planted in restoration projects taking place in the U.S. and around the world.

How to Plant a Tree Seedling
• Plant your seedling as soon as possible; in cooler climates, before the first frost. If first frost has occurred already, then plant your tree indoors and transplant it once the chance of frost is over. (See instructions below.)

• Prepare a planting area where the seedling will have adequate space to grow into a full sized tree both above and below the ground. (Pay special attention to utility wires.)

• Place the root collar (the place where the roots join the stem) at soil level.

• Settle soil with water to avoid air space.

• Protect seedling from damage caused by feet, lawnmowers, pets, etc.

How to plant a tree seedling indoors (If weather precludes outside planting)
• Place seedling in a container that is at least 6 inches deep and has several drainage holes.

• Pack the soil around seedling, completely covering the root collar.

• Water well after planting and place seedling in a bright room; direct sunlight is best.

• Keep moist by watering as needed and transplant outside when weather permits.

For more information about the best planting times in your area, contact a local nursery.

Where to Plant Trees for Energy Conservation and More
Planting trees around your home will conserve energy and lower the cost of utility bills. Three well-placed deciduous (leaf-losing) trees on the east, south, and west sides of a home will shade it from summer sun and lower cooling costs by 10 to 50 percent. In addition to saving money, this conservation of energy directly translates to less carbon dioxide produced at the generating plant that serves your house. Trees can also produce savings in cold weather. Staggered rows of evergreen trees on the northwest side of the house (or the side with prevailing winter winds) will block harsh winds and lower heating costs.

This article is reprinted with kind permission from American Forests. To learn more, visit or call (202) 737-1944.



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