Planting a Tree

Located in Evergreen, CO, Tuppers Team is surrounded by beautiful trees all year-round. While everyone isn’t so lucky to be surrounded by pine and aspen trees like we are, we wanted to share a helpful guide on planting your own tree(s).

Planting a tree and taking care of it in its early years can be a challenging task, but once the tree is strong and healthy, the benefits are well worth the hard work. The following guide is more closely designed for residents of Colorado, but this information is beneficial to everyone, no matter which state you live in.

Reasons for Planting a Tree

There are many reasons to plant a tree, whether it be in your yard or in the park. Trees help filter pollution from the air, provide shelter from the rain and wind, offer a home to animals and they can liven up the landscape. Knowing your reasons for wanting to plant a tree is very important, because this can determine which tree is best for your needs. Do you want it for privacy reasons? Maybe to increase your property value. Perhaps you want to grow your own fruit or to provide a local habitat for the birds and other animals nearby. When choosing your tree, be sure to keep in mind your reason for wanting to plant it.

Soil

The type of soil is very important when deciding on which type of tree you should plant. There are soil types such as clay, sandy, gravelly, saline and may be compacted, wet or dry. Colorado most commonly consists of clay soil, which is high in alkaline and expands with moisture. Colorado soil is generally not a high quality soil, so it’s important you choose a tree that will be able to grow and flourish. You may be able to send a sample of soil to a testing lab as well, such as a local university. If you live in Colorado or any other state, check out this list of soil testing labs. Local gardens and nurseries should also be able to help you determine the best tree for the land nearby.

Choosing a Tree

Choosing the right type of tree can be a timely and difficult process. There are a variety of factors to take into consideration before making a final decision. Something to note is that deciduous trees (trees that shed leaves in the Fall season) are great for shade during the hot summer months. Evergreen trees (trees that have leaves during all seasons) on the other hand can block cold winds during the Winter.

  • Best Type of Tree for Your Land

    Planting trees that are native to Colorado are the best option to be sure that the tree can grow strong and healthy. There are many land types in Colorado, from the plains to the mountains, so talking to your local tree nursery can help you figure out which tree is best for where you live. We’ve also included a list of trees native to Colorado below which shows scientific names, their common names, moisture requirements and an image of what the tree looks like. ArborDay.org also provides a handy nationwide hardiness zone lookup tool which can tell you which zone you live in and what trees can thrive in your soil, whether they are native or not. This is great if the native trees don’t interest you.

  • Considerations for the Surrounding Area

    When choosing your tree, you should also consider the vegetation that exists around the area you’ve chose to plant your tree. Some trees require more water or light than surrounding plants and some require less. You should match these requirements to provide optimum health of your tree and nearby vegetation. You also want to make sure that the tree will not interfere with other plants in the area or block the sun from your garden.

  • Size of the Tree

    Some trees never grow beyond eight feet tall while others can grow beyond 80 feet in height and a crown spread of 100 feet or more when full grown. You want to be careful in choosing a tree that won’t grow too large if planting near your home or other structures, such as power lines. A poor choice could also devalue the property if it becomes too large or dangerous to the property. Some trees can also grow large roots which can result in a lumpy lawn, damage sewer lines or travel beneath the sidewalk or driveway and damage the concrete.

  • Native vs. Non-Native Trees

    There are many non-native trees that can survive perfectly well in your hardiness zone, but they might not grow to their full potential. The drawbacks to planting a non-native tree could result in increased water use, annoyances such as thorns, or the tree may even become susceptible to insects or disease. This isn’t always the case though and your local nursery should be able to answer any answers you have about a particular tree.

  • Where to Buy Your Tree

    There are several options for purchasing a tree. You can order by phone, online or in-person at a local tree nursery. ArborDay.org is a great place to start if you wish to order online, but it’s highly recommended to buy from a local nursery. Local nurseries grow their trees in soil that will be similar or the same as yours, so transporting and re-planting will be less stressful to the tree. Many local tree nurseries also have websites if you want to order online or view their selection before driving in. It’s also recommended that you purchase the tree the same day you want to plant it to prevent it from dehydrating.

Planting Your Tree

It’s finally time to get your hands dirty. There’s some work involved in the following steps, but nothing too difficult. The best part is that it gets easier with every tree you plant

  • Tools & Materials Needed

    There aren’t a whole lot of tools needed for the job. At the very least, you should have a long-handled shovel and a pair of gloves. Don’t buy a short-handled shovel because while it may seem more convenient, it will wreak havoc on your back. Gloves, such as neoprene, will spare your hands from callouses and blisters. You should also purchase some soil amendments in the form of composted soil and composted pine bark soil conditioner. Well-aged composted amendments are important. Never use unfinished compost or fresh manure. You’ll be mixing this into your backfill. You’ll also need root stimulants (bio stimulants) for the roots and mulch to place above ground after planting the tree. You can use any form of mulch such as pine bark, pine needles, shredded hardwood, cocoa shell mulch, cedar mulch, and so on.

  • When to Plant

    The best time of year to plant a tree is during the cooler months, which is around the middle or end of March in Colorado. You want to avoid the hottest and coldest months of the year. The best days to plant are cool, cloudy and humid so check your local forecast. You also want to avoid windy days, which can damage the tree and cause unneeded stress on the plant.

  • Watch for Buried Lines

    Before plunging the shovel into the ground, be certain there aren’t any lines buried where you will be digging. Contact your local utility company to visit the property and locate any possible dangers hiding under ground. Most utility companies locate for free. You should also be wary of where your sprinkler systems lines travel as replacing a sprinkler pipe could be costly. Sprinkler lines are commonly buried 6-12 inches below ground so hitting one is very possible.

  • Choosing Your Planting Spot

    After your local utility company has located any possible lines running beneath your planting area, you can decide on the final planting spot for your tree. Some specific spots you should avoid, depending on the mature size of the tree, are areas that are too close to buildings or other structures such as fences, light posts and above-ground power lines.

  • Digging the Hole

    Start by digging up the soil, in place, at a circumference of about twice as wide as the rootball and one and a half as deep. The hole should be in a saucer shape, rather than straight up and down along the edges. This helps the tree roots move upward into higher oxygenated soil should they have trouble penetrating the soil near the bottom of the hole. Turn the soil over and break it up so that it’s fine and the top soil is mixed in with the sub-soil. Now add your soil amendments, mixing a generous amount of each into the soil. After it’s mixed, take out the soil (backfill) and set aside for later.

  • Preparing the Tree for Planting

    If your tree was grown in a plastic pot, you may be able to lay the tree on it’s side and gently work the rootball out. Be very careful not to damage the roots. You can also tear or cut the sides of the pot off. After removing from the pot, you need to tease the roots out of the rootball. This is as simple as taking your fingers and rubbing through the sides of the rootball to loosen up the roots. If your tree is in burlap, do not remove the material from the rootball. Removal could cause the rootball to break apart. You should remove any twine or string wrapped around the fabric and if you’d like, you can also pull the fabric away from the base of the tree. If the rootball is wrapped in any other type of fabric not specifically designed to let roots pass (ask the tree nursery), you will need to remove the fabric from the sides after setting the tree in place.

  • Planting Your Tree

    With the backfill soil taken out of the hole, place your tree into the center of the hole. If the tree has a “dogleg” bend, set the inside curve towards the north to prevent winter bark injury. The rootball should be level with the ground and sitting on un-dug soil. If not, add more soil to the hole and tamp down to make firm. Keep in mind that clay soil expands with moisture, so in these cases the hole should be about 2-4 inches shallower than the root ball. In all other soils, the hole should be the same depth of the rootball. If the rootball is below grade, the tree could suffer from root rot or suffocations issues. Once in the hole and positioned the way you want it, gently drop the backfill back into the hole around the rootball about halfway up. Here you want to add a bio stimulant around the roots before filling up the hole the rest of the way. Do not pat down the soil or compact it in anyway, or the roots will not receive the proper moisture.

  • Final Planting Steps

    Spread excess soil around the tree to make it level. It’s ok for the tree to have a slight grade, but do not add soil to give it an artificial grade. From here you want to feather out a fair amount of mulch around the tree. It should only be about 1 inch depth, otherwise it could result in fungal or moisture issues, and should not result in a “volcano” form around the trunk. The proper amount of mulch will help to conserve moisture, moderate temperature and help keep the weeds away. Water your tree immediately after planting with a soft pour, such as from a water wand. If the soil sinks too far, add more backfill.

  • Staking Your Tree after Planting

    Many people stake their trees to protect them from blowing winds or other issues, but are doing so unknowingly of the consequences. In fact, most trees do not need to be staked at all. Trees naturally develop root and trunk growth, but placing stakes creates and artificial support which causes the tree to never develop these important factors, in turn making the tree weak and prone to breakage after the supports are removed. If absolutely necessary to stake a tree, do so only as long as it takes for the roots to develop – maybe a few months, but no longer than a full growing season. When staking a tree, never wrap the wire around the trunk, but instead use staking straps.

Watering

During the first year of tree growth, you should water once a week with at least 1 inch of water. Depending on factors such as temperature, drought conditions, rainfall and tree size, your tree may need watering twice a week. Overwatering can lead to root suffocation so the soil should be moist, but not soaked or in standing water. The best time to water your tree is in the early morning when it’s cool outside, which allows the water to sink in and avoid evaporation by the sun. If you start to notice dry or falling leaves you may need to water more often. To prepare your tree for winter, water it thoroughly in the fall and if there are extended periods of dry or warm days during the winter months, water the tree to prevent drought damage.

Trees Native to Colorado
Scientific Name Common Names Moisture Requirements Image
Large Trees (45+ feet when mature)
Abies concolor White Fir, Concolor Fir Moderate – High 01 abies concolor Planting a Tree
Abies lasiocarpa arizonica Corkbark Fir, Subalpine Fir Moderate – High 02 abies lasiocarpa arizonica Planting a Tree
Acer negundo Box-elder Moderate – High 03 acer negundo Planting a Tree
Picea engelmannii Engelmann Spruce Moderate – High 04 picea engelmannii Planting a Tree
Picea pungens Colorado Spruce Moderate – High 05 picea pungens Planting a Tree
Pinus contorta latifolia Lodgepole Pine Moderate 06 pinus contorta latifolia Planting a Tree
Pinus flexilis Limber Pine Low – Moderate 07 pinus flexilis Planting a Tree
Pinus ponderosa Ponderosa Pine Low – Moderate 08 pinus ponderosa Planting a Tree
Pinus strobiformis Southwestern White Pine Low – Moderate 09 pinus strobiformis Planting a Tree
Populus angustifolia Narrowleaf Cottonwood High 10 populus angustifolia Planting a Tree
Populus sargentii Plains Cottonwood High 11 populus sargentii Planting a Tree
Populus x acuminata Lanceleaf Cottonwood High 12 populus x acuminata Planting a Tree
Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas-Fir Moderate 13 pseudotsuga menziesii Planting a Tree
Small – Medium Trees (10-45 ft. when mature)
Acer grandidentatum Bigtooth Maple, Wasatch Maple Low – Moderate 14 acer grandidentatum Planting a Tree
Alnus tenuifolia Thinleaf Alder High 15 alnus tenuifolia Planting a Tree
Betula fontinalis (Betula occidentalis) Rocky Mountain Birch High 16 betula fontinalis Planting a Tree
Juniperus monosperma Oneseed Juniper Low 17 juniperus monosperma Planting a Tree
Juniperus osteosperma Utah Juniper Low 18 juniperus osteosperma Planting a Tree
Juniperus scopulorum Rocky Mountain Juniper Low 19 juniperus scopulorum Planting a Tree
Pinus aristata Bristlecone Pine Low – Moderate 20 pinus aristata 1 Planting a Tree
Pinus edulis Pinon, Pinyon Pine Low 21 pinus edulis Planting a Tree
Populus tremuloides Quaking Aspen High 22 populus tremuloides Planting a Tree
Quercus gambelii Gambel Oak, Scrub Oak Low – Moderate 23 quercus gambelii Planting a Tree
Salix amygdaloides Peachleaf Willow High 24 salix amygdaloides Planting a Tree
Image Sources/Attribution
  • Abies Concolor – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Abies_concolor_Yosemite_NP.jpg
  • Abies lasiocarpa arizonica by Bryan Ungard – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abies_lasiocarpa_subsp_arizonica_Santa_Fe.jpg

    http://www.flickr.com/people/26301116@N00

  • Acer negundo – USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck – http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=acne2_005_ahp.tif
  • Picea engelmannii – Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org – http://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=1359032
  • Picea pungens – USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck – http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=pipu_013_avp.tif
  • Pinus contorta latifolia – USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck – http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=picol2_001_avp.tif
  • Pinus flexilis – Image taken in July 2004 by Daniel Maye – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Maveric149
  • Pinus ponderosa – Walter Siegmund – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Wsiegmund
  • Pinus strobiformis – E.S. Shipp @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database – http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=pist3_001_avp.tif
  • Populus angustifolia – Stan Shebs – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Stan_Shebs
  • Populus sargentii – by Edward Tremel – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Edward_Tremel
  • Populus x acuminata – NPS Photo by Jim Pisarowicz – http://www.nps.gov/wica/naturescience/trees-lanceleaf-cottonwood.htm
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Crusier
  • Acer grandidentatum – by Wing-Chi Poon – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Wingchi
  • Alnus tenuifolia by Nikanos – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alnus_incana_001.jpg
  • Betula fontinalis by John D. Guthrie @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database – http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=beoc2_009_avp.tif
  • Juniperus monosperma by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juniperus_monosperma_UGA.jpg
  • Juniperus osteosperma by Jimmy Thomas from Denver – http://www.flickr.com/people/81376848@N00
  • Juniperus scopulorum by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juniperus_scopulorum.jpg
  • Pinus aristata by Karelj – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Karelj
  • Pinus edulis by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinus_edulis_Antero.jpg
  • Populus tremuloides by Fairsing – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fairsing
  • Quercus gambelii by Cory Maylett – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Maylett
  • Salix amygdaloides by Sheri Hagwood @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database – http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=saam2_011_avp.jpg
Content Sources/Attribution
  • http://www.monkeysee.com/play/792-plant-a-tree-soil-amendments
  • http://forestry.about.com/od/treeandforestcare/i/tree_staking.htm
  • cmg.colostate.edu/gardennotes/633.pdf
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Trees_of_Colorado
  • http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07421.html