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Planting Success Guide


While plants are beautiful, the many different options, planting schedules, and care can be overwhelming. SiteOne is here to break it down for you, step by step.

February 25, 2022

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Planting Success Guide

Planting Success Guide

Plants are a key component to a landscaping job. Between customer choice, install, and maintenance schedules, there’s a lot to remember. If you’re learning the business or just need a refresher on planting install best practices, here’s a breakdown to follow. 


Container Trees and Shrubs

  1. Chose your location. Plant 30ft trees or smaller at least 12-15 feet away from a home’s foundation and utility lines. Plant tress 30-70ft at least 15-20 feet away from foundations and lines and plant trees that are 70ft+ at least 20 feet away from these.
  2. Dig the hole twice the width of the root ball, or at least 6 inches wider than the diameter of the container at minimum, and deep enough to allow 1-2 inches of the root ball to remain above existing grade. If you have the space, three times as wide is even better. Where poorly drained or compacted soils exist, adequate drainage of surface and sub surface water must be provided before planting. The key to fast acclimation is getting a good area loosened up for the roots. Ensure you create crevices within the sides of the hole for the new plant’s roots to easily attach.
  3. Remove the root ball from container.
  4. Root balls will only need to be sliced if the roots are wrapped around themselves. Root balls can fill the container and not need to be sliced, so check carefully. If the plant is root bound (see below image), make 2 or 3 vertical cuts along the length of the root ball. Carefully pull sliced roots away from the root ball. You can also run water over the root ball until the roots loosen. These methods will encourage new root growth into existing soil.
  5. Place the root ball in the hole. Be sure the plant is centered and upright, ensuring the plant is facing the preferred direction. The junction of the trunk and root system should be slightly above grade. 
  6. Backfill with the soil you dug out of the hole. Tamp soil firmly to remove air pockets and to support the root ball. 
  7. Fertilize with Bio Tone Plus or other root stimulant fertilizer. This should be all you need for the season after planting. If you do fertilize with anything else, you risk root burn and root stress. 
  8. Form a saucer with soil mixture above grade completely around the outer rim of the planting hole. 
  9. Water immediately after planting by filling the entire saucer twice within 24 hours to ensure thorough saturation of the root ball. 
  10. Staking should only happen if the plant is in an extremely high wind area to stabilize the root ball. Stakes should extend 18 inches into firm soil outside of the root ball area and should be material that will not rub the tree’s bark. Allow some movement as this makes the tree stronger. Do not stake if wind is not a concern. 
  11. Mulch entire saucer and top of root ball with 2-3 inches of organic mulch to hold moisture and deter weed growth. 
  12. Water thoroughly and regularly, for a minimum of 6 months, until new roots completely penetrate existing soil. Note that it will take time before the stressed tree will take up good amounts of water (which is why the root stimulator is needed). 

For B&B Trees and Shrubs

  1. Dig the hole at least 12 inches wider than the diameter of the root ball, and deep enough to allow 1/8 of the root ball to remain above existing grade. The perimeter of the bottom of the hole should be deeper than the center. This provides a solid plateau of undisturbed soil for the root ball to rest on. Where poorly drained soil or compacted soil exist, elevate the root ball to 1/3 above grade. 
  2. Place the root ball in the hole. Be sure the plant is centered and upright, ensuring the plant is facing the preferred direction. 
  3. Backfill halfway with the soil you dug out of the hole. Tamp soil firmly to provide adequate support for root ball. 
  4. Water thoroughly to fill in air pockets and to allow the soil mixture to settle. 
  5. Remove all strings, plastic, burlap, etc. from the root ball before backfilling to avoid root girdling. Remove the wire basket if present. Be sure nothing is around the trunk. 
  6. Backfill remaining soil mixture and tamp firmly. Do not cover up the top of the root ball with soil. 
  7. Fertilize with Bio Tone Plus or other root stimulant fertilizer. This is a critical step for ball and burlap trees as a large portion of the roots have been cut from the tree. The root stimulator cuts down the shock time and helps begin building new roots sooner. 
  8. Form a saucer with soil mixture above grade completely around the outer rim of the planting hole. 
  9. Water immediately after planting by filling the entire saucer twice within 24 hours to ensure saturation of the root ball. 
  10. Staking should only happen if the plant is in an extremely high wind area to stabilize the root ball. Stakes should extend 18 inches into firm soil outside of the root ball area and should be material that will not rub the tree’s bark. Allow some movement as this makes the tree stronger. Do not stake if wind is not a concern. 
  11. Mulch entire saucer and top of root ball with 2-3 inches of organic mulch to hold moisture and deter weed growth. 
  12. Water thoroughly and regularly, for a minimum of 6 months, until new roots completely penetrate existing soil. Note that it will take time before the stressed tree will take up good amounts of water (which is why the root stimulator is needed).

Other Important Notes
Overwatering is one of the main causes of root rot and death in new plantings. Ensure you’re watering correctly. The tree type, soil conditions, season, and weather are all factors. To test if your plant needs water, use a bamboo stick, push it into the newly planted area 4-6 inches deep, then remove it. If the stick is wet for several inches from the tip up, the tree doesn’t need more water. If it’s dry, the plant needs to be watered.

As the tree develops and the roots grow outwards, water is taken up by the tips of the roots. These are typically found at the end of the branches where most rainwater drips off the tree and are also known as the drip line. Water at this line for the maximum benefit, as watering the base of the tree will be unsuccessful. 

Newly planted trees should also only be pruned to remove broken, dead, or diseased limbs. They should otherwise be left alone through their first growing season. 


SiteOne Nurseries

To see plant options and for more information, visit the nursery section of our website. For questions about planting or nursery products, visit your local branch. Associates are always there to help.