How to Plant a Tree Sapling

Posted by Ella Dooly on

Find out how to plant a tree sapling with our helpful and easy to follow guide.

Below we cover exactly how to plant saplings into pots or into the ground to give them the best start in life. If you’ve just received one of our native tree saplings and have no idea what to do with it then you’ve come to the right place!

 

Preparation

Depending on which month your tree arrives will vaguely influence what you should do with it and when you can plant it. While there isn’t necessarily a perfect time to plant, the tips below will give you a general guide.

The main rule of thumb is to avoid planting when the ground is waterlogged or frozen and if the weather is extremely warm then aftercare and watering is important for survival.

 

Deciduous Tree Sapling

October - January

Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter and enter dormancy. This is essentially their hibernating period and they do not put any energy into new growth.

At this time of the year, the sapling can be kept in an unheated garage or shed until the spring. Ensure that it is stored upright and that the roots stay moist during this time. Do not bring indoors to a centrally heated room as this will be fatal.

Avoid storing evergreen trees at any point in the year, even though their growth slows in winter, they are not fully dormant and still need access to sunlight.

If you don’t have a place to store your tree, not to worry. Our saplings are all hardy native varieties and will do just as well outdoors. Make sure to place in a sheltered location and out of frost pockets. If you do want to plant now then wait until the weather is slightly warmer and the ground isn’t waterlogged or frozen.

 

February - September

Between February and September, your sapling is either coming out of dormancy or in full leaf and growing strongly. At this time you can plant your tree as soon as it arrives. If the weather is particularly warm, ensure the roots stay moist before planting.

 

Planting Tree Saplings in Pots

Some of the native tree gifts like our oak sapling and beech sapling will eventually grow to tremendous heights and are better suited to large gardens or landscapes. Don’t let this put you off though as they can be kept in a pot for around 5-10 before being planted out into their forever homes. 

This is also great news if you plan to move house as the tree can move too!

 

To plant your tree sapling into a pot you will need:

  • Your tree sapling
  • A large pot with good drainage holes (we recommend a 10L pot to start with)
  • High-quality potting soil
  • A trowel
  • A watering can
  • Some optional gardening gloves (if you don’t want to get your hands dirty)

 

Planting Tree Sapling in a Pot
  1. Start by filling the container to the top with compost. From here you can create a small planting hole in the middle that's deep enough to fit the roots in comfortably.

  2. Place the tree in the hole ensuring not to plant too deep or too shallow. Try your best to line up the base of the trunk to the topsoil. Planting too deep can cause the stem to rot but if too shallow then the roots will die above the surface.

  3. Backfill around the roots with the soil. To add extra nutrients you can create a mix of soil and compost or add in some well-rotted manure to improve soil quality and richness.

  4. Secure the tree into the pot and firm down the compost. Try not to compact the soil too tightly as this can result in reduced air and water circulation.

  5. Once firmed down, push a stake into the soil for support and place a tree guard or spiral around the tree. Water the sapling well and watch as your sapling starts to flourish over the next couple of months.

Repot your sapling every couple of years or each time it outgrows its current pot. Keep potting up until the tree needs to be planted into the ground.

If your sapling is going to be in the pot for longer than the recommended 2 years then simply top-dress the pot by removing the first 5cm of soil and replacing with a new layer compost.

 

Planting Tree Saplings into the Ground

If you have a large enough space that allows for the sapling to grow full size without any disruption then you can plant your tree straight into the ground. We recommend checking the final height of your tree before planting to ensure that you have enough space. Find out more in our helpful UK tree size chart.

 

To plant your tree sapling into the ground you will need:

  • Your tree sapling
  • A space in the garden to plant
  • A trowel or spade
  • A watering can
  • Some optional gardening gloves (if you don’t want to get your hands dirty)
How to Plant Tree Saplings
  1. Start by finding the perfect location to dig a hole. The planting hole should be just slightly bigger than the diameter of the root ball. Keep the soil to one side so that you can backfill around the tree.

  2. Place the tree in the hole ensuring not to plant too deep or too shallow. Aim to line up the base of the trunk to the topsoil. If planted too deep then the stem may rot but plant too shallow then any roots above the surface will die.

  3. Backfill around the roots with the soil, to add extra nutrients you can create a mix of soil and compost or add in some well-rotted manure to improve the quality and richness.

  4. Firm the compost down to secure the tree. Avoid compacting the soil too tightly as this can result in reduced air and water circulation.

  5. Once secure, add a wooden stake into the soil for support and place a tree spiral or guard around the stem for extra protection. Water the tree well and new root growth will start in no time as your sapling starts to establish itself.

 

After Planting Tree Care Tips

Whether you’ve planted your sapling in a pot or in the ground there are a few basic care tips to follow in the weeks after to ensure that the tree thrives.

  • Keep the compost moist to allow the tree root system to establish - this especially applies to potted saplings - ensure that the drainage stays good and the soil is never waterlogged
  • Protect from frost in the winter - while native tree saplings are hardy, protect from frost to avoid damage to the young branches and buds
  • Add a layer of mulch - this applies to both potted and planted saplings and will help retain essential moisture in the soil
  • For ground planted trees, keep the area weed-free to give your sapling the best start.

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