Planting B&B Trees


Planting Process

The planting hole should always be considerably wider than the roots or root ball; three times wider is best. The sides should slope gradually, making the hole saucer-shaped or bowl-shaped.

Planting a tree too deep can kill it, so it is important not to dig the planting hole any deeper than is necessary for covering the root ball. For stability, and to prevent settling after planting, the root ball needs to rest on undisturbed soil excavated to a depth to ensure that the tree is replanted at the same depth or one inch higher than it was grown in the nursery.

Balled and Burlapped (B&B) trees are field dug with a tree spade, the soil ball placed in a wire basket lined with a natural, treated fiber burlap which is biodegradable, and then tied securely to the base of the tree trunk with twine.  A secure root ball helps to maintain the integrity of the tree root system and is critical to tree survival.

Place the tree in the planting hole with the root ball-wire basket intact.  Secure the tree into its final planting position by back-filling enough soil to stabilize the root ball and tree in place – generally half way up the root ball side.  Now remove the twine and burlap from around the tree trunk.  Open the wire basket up and fold outwards.  The top half of the wire basket can be cut away, down to the back-filled soil line.  Also remove the excess burlap and twine from the top half of the root ball.  Finish planting the tree by back-filling the remaining soil in the planting hole. 

Water well to help settle the soil and thoroughly hydrate the root ball.  Cover with 3-4 inches of a mulch to help reduce moisture loss but do not allow the mulch to directly touch the tree trunk, as this can encourage disease problems.  Be sure no burlap is left exposed to the air as it can wick moisture from the root zone drying out new roots very quickly.  At no time should the wire basket and/or burlap be completely removed before planting as above.  Doing so voids any warranty from Northwest Shade Trees, LLC.


Wire Baskets

To remove or not remove? Wire baskets are an integral part of transplanting landscape trees. The basket functions as support for the root ball to ensure an intact root system. The potential longevity of the wire in the soil led to speculation about adverse effects of the basket on tree growth and stability. Documented field experiments on municipal sites have shown that roots grew around the basket wire and formed a complete union on the other side. The trees were healthy and growing well and showed no signs of decline after 11 years.

With the potential damage to the root ball and root system’s integrity caused by the wire basket removal, we recommend the basket not be removed before planting.  This procedure is the same one recommended by the International Society of Arboriculture.  Removing the basket will void any warranty offered by Northwest Shade Trees, LLC.



Fertilization at the time of planting is generally not recommended. Research has shown that fertilization is ineffective until the tree has partially reestablished its root system.



Studies have shown that wood-chip mulch can nearly double tree growth in the first few years after planting. A circle of mulch should be placed around every newly planted tree to conserve soil moisture and moderate soil temperatures. The mulch should cover an area at least four times the diameter of the root ball at the time of transplanting and should be 3-4 inches deep.



When stability is a problem, trees should be staked for 1-3 years until growth of new roots has stabilized the tree. Care should be taken to avoid staking it too rigidly or allowing guy wires to damage the bark.

Staking method varies with tree size. In Figure A., one stake is used for trees up to 2 inches diameter. The tree is attached to the stake by means of a wire through a piece of hose. In Figure B., trees 2-4 inches in diameter are supported by two stakes and attached as in A. As in Figure C., trees over 4 inches in diameter should be guyed with at least three wires.


Trunk Protection

Trees with thin bark can be damaged by the warm winter sun (sunscald) and should be protected.

It should be noted that trunk wrapping is by no means mandatory and should be evaluated according to the species, planting location and site conditions. In many instances trunk wraps are unneeded and can cause either direct or indirect damage due to non-removal.


Season to Plant

The most favorable times of year to plant are spring and fall, because temperatures are moderate and rainfall is usually plentiful. However, summer planting is also possible if a judicious watering program is followed.  Too much water can cause water logged roots which can cause root rot.  Water stress causes leaves to dry out due to lack of enough available water in the root ball and must be avoided for the tree to establish in its new home.