Man taking care of a small rose tree.

How to Plant a Tree in Your Garden

An investment in time and money, a tree will eventually become a striking presence in your garden and make a beautiful year-round feature. Plant it well and take care of it afterward, and your tree will soon pay dividends, providing you with color, shade, and structure for many years to come.

When to start: Late autumn.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 2 hours.

You will need: Tree, spade, fork, cane, stake, tree tie, mulch, gardening gloves.

Prepare the ground

Dig a circular hole twice the width and the same depth as the root ball. Do not dig over the base, because this may cause the tree to sink once planted. Instead, puncture the base and sides with a garden fork to encourage the roots to penetrate.

Check planting depth

Most trees are planted with their root ball slightly above the soil surface, which helps them to establish a strong root system. Place the tree in the hole, lay a cane across the top to check the level, and add or remove soil as required.

Tease out roots

Lift the tree from the hole and use your fingers to gently tease the outer roots away from the root ball. This will encourage them to root into the surrounding soil, helping the tree establish, and is particularly important if the tree is “root-bound”.

Plant the tree

Hold the tree in the hole and turn it round until its best side is facing in the right direction. Then fill around the root ball with the excavated soil. Do this in three stages; adding soil and gently firming it down with your foot each time. Make sure there are no air pockets between the roots.

Gently firm in

Make sure the root ball is just above the soil surface. As a guide, look for the “nursery line”, where the trunk darkens at the base, showing the level the tree was grown at in the nursery. This must not be buried. Then add a thin layer of soil over the root ball so that no roots are exposed.

Attach tree to wooden stake

Choose a stake that will reach a third of the way up the trunk. Use a mallet to hammer it into the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees with the top facing the prevailing wind. Attach a tree tie at the point where tree and stake meet, using a spacer to prevent them rubbing together.


Water the tree well, and then apply a thick mulch, such as composted bark chippings, to suppress competing weeds and seal in moisture. Keep it clear of the stem. Water the tree regularly for two years, and check and loosen ties frequently. The ties can be removed after two or three years when the tree has fully established.