How to Plant a New Tree

Why Plant a Tree?

Almost any tree you choose will add value to your home, among countless other benefits.

Here’s why you should invest both time and effort in planting trees:

  • Attractive, tree-filled landscapes improve human health in cities. They can lower blood pressure, improve overall emotional and psychological health, provide UV protection, and lessen the potential for airborne pollutants.
  • Trees also clean the air we breathe, decrease air pollution, support wildlife, slow stormwater runoff, conserve rainwater, buffer noise pollution, and bolster people’s health.
  • Strategically placed trees create shade and help save up to 56 percent on annual air-conditioning costs. Trees such as evergreens, if placed strategically around a home, can lower heating costs by 20 to 50 percent during the winter.
  • Urban trees contribute to safer cities. Trees aid in reducing traffic speeds which make for safer pedestrian walkways. In addition, communities with a sizeable urban forest have lower crime rates.
  • On average, homeowners achieve a 109 percent return on landscaping dollars spent, higher than any other home improvement. Real estate assessors recognize that a house on a lot with trees or in a neighborhood with mature trees is up to 20% more saleable!
  • Trees increase curb appeal. Buyers are willing to spend an additional 3 to 7 percent on homes with many trees rather than one with few or no trees.

Tree Planting FAQ’s

What to Consider When Selecting Trees

All cultivated trees have traits that suit them for particular landscape use. Each tree carries certain requirements that are critical to its survival in your yard. Some are more cold-hardy than others, so be sure to check their zone​ rating for hardiness.

Many do well in rich, moist, woodsy soil that is slightly acidic. Others favor alkaline soil that tends to be dry due to a lower concentration of moisture-holding organic material. A tree’s growth rate is also very important that may impact your choice. Hardwoods are slower growers and tend to live longer.

If establishing shade or having flowers relatively quickly is important, choose a fast-growing tree. Generally, these trees are smaller, have softwood, and will not live as long. Be sure to scale trees to their surroundings.

For example, use small- or medium-size varieties for smaller houses and yards. On any site, it’s recommended to place smaller trees near dwellings and larger ones farther out in the yard or near its edge.

Trees and shrubs are either deciduous or evergreen. Trees that lose their leaves in the fall and are bare all winter are classified as deciduous, though the leaves often give a final show of beautiful colors before they drop. Trees that keep their foliage year-round are classified as evergreen.

Trees also have liabilities. Some have thorns that make them ill-suited for homes with children. Others are weedy. Some are messy; sycamores for instance drop fuzzy balls, bark, and twigs all over the place. Prickly balls from sweet gum trees and the stray roots of willows also present challenges as well. Nevertheless, if you choose the right place for some of these “less-desirable” varieties, you can likely overlook their faults and enjoy their virtues instead.

Plus, don’t forget to grab your free copy of the Virginia Department of Forestry’s book, Common Native Trees of Virginia​, to begin your tree planting journey today.

What is my Tree Worth?

Every tree you plant in your yard adds countless benefits for wildlife and the environment in general, not to mention your own enjoyment. But did you know that they also add financial value to your property, which is a nice perk to making the investment to plant them in the first place. Here are four factors that influence a tree’s financial value:  

Size: This includes the tree’s height, width, and measurement of a trunk’s girth. The value of a mature oak on an established property can be worth thousands of dollars.

Species: A tree’s value is based on its hardiness, adaptability, sturdiness, low maintenance, attractiveness, and overall desirability. Some of the most highly valued trees today are those that provide shade, ornamentation such as spring flowers or fall color, and drought tolerance. An arborist and/or county extension service can identify the best and most valuable trees for your landscape.

Condition: Consult an arborist who can determine a tree’s condition by inspecting its trunk, branches, bark, buds, and roots.

Location: A tree that stands alone, shades a house, or flanks a street may be worth more.

Native Trees for Your Region

Being adapted to our local climates, North American natives often require less care and maintenance while offering greater benefits to wildlife. Check out the Virginia Department of Forestry’s book, Common Native Trees of Virginia, to begin your tree planting journey today.

Tree Planting Tips:

How to Plant a Tree

Fashion a Hole

There’s an old gardening saying that says that the key to growing a great plant is to put a 50-cent specimen in a $5 hole. This is tried and true. Get your money’s worth by planting your trees correctly.

Having researched and chosen the best tree to plant in your yard, it’s time to get it in the ground. Digging a correctly sized planting hole is key to setting your new tree up for success, but a few other factors come into play as well, such as timing.

First, fashion a hole that is two to three times wider than the root ball of your tree. Dig down to a depth that is roughly the same as the root ball. This way when it is placed within the hole, the tree will remain at the same level as it was in its container.

Handle the root ball with care to keep it intact while you place it in the hole. Once the tree is in the hole, turn it so that its best side is facing the direction you want. If your tree’s root ball is burlapped, cut the twine and remove the burlap (or push it to the bottom of the hole).
Garden Tip: Plant small trees (30 feet tall or less) at least 10 feet from your home’s foundation and utility lines. Plant large trees (30 – 70 feet tall) at least 15 feet from foundations and lines; give 70+ feet trees at least 20 feet of distance.
Backfill Soil into the Hole

Add the soil that you dug out of the hole, placing it evenly around the root ball while lightly packing down the soil as you go. Check the trunk frequently to make sure that it’s straight. Use any leftover soil taken from the hole to form a berm to create a watering well.

It’s also been said that you should amend backfill with compost or other organic matter, but this may not be necessary. Several studies have shown that this practice produces little benefit so long as the starting soil is of decent quality. With this, many experts no longer recommend this practice. Similarly, fertilizer offers little benefit at planting time, and can even be harmful! Loose soil is by far the most important aspect when planting a tree. This is so that new roots can easily grow and become well established. That’s why such a wide planting hole is essential.

Watering a Newly Planted Tree

Right after planting your new tree, water it, and keep the soil around it moist for several weeks afterward. By this time, the roots will have begun growing into the surrounding soil, and you can begin gradually reducing the frequency of watering.

A 2-3” layer of mulch around the base of the tree helps protect them from mower blades, prevents the soil from drying out as quickly, and helps keep weeds at bay. However, mounding it up like a volcano around your tree traps moisture against the trunk, which causes rot. Plus, when mulch is too deep, it stops the tree’s roots from receiving the oxygen they need.