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 Tips for Tree Planting

Before Planting | Selecting a Tree | Central Texas Species | Planting a Tree

Trees are a great way to add value and beauty to your home.  Trees serve a variety of purposes and can be tremendously beneficial.  However, trees planted in the wrong manner, or in the wrong area, have the potential to do harm to your home, other structures, or people. 

For even more information on tree planting, check the International Society of Arborculture.

Before Planting
Here are some things to think about before you decide to plant. (From the Ohio State University)

  • Be sure there is enough space within your planting area. This may save your sidewalks or underground utilities.  Trees that have strong wide roots may crack pavement or sidewalks when too close or break utility lines. It can also kill the tree if there is not sufficient growing room.
  • A six-foot planting area can accommodate a tree that will grow to a height of 20-35 feet when mature. However its good to know how wide and deep the root spread might be.
  • Trees may also interfere with power lines.  If a tree falls or comes in contact with a power line, it could cause an outage, especially during storms. 
  • Try not to plant trees under or near power lines.  If there is no place else then try to plant a tree that has a mature height of under 25 feet.

Selecting a Tree (From the Kansas Forest Service
There are three basic ways that a tree will come when bought from a nursery.  Follow these tips from the Kansas Forest Service when buying a tree for the best tree planting results.

Bare Root Tree
Look for abundant root growth.  Fibrous, numerous small roots.  Good color, moist.
Balled and Burlapped Tree Look for firm soil ball with trunk securely tied.  Do not accept a plant with a broken "ball."  Always carry B&B plants by the soil ball, not by the trunk, stems, or branches.

Container Grown Tree
Avoid "root-bound" trees. Roots that circle around the edge of the container may become girdling roots.  Always remove container when planting. 
Recommended Tree Species for Central Texas
You increase your chances of success by choosing a tree appropriate for this area. Native species or well-adapted non-native species usually do better because they are well-suited to our soil and can live well our climate. Though all newly planted trees require watering for the first year or two, native and adaptive species are more drought resistant once they are established. Refer to the recommended species list below for recommended trees for this area. 

Large Trees Species (mature height 40 feet or more)  

  • Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
  • Live Oak, Quercus virginiana (fusiformis)
  • Chinquapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii
  • Shumard Red Oak, Quercus shumardii
  • Monterey (Mexican white) Oak, Quercus polymorpha
  • Cedar Elm, Ulmus crassifolia
  • Chinese (Lacebark) Elm, Ulmus parvifolia
  • Pecan, Carya illinoinensis
  • Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum
  • Montezuma Cypress, Taxodium mucronatum
  • Mexican Sycamore, Platanus mexicana
  • Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  • Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  • Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora
  • Italian Stone Pine, Pinus pinea
  • Post Oak, Quercus stellata
Medium Trees (mature height 25-40 feet)  

  • Texas (Spanish) Red Oak, Quercus buckleyi
  • Lacey Oak, Quercus laceyi
  • Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  • Texas Ash, Fraxinus texensis
  • Arizona Cypress, Cupressus arizonica
  • Goldenrain Tree, Koelreuteria paniculata
  • Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa
  • Western Soapberry, Sapindus drummondii
  • Escarpment Black Cherry, Prunus serotina ssp. eximia
  • Bigtooth Maple, Acer grandidentatum
  • Carolina Cherry Laurel, Prunus caroliniana
  • Eldarica (Afghan) Pine, Pinus elderica
  • Callery Pear “Aristocrat”, Pyrus calleryana cultivar
  • Texas (Little) Walnut, Juglans microcarpa
  • Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus viginiana

Small Trees (mature height 8-25 feet)   

  • Crape Myrtle, Lagerstromia indica
  • Texas Redbud, Cercis canadensis
  • Mexican Plum, Prunus mexicana
  • Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora
  • Mexican Buckeye, Ungnadia speciosa
  • Yaupon Holly, Illex vomitoria
  • Texas Persimmon, Diospyros texana
  • Vitex, Vitex spp.
  • Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis
  • Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua
  • Carolina Buckthorn, Rhamnus caroliniana
  • Eve’s Necklace, Sophora affinis  
  • American Smoke Tree, Cotinus obovatus
  • Blanco Crab Apple, Pyrus ioensis
  • Flameleaf Sumac, Rhus copallina
  • Texas Pistache, Pistacia texana
  • Loquat, Eriobotrya japonica
  • Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera
  • Texas Madrone, Arbutus xalapensis
  • Chitalpa, Chilopsis x Catalpa
  • Rough-Leaf Dogwood, Cornus drummondii
Planting a Tree (From an article by Tree Folks)
The best time to plant new trees is in the winter.  This causes the least harm to the tree and is the best time to give your tree a chance at really growing. 
Mark out a planting area 2 to 5 times wider than the root ball diameter (The wider the better).  Loosen this area to about an 8" depth.  This will enable your tree to extend a dense mat of tiny roots well out into the soil in the first one to ten weeks in the ground. Often, early root growth is limited by the width of the hole and loosened soil perimeter.
In the center of the planting area, dig a hold at least twice the diameter of the root ball and no deeper than the depth of soil in the root ball.  The bottom of the ball should rest on solid, undisturbed earth.  When finished you want the soil at the as of the tree to be at the same level on the trunk as it was in the container.  If part of the trunk gets below ground, its bark may rot.  
Make sure the sides of the hole are rough and uneven.  In very hard soils, a rough edge to the hole may help force new roots to grow out into the surrounding soil.
Place the tree in the hole.  If the tree is in a container, putt the container away from the root ball.  Don't pull the tree out by its trunk. Place the root ball in the center of the hole and adjust the tree so it is straight and at the proper level.  Pulling the tree out by its trunk can damage the small roots within the ball.  The tree needs these roots to help its survive the transplant..
For balled and burlapped trees, rest the root ball in the center of the hole and reshape the hole so the tree will be straight and at the proper level.  After adjusting the tree pull the burlap and any other material away from the sides and top of the root ball.  Don't try to get the burlap material out of the hole, just let it rest beneath the root ball of the tree.  Exposing the sides of the root ball to the soil will enable the trees root to grow in the most important directions.  If you adjust or lift the tree after its ball has been unwrapped, chances are that the root ball will be damaged.
Backfill with original soil.  Mixing fertilizer, compost, or other material with the original soil is not recommended.  If the backfill soil around the root ball is improved, the tree may slow in developing a good widespread root system.
Fill until the hold is half full.  Flood the hole with a slow hose or tamp gently with your foot to firm the soil.  Repeat until the hole is full.  Do not press too firmly, only firm enough to hold the tree upright.  The best soil for root growth has for both air and water; however large air pockets can cause problems.  This method of backfilling with soil and water or gently tamping will remove these large air pockets.
Construct a small dam or berm three feet in diameter around the tree, this dam will help hold water until it soaks into the soil, instead of letting it run off across the surface.   
Cover the entire loosened area of soil with 3 to 4 inches of mulch.  Mulch will slow water loss and reduce competition from weeds and grasses, will moderate soil temperature and will provide a small amount of "nutrients."  Free Mulch can be picked up at the Round Rock Brush Recycling Center, for Round Rock residents.   

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