When is the best time to plant a tree?

When is the best time to plant a tree?

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

49 guides

Trees can be planted at various times of the year according to species, location and whether the tree is bare root, root-balled or containerised. With the exception of periods of frost or extreme heat, many trees can be put in the ground all year long as long as you follow a few rules regarding planting and watering!

Important features

  • Season
  • Location
  • Containerised, bare root or root-balled
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Finding the right time to plant a tree


Trees and shrubs make up the backbone of many gardens. They are a great way to enhance outdoor spaces and can provide shade, produce fruit, or even be used to border a certain area of the garden. To ensure your trees remain healthy and develop properly, it's important to choose the right time to plant them

This depends on both the species and whether they are delivered bare-rootroot-balled or containerised (or pot-grown). It also depends on where you want to plant your tree so your location must be carefully planned ahead of time.

Choosing the right time to plant different tree species

Most species can, in theory, be planted all year round as long as the weather isn't too hot or the ground is not frozen. That said, trees that prefer milder climates will yield better results if planted in the spring. Here are some common examples:

  • Acacia dealbata, commonly known as mimosas;
  • Olea europaea, commonly known as olive trees;
  • Albizia julibrissim, commonly known as silk trees;
  • Lagerstroemia indica, commonly known as Indian lilacs;
  • Nerium oleander, commonly known as oleander;
  • Callistemon citrinus, commonly known as lemon bottlebrush;
  • Pittosporum tobira, commonly known as Chinese cheesewood.

More resilient, cold-hardy trees can be planted in both spring and autumn. It is also possible to plant trees in summer with the added condition that the plants be frequently watered. If planted in winter, they should be covered with a ground cover to protect them from frost. You can also have to protect the root ball by spreading mulch, chippings or grass clippings over the ground.

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Plant protection

Bare root trees


When dealing with bare-rooted varieties, the best time to plant deciduous shrubs or trees (the ones that lose their leaves in winter) is between mid-October and mid-MarchEvergreen varieties (those that keep their leaves all winter) should be planted anywhere from early November to early April. It should be mentioned that no matter the type or species, trees should never be planted during periods of frost

If you have to store your bare root trees to wait for more favourable planting conditions, they will need to be heeled in; this means the roots must be covered with soft or slightly damp soil and sheltered from the frost.

Before putting your bare root tree in the ground, be sure to remove any damaged roots. You can then prepare a mud solution and soak the roots. Dig a large enough hole for the roots and cover them entirely with high-quality earth or potting soil. Finally, pat down the soil slightly and dig a small trench of a few centimetres around the base to help the tree retain more water. Be careful not to bury the graft union (the lump at the base of the trunk on grafted trees). Finally, be sure to water thoroughly.

It should be noted that a supporting stand, formed by one or more wooden stakes and tree wire and ties, should be used if your tree is developed enough to require support.

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Tree wire and ties

Root-balled trees


The ideal time to plant a root-balled tree is between November and February before the sap starts to flow. However, even when planting in these cold months, you should always try to avoid planting during periods of intense frost. Root-balled trees or shrubs are usually already fairly well-developed, and this method is often used for trees that have been transplanted several times. The process consists in slicing the earth around the tree's roots which are then wrapped with hessian and tied up with metal wire to prevent the root ball from breaking up. If you do have to wait before planting, the trees must be protected from frost and the fabric should be kept moist through light watering.

When it comes to putting these trees in the ground, they will require a hole that is around two times wider than the root ball. A layer of compost or manure can be spread at the bottom of the hole and covered with potting soil. Once in the ground, the hessian must be kept wet at all times, even if that means excessive watering. The roots must never stick out of the soil and the graft union should never be buried. If the material used to wrap the root ball is not biodegradable, it must be removed gently to avoid damaging the roots. The last step will be to cover with the root ball with potting soil, pat it down it and form a small trench around the base of the tree. Finally, use a hose to water generously.

These trees usually stand at around 1.5 metres in height. For this reason, it is important to provide a support stand to make sure the tree is supported until the roots settle.

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Hose reels with hoses

Containerised trees


Most trees and shrubs are delivered in containers which offers several advantages. Firstly, when grown in pots, plants do not suffer the trauma of an abrupt uprooting from their natural habitat and for this reason they tend to be more resilient. Secondly, they are more transport-friendly and adapt well to new conditions. Finally, they can be planted almost all year long, with the exception of extreme warm or frosty weather.

When planting, you'll need potting soil and compost. It's important to put a layer of potting soil over the compost to ensure it does not come into direct contact with the roots. The roots need to be covered completely and the soil patted down lightly afterwards. Finally, form a trench around the base of the tree for better water retention after rain or watering. All that's left to do now is to make sure you stick to a rigorous schedule of watering!

Finding the best spot for your tree


Before planting, it is important to consider how big the tree will eventually grow. You'll need to think about your current shrubs and trees and ensure there won't be any issues as your new tree develops. Similarly, be sure to check that your tree will be far enough away from any structures, electrical wires and property boundaries.

It's always important to remember that even a small tree will eventually become fairly big! If you don't have a lot of space, it's probably not the best idea to choose a tree that has the potential to grow out of hand. Remember to consider your neighbour's outdoor space, too, as no one wants a dispute on their hands a few years down the line...!

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Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester, 49 guides

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

For several years I have been running a garden service with a clientele of both individuals and companies. I manage a team of gardeners and ensure the creation and maintenance of green spaces. At the same time, I bring my expertise to my clients in terms of the maintenance and improvement of their gardens. In fact, as a trainee and working in the hospitality industry at the beginning of my career, I focused on landscaping in a local community where I acquired solid technical skills through in-house training and the follow-up of major projects in a rapidly changing town. On a personal level, I am equally oriented towards the art of gardening. With my wife, I created our garden from start to finish and I maintain it carefully, the same goes for the vegetable garden. As for DIYing, it’s not to be outdone. Yes, gardening is also tinkering: pergola, hut, pavement, fence, and so on...There is always something to do in a garden. After working well together, my wife and I are proud of the result and delighted to be able to take full advantage of a friendly and warm environment. So, let us give you advice and help you in your choice of tools, maintenance, or improvement of your garden, nothing could be simpler.

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