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Ten rules for planting trees

Right tree, right site is important, says K-State horticulture expert

March 17, 2022

By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Home gardeners wanting to add shade to their landscape should plan to do a little research in order to pick the right tree for their particular yard, said Kansas State University horticulture expert Ward Upham.

“Choose trees that are adapted to your location,” he said. “Consider whether the tree produces nuisance fruit, or if there are disease-resistant varieties available. And consider the mature size of the tree to make sure you have enough room.”

Upham shared ten rules for planting trees in a home landscape, including:

  1. Select the right tree for the site. K-State has a list of trees recommended for Kansas available online.

  2. Keep the tree well watered and in a shady location until planting. When moving the tree, lift it by the root ball or pot – not by the trunk.

  3. Before planting, remove all wires, labels, cords or anything else tied to the plant. Plant the tree on solid ground, not in fill dirt.

  4. Dig a hole deep enough so that the tree sits slightly above nursery level. The width should be three times the width of the root ball.

  5. Remove all containers from the root ball, including plastic and peat pots. Roll burlap and wire baskets back into the hole, cutting as much of the excess as possible.

  6. Backfill the hole with soil that was removed. Make sure the soil is loosened, without clods or clumps.

  7. Don’t cut back branches of the tree after planting except those that are rubbing or damaged.

  8. Water the tree thoroughly, then once a week for the first season if there is insufficient rainfall.

  9. Place mulch 2-4 inches deep around the tree, and cover an area 2-3 times the diameter of the root ball.

  10. Stake only when necessary; trees will establish more quickly and grow faster if they are not staked.

Upham and his colleagues in K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources produce a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week.

Interested persons can also send their garden- and yard-related questions to Upham at wupham@ksu.edu, or contact your local K-State Research and Extension office.


Planning flower and vegetable gardens

Two popular publications from Kansas State University can help Kansans get their gardens in tip-top shape this year.

The Vegetable Garden Planting Guide provides information on the size of planting needed per person, and the average crop expected per 10 feet. The publication also has a calendar highlighting suggested planting and harvest dates.

The Kansas Garden Guide has sections on planning a garden, composting, improving soil, seeding and planting, garden care, watering, planting gardens for fall production, insect and disease control, container gardening, and harvesting and storing.

Both publications are available online from the K-State Research and Extension bookstore.

At a glance

Choosing a tree that is adapted for your home's landscape is a key to success, says K-State horticulture expert Ward Upham.


K-State Horticulture Newsletter


Ward Upham

Written by

Pat Melgares


KSRE logo
K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit www.ksre.ksu.edu. K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.