The best time to plant a tree or shrub is in the fall. A well-placed tree will cool your home in summer and block cold winter winds. Not to mention that the aesthetics can increase your home’s curb appeal and add value.

Even though you may be prepping for winter, you can still set your new tree or shrub up for success by planting it in a spot where it can thrive for generations to come.

Decide on the right tree for your yard and needs before you plant. Choose a tree based on the characteristics you want — shade, wildlife habitat, privacy or to block the wind.

6 Easy Steps to Plant a Tree or Shrub

You’ve found the right tree and the perfect spot, now it’s time for the fun part. It doesn’t take much to plant a tree — just a shovel, tape measure, and hose. To help your new tree survive, you’ll need to put in the extra effort. Use these tips to help your new tree to grow.

  1. Size up your yard for the perfect spot. Take the amount of sunlight, ground vegetation, and hazards like wires or pipes into consideration. Plant at least 15 feet away from your house, sidewalks, driveways, and other trees. Allocate enough space in the yard for your new tree to grow. Consider its mature height, crown spread, and root space. A fully grown tree will take up much more space than your tiny sapling. Look up to make sure a fully grown tree won’t interfere with anything overhead.
  2. Start digging. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Then, arrange the tree at the same depth it was growing before and fill half the hole with compost, Van Wilgen’s Premium Planting Mix, or Espoma Organic All Purpose Garden Soil.
  3. Give trees a boost. Mix in organic fertilizer with the soil. For a trunk diameter up to 1.5 inches, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone. If the trunk is 2-3”, use 4 pounds of Tree-tone per inch. So, if your tree trunk is 2.5 inches, use 10 pounds of Tree-tone. And, for tree trunks over 3 inches, use 5 pounds of Espoma Tree-Tone per inch.
  4. Stake the tree. Use two opposing, flexible ties to stake the tree. Place ties on the lower half of the tree to allow trunk movement.
  5. Help your new tree become established by watering it weekly for the first two years.
  6. Finish with mulch. Use 2 ½ -3 inches of shredded hardwood or leaf mulch around the plant. Do not over-mulch up to the trunk or “volcano” mulch. This can kill the tree.

Planting a tree is an investment in your home and your community that will pay off for years to come.

The Eastern Redbud ( Cercis canadensis ) is a spring-flowering tree, native to the northeast. Its delicate lavender-pink flowers emerge late in April before the foliage develops and continue to sparkle into mid-May. Clusters of tiny, fairy-like flowers cling to the branches, covering the tree in a soft purple haze with charming heart-shaped foliage developing as the flowers begin to fade. Surprisingly, it is not as commonly recognized as the flowering Cherry or the ornamental pear, but it’s defiantly a show stopper! Every spring as the blossoms begin to unfold several curious customers stop by the garden center and ask “What is that tree with the beautiful purple flowers?… ”

The Redbud tree is one of my personal favorites. The original species is described as a small understory tree growing between 20 and 30 feet tall and wide. It naturally grows in woodland areas under a canopy of tall deciduous trees that lose their leaves every fall. Many exciting new cultivars have been developed over the last few years including dwarf varieties, weeping specimens, and those with colorful leaves such as burgundy, peachy-yellow, and variegated green and white.

There is a magnificent old maple tree in my neatly packed, urban neighborhood about two houses away that stands roughly 60 feet tall. Despite the fact that it is not very close to me, it provides cooling shade from the strong summer sun from late morning into the afternoon. This type of available light is often referred to as “high shade”. There is a limited amount of direct sunlight but the area is still very bright and opened.

So the Eastern Redbud will be one of the first plants installed in my brand new garden. Some varieties of Redbud do best in full sun. Others prefer some shade like our original native. Because I am working in a small space I have decided to go with a weeping variety that will mature at about 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Redbud trees grow pretty quickly and this one will serve as a focal point on one corner of my patio.

After much deliberation, I chose “Pink Heartbreaker”, a weeping variety with a strong upright branching habit that cascades in a rambling, informal, way. Just right for my casual cottage garden!

The entire garden was amended with compost and Gypsum to improve my clay soil as I mentioned in my last story but we did mix in some “Van Wilgen’s planting mix” and of course “Jump Start” to get my new baby off and running with vigorous root development for a good foundation.

As you can see in the photo, it already looks great and I am confident that it will just get better and better but I am really looking forward to the flowers next spring that I think will look fantastic glowing against the background of my neighbors Blue Spruce.

I have several ideas for planting under my Redbud with colorful shade tolerant perennials, more about that next time!

Happy Gardening!