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Planting Guide For Trees--Long Version
Custom Plant Information by Wilson Landscape Nursery & Florist- Helotes, Texas

Welcome to Wilson's—We are glad you came our way!

Our information is based upon decades of loving trees, learning about trees, growing trees, maintaining trees, talking about trees, selling trees. planting trees, watching trees grow, enjoying the beauty of trees and being grateful to God for creating trees!

“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 2:9; 1:12)

Planting Should Be Fun
Planting a tree should be a fun and non-stressful event. Remember to relax and enjoy the experience. If it seems overwhelming to you, remember the old saying, “Inch by inch it's a cinch; yard by yard it's hard!” You don't have to knock the job out in one day, not that it can't be done in 30 minutes for some. Take it little by little if you like. Plant at your own pace. Each inch you dig will get you closer to your goal, even if it takes several days. I'll share a few secrets that will make the job easier.


Keep It Simple
Many of us make the job harder by thinking that there are so many different things we need to do when planting our tree or it won't be successful. We worry about soil and fertilizer and root stimulator etc. Remember that trees are tough and resilient and all the nutrients you need are probably already there in your soil. Chances are that even if you make a mistake or leave a step out, your tree will be fine. Here is another helpful saying you may appreciate: “Sometimes, less is more.” You don't need to have a lot of extras. Just get the hole dug and the tree will take care of itself with proper watering.

Good, Better and Best
On the other hand, if you are a person who loves planting, there are extras you can do to help make your tree grow even better. For you the saying, “There is good, better and best” might apply. I have tried to include helpful advice no matter how you feel about planting.


Choosing the Location
Think about how large your tree will become in the next 30 years. Give it sun space if you can. Trees will reach for the light and may grow crooked as they reach for full sun if grown too close to other trees or shady areas. We will discuss staking later. Avoid planting to close to your house. At least 15 feet away from the foundation for large shade trees is a general principle. Keep in mind, however, that people break this rule all the time and do no damage to their foundations. But anything closer than three feet would be a mistake for large shade trees. Small ornamental trees can be planted closer. Large trees are strong. As the trunk grows it can lift concrete foundations and sidewalks. It is not so much the roots that you need to be concerned with. It is the actual enlargement of the trunk itself and the root flare (the largest roots near the trunk). This is where the power lies. Roots will seek moisture. Normally, the soil underneath your home is dry which means that roots won't be so aggressive there. On the other hand, keep in mind that if you have roof eves, that extend out from your main roof, the soil underneath those eves will be dry as a bone.


Call 811

The 811 system is a free service that was started to help homeowners and contractors avoid hitting and breaking buried utilities during digging activities, such as planting a tree.  Homeowners and contractors must call the 811 number a few days prior to digging to be sure that the local utility companies have time to mark their utilities before the homeowner or the contractor begins digging. Waiting the few days for the mark outs, prior to digging, will protect you from personal injury, interruptions in utility services, and costs for repairs to damaged utility lines. Texas law requires homeowners to contact 811 two business days (excluding weekends and holidays) before digging, even if you're working in your own backyard. You may want to make sure your contractor has notified 811 before the work begins. 


Types of Lines To Be Marked and Avoided

Electric lines, gas lines and internet/cable/phone are the lines that will be marked when the various locaters come out. Irrigation lines and septic system lines are not included. Normally, electric and gas lines are buried deep but you can still hit them when planting a tree. Internet/cable/phone lines are notoriously shallow and may be barely covered up. Fortunately these will be clearly marked.


Irrigation Lines 

Irrigation lines are not included in the 811 service.  Irrigation lines are more difficult to mark,  especially years after installation.   The depth of irrigation lines vary, depending upon how rocky the soil was in your yard. Most irrigation companies are not trying to cut corners when trenching shallow.  They have to do what is practical and affordable for you. If you  want deep trenches, a rock saw may be required and your cost will go way up. However, there are irrigation companies that offer this type of trenching if you are in rocky terrain.  In most cases  sprinkler lateral lines are 4" to 6" inches deep while main water line under pressure is usually a little deeper. In solid rock areas irrigation lines may only be a couple of inches underground, right or wrong!  Irrigation lines are more difficult to mark since lateral lines seldom have wires in the trench with the pvc pipe so tracing them is not possible.  Main lines often do have wires in the trench with the main pvc pipe but these wires are usually only located by an irrigation company doing repairs. They do not come out free of charge. The accuracy and existence of an irrigation diagram, showing the exact location of  water lines,  depends upon the company. Some companies provide a careful diagram, others do not. It is a good idea to request that your irrigation company draw you a detailed diagram of the system they have just installed just after the work is done.  Fortunately, hitting an irrigation line is usually not a difficult repair, unless the main line and wires have been hit. Even then, it is repairable. Irrigation lines and shallow Cable T.V. lines are the most often hit. This is not nearly as bad as hitting the Internet T.V. cable to you and your neighbors home!


Aerobic Septic Systems

Many newer homes in Hill Country areas have aeorbic systems. Usually the lines that go to the spray heads are between 6"inches and a foot. But don't count on it. Regardless, you can still hit these when planting a tree where you are usually digging about 20" inches deep. These are also easy to repair but may be smelly!


Traditional Septic Systems

Avoid planting on or near septic system drain fields!


Make Sure Water is Available
If possible, make sure your tree is planted within range of a garden hose or other irrigation. You are indeed rolling the dice if you are depending upon rain to fall at just the right time, especially at first. Remember that growing a tree in a pot is an unnatural situation. Potted roots need to reach out and find water naturally. Until they can do this on their own, and that takes time, perhaps six months, the odds are that your tree will need supplemental irrigation. Drought tolerance works in your favor only if a tree has been growing in the ground for some time. Otherwise, drought tolerant trees can put on an extensive root system in the pot, which will dry out fast, even though the tree is considered drought tolerant.

Digging the Hole
Dig your hole the same depth as the rootball inside of the pot. It is easier to dig the hole a little deeper, at first, and then fill in a little soil if it is too deep rather than digging it too shallow and having to lift the tree back out of the hole to re-dig deeper. If you would like to do extra work to improve the growing environment, you should put that work into digging the hole wider rather than deeper. Twice as wide as the rootball is the general rule. You can help your new tree even more by digging even wider than twice as wide. This is because feeder roots are in the first few feet of soil, not primarily deeper than that. You are not hurting anything by also digging deeper, except you must be careful that the tree does not settle down to deep in the hole, once watered, because of the lose soil underneath.

The Right Tools Make a Big Difference
Assuming that you do not have a tractor with an auger, most of you will be digging your hole by hand. The right tools make a big difference. This is not complicated. You need only three tools to plant a tree: a shovel, a digging bar and a steel rake. Most of us have a shovel and a rake. The key tool you may not have is a digging bar. This looks like a long metal pole with one end that looks like a regular screw driver and the other end come to a point. These are inexpensive and be purchased at home improvement stores. The reason that a digging bar is so helpful is because a small rock can stop a shovels progress fairly easy. The digging bar, on the other hand, can break through small and medium sized rocks so that you can then clean out the rocks and soil with your shovel. This can make the job a lot easier.

Helpful Hint
This brings us to another helpful hint. You can make your hole softer by first filling it with water. To do this, dig down a shovels depth or so and then fill up the little hole with water. Give it a few minutes to absorb and then try digging deeper. This should loosen up the hard soil. You can repeat this as the hole gets larger if the first filling was not enough. The only downside to this method is that it will also make the job more messy.

Small Holes Are Good Enough
It is still acceptable to dig the hole only as wide as necessary to get the tree in the hole at the proper depth. Many times, especially out in the Hill Country rocky soil, this is the only practical solution without machinery.

The Best Hole
For the ultimate in digging holes, you can continue to loosen or till even wider. Even a few inches deep is helpful. Another way to improve long term tree growing conditions is to topdress new soil over a large area, perhaps a diameter of 30' feet across. You can use 4” of new topsoil or even up to a foot of new soil. But don't worry about this. A hole just large enough is good enough. The tree will still be able to send roots outside of the hole, it just may do it slower in more tightly packed soils.

Filling The Hole With Soil
The latest studies show that the existing soil from the hole you just dug is the best soil to use when backfilling your hole with soil after you plant your tree. Even though your tree may appreciate some soil enhancement, it is difficult to get the soil where the roots really need it. A tree will quickly spread its roots beyond the hole you have dug into the native surrounding soil. On an established tree in nature, the feeder roots are just beyond the drip line of a tree. The drip line is where the outer portion of the crown, the outer limbs and leaves, would drip water if sprayed or rained on. The point is that most tree roots will eventually take up an entire residential yard. It is difficult to change or improve an entire residential yard of soil, for example. New homes under construction have a unique opportunity to add soil to a large area. At least four inches of topsoil spread over a large area will certainly compliment the native soil and your tree will appreciate that. This is much more difficult on yards that are already established with turfgrass. In that scenario you could gradually top-dress your lawn with soil over a period of years. Tree roots aggressively compete with grass roots for water and nutrients and so they would also benefit from the soil.

Do's and Don'ts of Filling the Hole With Soil
Do use the soil you dug of the hole to fill the hole back in. If you are in rocky soil, take out the larger rocks above 1” or 2” inch in diameter. Don't worry about small rocks. Once done, if there is not enough soil to backfill the hole, use some topsoil that has some weight. Do not use potting soil, straight compost, peatmoss or mulch by themselves. This is because these materials do not hold water, at first, and create a dry slot. Your new tree roots must reach water soon after planting. If you backfill with these light materials, the roots will first have to travel through these dried out materials. Even though you water them, they still dry out fast or don't absorb water at all! Outside of the light soil enhancement materials, the native soil is wet but the new roots may not have had time to reach the moist zone. They may shrivel and dry on their way through the dried out lighter materials. This is what the latest studies show. Well intentioned gardeners mistakenly try to do a good thing by back filling with these materials but the effort backfires. It is, however, good to mix the existing soil you dug out of the hole with compost or peatmoss, as long as you keep the mix about 2/3 regular soil and 1/3 soil enhancement materials. You should never mix mulch into the soil since it robs nutrients. Nor should you use potting soil which is good for pots but not good for ground plants since it has few nutrients. Using a medium weighted top-sol is also good and can be mixed 50/50.

Removing the Tree From the Pot
Some trees with extensive root systems inside the pot are more difficult to get out of the pot. The best way to get the tree out of the pot is to lay the tree on its side, on the ground, being careful not to break any branches. Then place one knee on the side of the pot. Push your full weight on the side of the pot and then rotate the pot until you have pushed upon all sides of the pot. Place your hand firmly around the lower area of the trunk and then try and pull the tree out while also pushing the opposite way on the top of the plastic pot. This may take several tries. If this does not work, make sure that no roots are protruding out of the drainage holes of the pot. You can always cut the pot off of the rootball with a hacksaw or other cutting tool if all else fails.

Lowering the Tree Into the Hole
If the tree is too heavy for you to lift, raise the trunk and limbs off of the ground without lifting the rootball off of the ground. Keep the rootball in a slanted position so that it will roll. Then, roll the rootball into the hole. As it drops in the hole make sure it is at the right depth. If too low, add some soil at the bottom while lifting up a little on the trunk from side to side until you have raised the tree to the proper depth. If the tree is too high, you may have accidentally pushed soil into the hole which has now made your hole too shallow. You will need to take the tree back out of the hole and re-dig to the right depth. Once you have achieved the correct depth, which is level with the surrounding original soil line, then it is time to fill the hole with your soil. Simply fill up the hole so that about one inch of soil covers the rootball since some erosion will occur when watering begins.

Creating a Dam
The best way to ensure that the new tightly packed root system is soaked is to create a berm, an earthen dam around the newly planted tree. This will look like a donut, with the tree trunk planted in the center of the donut hole. This earth dam, berm or donut of soil should at least be made beyond where the new rootball stops and the native surrounding soil begins. It is alright to make the circumference of the circle you are creating even wider so that as tree roots grow out, they will more easily be soaked in the future. It is true that you could simply turn the water hose on low and let it soak for an hour or two. The problem with this method is that water often runs off where you don't need it and it may not soak the entire root ball. This is why the berm/donut method is good. It allows you to put the water where it is needed. The donut should be at least 6” inches to 12” inches in height. It should be made of soil and not mulch, since mulch may not retain the water. It is good to cosmetically topdress the soil with mulch to make it more attractive. The 6” to 12” inch high berm should not rest on the trunk of the tree or cover up the trunk. This could cause a rotting problem on the trunk. Imagine that a donut of soil leaves the inner circle of the donut free from excess soil. The tree should be planted the same depth as the surrounding terrain. The top of the rootball even with the top of the original soil line. Then the donut of soil rises 6” to 12” inches above the original soil line. So the trunk of the tree is level with the existing soil grade but the berm of soil rises above the existing soil grade (level) in order to hold the water in. You are creating a reservoir. This is so you can put that 6” inches of water directly where you need it.

Staking Your Tree
Staking your tree the first year is a good idea because you never know when severe winds may come. These winds will not kill your tree but they may blow it crooked. If you do not re- straighten your tree after wind storms you could end up with a crooked tree. Once the tree starts to send roots into the surrounding soil, heavy winds can sever these roots if the winds blows your tree sideways which will do some damage although it probably will not kill the tree.

T-Post Stakes
The most common and effective way to stake your tree is to purchase two T-Posts at a home improvement store. There are other staking kits that may work that don't require a T-post driver. If using T-posts, you will also need to purchase or borrow a T-post driver. It is difficult to drive a T-post in the ground with a sledge hammer but it can be done. Position the T-posts just outside the hole you dug, outside of the backfill soil into the harder ground. You may want to try to figure out the prevailing winds or position them from the southeast to the northwest, but this is not necessary. Sometimes it is best to position them in a way that looks good from the angle you want to be presentable. The T-posts will still work to keep the tree straight either way. Now you will need some wire or rope. Wire is less visible. You will be using wire to extend from the T-post to the trunk of the tree horizontally. But first, you will need some old garden hose to protect the tree trunk. If you do not do this the tree will grow over the wire which is not good. You do not want to wrap the tree trunk with wire. Cut a piece of hose about 6” inches long. Thread the wire through the hose. Now wrap the hose around the trunk. Pull the two lose ends of the wire evenly to the T-Post making sure that you have enough excess wire to wrap both wires around the T-post several times. Now that you know that you will have enough wire, wait on wrapping the T-post until you secure the garden hose around the trunk. Pull the garden hose firmly around the trunk with the threaded wire inside the garden hose. Now wrap or make twine out of the wire close to the two ends of the garden hose. You will still have two lose ends of wire to now wrap around your T-post toward the top.

Removing T-posts and Wires
After two years you will no longer need the wire or T-posts. For faster growing trees, one year may be sufficient. You are waiting for the trees root system to establish itself so that it can remain straight in spite of the wind. A serious mistake is to keep the wire on the tree for several years. By that time the tree may find a way to grow over the wire and hose which could cut off the vascular system of the tree and also look bad. T-posts are easier to drive in the ground than to take out! With time you can loosen and dig around them until you can pull them out.

Watering: Very Important!!! See Our Extensive Guide On Watering and/or the Short Version
You are not done yet. Watering is extremely important. This is why we have written an extensive guide for watering. Watering is the most important step after planting. You must gently flood your tree. Follow the watering guide provided.

Enjoy Your Tree!
Thank you for purchasing a tree from Wilson Landscape Nursery & Florist. We hope that your tree provides you with many years of beauty, peace and shade


A Blessing For You
We hope that this plant information helps you as you search for that perfect tree. Whichever tree you choose, may it bring you many years of beauty and peace.

May you and your tree be “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3)




*The following is a condensed version of the Planting Guide Long Version



Planting Guide For Trees—Short Version (See Also Long Version)
Custom Plant Information by Wilson Landscape Nursery & Florist- Helotes, Texas

Welcome to Wilson's—We are glad you came our way.

Our information is based upon decades of loving trees, learning about trees, growing trees, maintaining trees, talking about trees, selling trees, planting trees, watching trees grow, enjoying the beauty of trees and being grateful to God for creating trees!


“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 2:9; 1:12)

Planting Should Be Fun
Remember to relax and enjoy the experience.

Keep It Simple
Many of us make the job harder by thinking that there are so many different things we need to do when planting our tree or it won't be successful. You don't need to have a lot of extras. Just get the hole dug and the tree will take care of itself with proper watering.


Choosing the Location
Think about how large your tree will become in the next 30 years. Give it sun space if you can. Trees will reach for the light and may grow crooked as they reach for full sun if grown too close to other trees or shady areas. Avoid planting too close to your house. At least 15 feet away from the foundation for large shade trees is a general principle. Anything closer than three feet would be a mistake for large shade trees.

Call 811
State law requires that you call 811 to have your utilities located and marked before digging. This is a free service. It takes two to three business days for the various locators to arrive and mark utilities which includes electric lines, gas lines and internet/cable/T.V. It does not include irrigation or septic related lines on your private property.

Make Sure Water is Available
If possible, make sure your tree is planted within range of a garden hose or other irrigation. You are indeed rolling the dice if you are depending upon rain to fall at just the right time, especially at first.

Digging the Hole
Dig your hole the same depth as the rootball inside of the pot. If you would like to do extra work to improve the growing environment, you should put that work into digging the hole wider rather than deeper. Twice as wide as the rootball is the general rule.

The Right Tools Make a Big Difference
The key tool you may not have is a digging bar. The digging bar can break through small and medium sized rocks so that you can then clean out the rocks and soil with your shovel. This can make the job a lot easier.

Helpful Hint: Fill Hole With Water
You can make your hole softer by first filling it with water. Dig down a shovels depth or so and then fill up the little hole with water. Give it a few minutes to absorb and then try digging deeper.


Small Holes Just Large Enough Are Good Enough
It is still acceptable to dig the hole only as wide as necessary to get the tree in the hole at the proper depth. Many times, especially out in the Hill Country rocky soil, this is the only practical solution without machinery.

Filling The Hole With Soil
The latest studies show that the existing soil from the hole you just dug is the best soil to use when backfilling your hole with soil after you plant your tree.

Do's and Dont's of Filling the Hole With Soil
Do use the soil you dug out of the hole to fill the hole back in. If you are in rocky soil, take out the larger rocks above 1” or 2” inch in diameter. Don't worry about small rocks. Once done, if there is not enough soil to backfill the hole, use some topsoil that has some weight. Do not use potting soil, straight compost, peatmoss or mulch by themselves. It is, however, good to mix the existing soil you dug out of the hole with compost or peatmoss, as long as you keep the mix about 2/3 regular soil and 1/3 soil enhancement materials. Too much soil enhancement will cause the soil to dry out too quickly.

Removing the Tree From the Pot
Lay the tree on its side, on the ground, being careful not to break any branches. Then place one knee on the side of the pot. Push your full weight on the side of the pot and then rotate the pot until you have pushed upon all sides of the pot. Place your hand firmly around the lower area of the trunk and then try and pull the tree out while also pushing the opposite way on the top of the plastic pot.

Lowering the Tree Into the Hole
If the tree is too heavy for you to lift, raise the trunk and limbs off of the ground without lifting the rootball off of the ground. Keep the rootball in a slanted position so that it will roll. Then, roll the rootball into the hole. As it drops in the hole make sure it is at the right depth.

Creating a Dam
The best way to ensure that the new tightly packed root system is soaked is to create a berm, an earthen dam around the newly planted tree. This will look like a donut, with the tree trunk planted in the center of the donut hole. The donut should be at least 6” inches to 12” inches in height.

Staking Your Tree
Staking your tree the first year is a good idea because you never know when severe winds may come.

T-Post Stakes
Position the T-posts just outside the hole. It is best to position them in a way that looks good from the angle that is most presentable. You will be using wire to extend from the T-post to the trunk of the tree horizontally. But firstr you will need some old garden hose to protect the tree trunk. Cut a piece of hose about 6” inches long. Thread the wire through the hose. Now wrap the hose around the trunk. Pull the two lose ends of the wire evenly to the T-Post making sure that you have enough excess wire to wrap both wires around the T-post several times.

Removing T-posts and Wires
After two years you will no longer need the wire or T-posts. For faster growing trees, one year may be enough for the tree to remain straight on its own in the wind. Do not leave the wire and T-posts for more than two years.

Watering: Very Important!!! See Our Extensive Guide On Watering and/or the Short Version
You are not done yet. Watering is extremely important. This is why we have written an extensive guide for watering. Watering is the most important step after planting. You must gently flood your tree. Follow the watering guide provided.

Enjoy Your Tree!
Thank you for purchasing a tree from Wilson Landscape Nursery & Florist. We hope that your tree provides you with many years of beauty, peace and cooling shade.


A Blessing For You
May you and your tree be “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3)









Wilson's Tree Planting Guide