Planting Shrubs & Trees

Check out the Colorado State Forest Service Video Plant Care Guides.  Are you thinking of planting seedling trees? Good for you! Here are some tips to help your trees succeed:


First, ask yourself these questions:

Why you are planting your trees? Windbreak, wildlife habitat, noise barrier, Christmas tree venture, or other reason.

Where are you planting your trees? On the north or west to provide protection from wind and snow, the south or east to provide shade in the summer, on a streambank to prevent erosion, or other location.

How big is the location? Measure the length and width so you can plan how many trees of different types can fit in your space.

How far apart will you space your trees and what trees will you select? Understanding the species’ needs for space will help you determine the distance from one tree to another and one row to the next.

What are the seedling’s requirements for survival? Learn what it takes to keep the trees you’ve chosen alive during the critical early years.

Plant Your Bare Root Shrubs & Trees

It’s best to plant these trees immediately. Exposure to air and sunlight fro even a brief period can dill a tree’s root system, and eventually, the tree. If you cannot, keep them in cold storage and moist so they’ll be alive when you can plant them. To get best results, plant them as soon as you can.

Transplant survival rapidly diminishes during the spring as buds swell and break, therefore, your stock should be planted long before this occurs.

While planting, you must keep the roots moist all the time, but don’t do this by putting them in a bucket of water; the roots will be denied oxygen. Put them in a bucket of muddy water or saturated polymer. Remove them one at a time to plant.

If you are using a fertilizer tablet and polymer, place each in the prepared hole, or, better yet, mix polymer slurry with back fill dirt before planting your tree.

Take care to notice the roots as you plant. They should spread naturally, and NEVER turn up. Compact the soil around the roots gently and then water as soon as possible.

The following diagram shows the correct way to plant your trees:
Take Care of Weeds

Keep the weeds away between the trees because they compete with your tree for available water and nutrients. Cultivating, using herbicides properly, and mulching all work to keep the weeds at bay. You can also use weed barrier along your rows to keep weeds from competing with your trees.

However, weeds or grass between the rows may help protect the trees from wind burn and sand blasting.

Prepare the Site

The Ideal Situation: Plant trees on ground that you’ve kept free from vegetation the growing season prior to planting.

Next Best Situation: Prepare your site the fall before you are planting your trees. If you till it as though you are planting corn, you’ll have good ground in which to plant your new trees.

It’s already spring? Prepare your site before you pick up your trees. Make sure the soil moisture is adequate and that supplemental water is available.

Plant Your Potted Trees

It’s best to plant these trees immediately. If you cannot, keep them watered and out of the wind and sun. To get best results, plant them as soon as you can.

If you are using a fertilizer tablet and polymer, place them in the prepared hole before planting your tree.

Gently compact the soil around the tree and water.


Seedlings need supplemental watering.  In the ideal situation, they should receive a gallon of water per week during their first year.  Increase the water each year afterward.  Drip systems, hand watering or irrigation can provide this.