Before you plant
- Choose plants that are hardy to your area: Chicago is in USDA zone 5 (-20°).
- Select the appropriate site for your plant based on sunlight, soil, and moisture.
- Be sure your space is large enough for the plant at maturity. Check for overhead power lines.
- Check drainage. More plants die from excessive wetness than from lack of water.
Prepare the planting site
- The planting hole should be 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball/container.
- Don't dig the hole any deeper than the depth of the root ball/container.
Tree planting tips for plants in containers
- Center the plant in the planting hole. Keep it straight with the branches pointing in the direction you want them to grow.
- Remove the plant from the container and remove dead or injured roots using sharp pruners.
- Backfill the planting hole, gently filling around roots.
- Water well. A rule of thumb is 1 inch of water per week during the growing season, either by gentle rainfall or watering.
- Avoid fertilizing until the root system is re-established.
- Place a 4" layer of composted organic mulch (wood chips, leaves, etc.) around the tree/shrub.
Tree planting tips for balled & burlapped plants
- Once the plant is in place, remove twine and cut away as much burlap as possible. If the plant is in a wire basket, remove as much wire as possible.
- Follow the procedure for container plants (above).
How to Plant a Tree
- Use two opposing, flexible ties—when staking is necessary
- Keep mulch 1 to 2 inches back from the trunk
- Trunk flare
- 2– to 4–inch layer of mulch
- Gently pack backfill, using water to settle soil around the root ball
- Cut burlap and rope away from top third of root ball
- Set ball on firmly packed soil to prevent settling
More helpful tips
- The Arboretum's Selecting and Planting trees guide helps you pick a tree to plant that will thrive in our region and serve as a living monument to your Arbor Day observance.
- Municipalities and non-profit organizations may purchase trees or seedlings through certain wholesale nurseries.
- Be sure to call J.U.L.I.E. at 811 before you dig to locate underground utilities.
- Find an arborist in your community through the Illinois Arborist Association to help with the details of the tree planting.
- Be sure to care for your tree by keeping it carefully watered and mulched. See the Plant Clinic for information about Tree & Plant care.