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How to Plant a Tree or Shrub

Want to plant a great tree in your yard? Here's what to do to give it a great start.

Tools & Materials


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Placement and Selection

Tree with Plant Tag.

The first thing to think about is where to plant your tree. Some zoning and neighborhood associations have rules about the types of trees you can plant and where you can plant them. Also consider right-of-way and property lines.

Watch the space to see how much sun it gets. That'll be important when you select your tree. All the trees at the garden center have tags that specify things such as sun or shade requirements. They'll also tell you the size of the mature tree so you know how far to plant from buildings, fences, landscaping or overhead wires. The tags also have info about the right growing zone for each tree. Lowe's plants are selected for the climate in your area — native trees are best.

While the steps below focus on planting trees, the basic instructions for selecting, placing and planting shrubs are the same.

Shop for Trees

Shop for Shrubs

Good to Know

Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities.

How to Plant

Shade Trees, Fruit Tree and Flowering Tree.

A good time to plant is in the fall or early spring, so the tree has time to acclimate before the harsh weather of winter or summer. You'll also find a wider selection of trees in the garden center at these times. In warmer climates, trees can be planted in winter.

Once you have your trees and locations, it's time to plant.

Good to Know

If you're planting on a slope, level the planting area to keep all of the roots at the correct depth.

Step 1

Digging a Hole to Plant a Tree.

Dig the hole about two times the width and the exact depth of the container. Loosen the soil at the bottom and sides of the hole.

Good to Know

Your tree will typically grow better in native soil than in bagged soil. Break up the soil you removed and save it for backfill.

Step 2

Temporarily Placing the Tree to Check the Hole Depth.

Double-check that the hole is deep enough by temporarily placing the container with the tree. Then pull the container out and add some water to the hole to moisten soil at the bottom.

Good to Know

Never pick up a tree by the trunk — this can damage the tree. Lift by the root ball or container.

Step 3

Gently Loosening the Tree Roots.

Remove the container by cutting it on two sides. Hold the tree by the root ball and place it in the hole. Gently loosen the roots to help them grow out. Make sure that the trunk is straight and the top of the root crown is even with the ground.

Step 4

Backfilling the Planting Hole.

Backfill the hole with soil, filling all around the roots. Don't mound soil against the trunk. Gently tamp the soil to remove air pockets.

Step 5

Mulch on the Planting Area.

Add about 2 inches of mulch on the dug-up area, but don't pile it against the trunk. This will help hold moisture and protect the roots in cold climates. See Lowe's Mulch Buying Guide to learn about different types of mulch.

Step 6

Watering the Planting Area.

Finally, thoroughly soak the soil with water. For the first year you should water 2 to 3 times a week — more in dry weather. A timer and a soaker hose can make that job easier. Continue watering into the second year if necessary.


Observe water-use ordinances or restrictions for your area.

Post-Planting Tips

Newly Planted Tree.
  • Prune at planting only to remove dead or broken branches, unless you're planting a fruit tree. Some fruit trees need shaping and thinning to promote fruiting.
  • Fertilizing too much at planting can burn the roots. An organic supplement or slow-release fertilizer is an option, but check the plant tag for recommendations. If you don't fertilize now, begin during the second year of growth.
  • Staking is usually not necessary. A tree does best when it can settle in naturally, and allowing it to move in the breeze will strengthen the roots and trunk. However, if you live in an area with high winds, consider staking — just make sure the support lines don't cut into the trunk. Wide, smooth fabric straps are a good choice. If you use cord or wire, cushion the trunk with segments cut from an old garden hose.

For more tips on taking care of trees and shrubs, read Tree Maintenance and Select and Care for Flowering Shrubs.

Good to Know

Consider creating a decorative border around the tree. Learn how by reading Create a Border Using Edging Stones.