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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Forestry > Tree Seedling Nurseries > Tree Planting Instructions Tree Planting Instructions

  1. Keep seedlings in a bucket of water to keep roots moist while planting. On hot or windy days roots can dry out rapidly.


  2. Dig hole deeper and wider than root system, insert seedling and fill loosely with soil.


  3. Gently firm around seedling to eliminate air pockets around roots. Do not stomp!

If trees cannot be planted the same day as received...

  1. Dig a shallow trench, preferably in a shaded area.


  2. Place seedlings in the trench and cover with soil. If heeled in for more than a week, water as needed.


  3. This will keep the roots moist until you are ready to permanently plant them.

Planting Depth

A properly planted seedling should have the root collar (zone between root and stem) even with ground level. Seedlings planted too deep, too shallow or J-rooted (tap root facing up) will not take full advantage of the seedling's capacity to produce roots and foliage. An improperly planted tree is much less likely to survive.

too shallow

Some roots are exposed above ground level.

  too deep

Much of the stem is underground level.

 j-root

Roots are forced into the hole, causing root ends to be facing up.

  just right

Root collar is even with ground level; roots running down.