How to Care for your New Tree

Fall and winter are the best time to plant trees since they don’t suffer from transplant shock as much as summer planted trees. Trees need the opportunity to grow roots before being subjected to summer heat and dryness. In this blog post, we will attempt to outline the primary maintenance considerations for planting and growing trees.


During the first growing season, don’t fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer. Use root stimulators (monthly during growing season) or slow release organic fertilizer at half the recommended rate. During the second growing season, fertilize 3-4 times a year using a slow release fertilizer.

Never use an herbicide containing fertilizer anywhere near the tree’s root system!


A properly dug and planted tree needs no pruning except to remove broken branches and growth faults (crossing branches and downward growing).

Lower branches should be left on the tree as long as possible. After the first year, no more than 1 whirl of limbs should be removed each year. The use of pruning paints (except on oak trees) is not recommended.

Watering and Mulching

Water the newly planted tree until the hole is soaked. This will saturate the roots. Water, as needed, for at least 18 months by placing a soaker hose around the base of the tree and slowly (several hours) saturate the area. Do not depend on a sprinkler system to do the job. Usually you need to water when the soil has dried to a depth of 4-6 inches. An easy way to test soil wetness is by probing with an 18-inch piece of iron rebar. If the rebar is wet or muddy, do not water. If the probe comes out dry or damp on the end, it’s time to water. During a hot, dry summer, check the soil every 4-5 days. It is equally important that you do not overwater a native or adapted tree as that could lead to disease.

Place mulch over the area of disturbed earth, leaving a few bare inches around the trunk.  Mulch helps soil retain moisture while also preventing soil compaction. Please keep lawnmowers, etc. away from the root area. During the first year, add mulch 3-4 times during the year.

These are some basic rules for how to care for your new tree. If you have any more questions, please contact our office at 512-341-8888. We are always ready to help you understand how to care for your new tree.