A small evergreen sapling grows out of a tree stump
(Image credit: Sven Rogge)

A tree that has been in the backyard for years feels more like a friend than a part of the landscape. When it dies or has to be removed, it’s a natural tendency to fill that empty spot as quickly as possible. But some experts suggest resisting this urge.

Can you plant a tree near a stump, or where a stump has been removed? Read on for information about what the experts have to say on this subject.

Planting Near Tree Stump

The expert consensus seems to suggest that it’s not a good idea to plant a new tree in an old stump or anywhere near it. The downsides include several points. First, the former tree could have stripped out the nutrients in the site’s soil, nutrients that a young tree will need to thrive.

In addition, if the former tree was removed because of disease, some of the pathogens might remain in the earth and infect the vulnerable young tree. Finally, there’s soil space to consider. If the arborists did not remove the former tree’s roots, they may be hogging the space for a new tree’s roots to dig in.

Can You Plant a New Tree After Stump Grinding?

There are several viewpoints on this matter. Some experts suggest that the sawdust left behind from stump grinding might alter the soil’s nutrient balance. But the leading experts from the Lady Bird Johnson wildlife center beg to differ. Their personal experience is that this soil can be excellent for a young tree.

The small chips of wood left in the soil will decompose, amending the soil. Of course, it will be necessary to bring in good, organic, weed-seed-free soil to fill in the stump hole, but that’s a good idea anyway.

All agree that waiting a period of time after stump removal is a good idea. You don’t want to be surprised by new sprouts shooting up from old roots that survive. If they do, you’ll want to pull them out and allow the roots to decompose in the soil before planting again.

When You Decide to Plant Anyway

Sometimes a gardener just goes ahead anyway and decides to install a new tree in the same location as a tree that was removed. If this is you, here are some tips for helping the new tree survive.

First, if the prior tree was removed because of a plant pest or disease, select the new species with care. Pick one that won’t be vulnerable to this issue.

Second, do everything you can to prepare the site, chopping out old roots and adding in good soil and organic compost.

Third, wait as long as possible, at least a month, at best a year or more. The longer the old tree’s roots have to decompose, the easier time the new tree will have establishing itself.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.