Spring Planting Tips: How To Plant Trees And Shrubs In Spring

(Image credit: SbytovaMN)

Spring and fall are considered the best seasons for planting trees and shrubs. Gardeners often have strong feelings about which season is better, but it’s not always open to dispute. Some trees and shrubs do better when they go into the ground just as the world is waking up in springtime.

What shrubs to plant in spring? Which trees do better with spring planting? Read on for information on what to plant in spring as well as some tree planting tips.

Planting Trees in Spring

Can you plant trees in spring? Almost any tree would do well if planted in spring, and some trees need spring planting. For example, trees with fleshy roots do best if you put them in the ground in spring. 

This category includes garden favorites like magnolias, tuliptrees, oaks, and dogwoods. That’s because this type of root doesn’t adjust to transplant very quickly, and you don’t want winter to catch them before they are settled in. It’s better if they have the long, warm days of summer to get comfortable in their new location.

Planting Shrubs in Spring

Broadleaf evergreen shrubs and trees are also excellent candidates for spring planting. These evergreens, including boxwood, rhododendrons, hollies, and mountain laurel, lose water through their leaves all winter long which makes them especially vulnerable to winter damage. 

Some claim that these evergreens can be transplanted in the fall if you act at least six weeks before the first frost date. The trees should be watered deeply and regularly during those six weeks. Mulching is also recommended.

Tips for Planting Trees in Spring

Your plants will do best with spring planting if the soil has a chance to warm up first. You can speed this process by taking the mulch off the planting areas some ten days before planting. This gives the soil space to absorb the warmth of the spring sun. 

Dig a hole for the tree or shrub that is large enough to accommodate all of the roots. You don’t want any of them to have to fold to get into the planting hole or to have to coil or girdle the tree. Try to make it three times larger and twice as deep as the root ball. 

Transplanted trees and shrubs need water, and lots of it. Irrigate deeply right after you plant. This also gets rid of air pockets around the roots and sets up a firm contact between the roots and the soil. After planting, add a deep layer of mulch to protect the roots from cold nights. 

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.