Planting a tree seems simple enough. Dig a hole, drop the tree in, fill the hole, water the tree. What is there to worry about? More than you think, actually.
First, will the tree you want to grow thrive in that location? If the soil pH is different than the pH that the tree needs, it will not grow well. Some trees can tolerate shade, others have to have full sun. Some trees like damp soil, others like to dry out between waterings. Plant a tree in an environment it isn’t suited for, and it will die every time.
The other side of that coin is just as much a problem. As someone whose pecan tree just dropped a limb through their roof. If you plant a tree too close to a structure or pipe, you can have problems. Make sure you consider the size and root structure of the mature tree when deciding where to plant it.
Then there is the question of when to plant the tree. Bare root trees have to be planted when they are dormant. Wrapped and balled trees, or container trees, can be planted any time of the year. Survival is highest if they are planted during the dormant season, however. Of course, the ground has to be soft enough to dig in, so you may have to plant earlier or later than ideal if you live where the ground freezes too much to dig for part of the year.
Digging the hole is relatively straight forward. Make the hole a little bigger around than the roots and a little deeper than them. You want to suspend the tree over the hole and have the toots spread out, but not quite touching the hard dirt. It helps to have one person hold the tree in this position and the second person to shovel in the dirt around the roots.
Resist the temptation to shovel potting soil, peat moss, mulch, fertilizer, or other good stuff in the hole instead of the dirt you removed from it. Otherwise, the roots will travel in a circle around the circumference of the hole and girdle themselves instead of spreading out naturally. Eventually, this will kill the tree.
The crown of the tree, where the roots meet the trunk, should be just slightly above the level of the dirt when the hole is filled. Tamp the dirt down until you have a bit of a depression to hold water, but not a well. Fill a five gallon bucket and water the tree in. The depression should hold the five gallons of water until it soaks in.
Now comes the hard part. Prune off the top one third of the tree by cutting the trunk. This is so that the roots have a chance to become established before the tree runs out of stored energy. If you fail to perform this step, you increase the likelihood that the tree will fail to thrive.
Wait to fertilize your tree for six months to a year after it is planted. Fertilizing immediately risks stimulating a burst of foliage and branch growth before the roots can support them. This stresses the tree and it can literally grow itself to death.
Trees add beauty and value to a home. Planted properly, they should give years of enjoyment.