Planting your tree
WHEN TO PLANT
The best two planting periods of the year are during April/May, and October/November.
I strongly discourage planting your tree outside of these two planting windows, as harsh winters and hot summers can often impact the health of your tree when it’s freshly planted and most vulnerable.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Century Tree seedlings can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 7B - 10. Consult the USDA map to determine which region you fall under.
Full exposure to sunshine is best.
Plant your Century Tree seedling away from buildings, utility lines, and other trees.
Your tree will need room to grow and sprout its roots, so make sure there’s plenty of distance from concrete driveways, sidewalks and patios.
I recommend making sure to plant your seedling within distance of a garden hose / faucet.
Avoid planting in locations where deer and other wildlife are present, as wildlife can harm your baby tree. If you do choose to plant in a wildlife-prone area, additional protection for your tree may be necessary.
ASSEMBLE YOUR TOOLS
When planting your tree, I recommend keeping the following tools handy:
One or two bags of garden soil
Garden hose connected to faucet
One or two bags of hardwood mulch
Scissors or a knife to cut the twine above the Root Cap
Wheelbarrow for mixing soil.
Using a shovel, remove the top layer of grass from the surface of the soil where you plan to plant your Century Tree seedling. Discard this grass.
Dig a hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the root ball of your seedling. Reserve the “native soil” that you’re digging up in your wheelbarrow.
Mix one or two bags of garden soil with the native soil in your wheelbarrow. Use a shovel to make sure the soils are fully integrated together.
Backfill your hole with a few scoops of your new soil mixture. Use the shovel handle to pack the soil mixture by poking the handle downward into the soil — the idea is to pack the soil so the seedling won’t settle as much once water is added.
Turn to your seedling, and thump the container several times along the sides and bottom using your hand or a block of wood. This will separate the roots from the container walls and make the root ball easier to remove.
Use scissors or a knife to cut the twine that ties the gray Root Cap to the container. Remove both the twine and the Root Cap.
Spread the fingers of your non-dominant hand and place them palm-down on top of the container, with the stem of the tree nestled between your third and fourth fingers. This hand will be “catching” the root ball and tree once you remove it from the container.
Using your dominant hand, flip the container upside down. The root ball should drop gently into your other hand.
Toss the container aside and use both hands to gently lower the root ball into the planting hole, placing it onto the packed soil mixture.
VERY IMPORTANT: THE AMOUNT OF PACKED SOIL MIXTURE SHOULD ALLOW THE ROOT BALL TO SIT AT THE CORRECT HEIGHT. Check the location of the top of the root ball relative to the soil surface around the hole. (Is it higher or lower than the ground around it?) You want to make sure the top of the root ball is slightly ABOVE the surface of the surrounding ground. If your root ball is too low, you might need to remove it, set it carefully aside, and add more of your soil mixture to the base of the hole, repacking to create a higher base for your seedling. Continue this until your root ball is slightly higher than the ground around it.
Once the soil mixture is packed high enough for your root ball to sit at the correct height, place the root ball in the hole and add scoops of your soil mixture around the sides. Pack it down with the shovel handle, being careful NOT to damage the root ball in the process.
Continue adding and packing soil mixture around the sides of the root ball until your hole has been refilled.
Turn on your garden hose until a slow trickle of water is achieved. Water the soil around the root ball until it is completely saturated and muddy. Use the shovel handle to continue packing down the wet soil while you water the area. Once this is completed, turn off the faucet and move the garden hose away.
Do a final check to make sure your tree’s stem is straight and vertical in the planting hole. Tilt the root ball as needed in the wet soil to make sure the stem is aligned vertically, and be sure that there’s a good seal between the soil mixture and the sides of the root ball.
Once you’ve planted your tree, add a two-inch thick layer of hardwood mulch on top of the muddy soil in the planting hole. Create a mulch circle around the tree stem that’s roughly 18-24 inches in diameter. The mulch helps conserve the soil’s moisture, adds nutrients back to the soil, and discourages grass from growing around your planted tree, competing for valuable nutrients.
Two year-old trees or larger come with a green plastic tree stake, as well as a white wire training stake, secured to the stem with wire twists. The green tree stake simply holds the tree in a vertical position while the stem continues to bear the weight of the tree. Meanwhile, the white training stake removes the natural bends and bows from the tree stem by training it to grow perfectly vertical and straight — which will make for a very handsome trunk in the future!
Once the seedling grows taller than the white training stake, simply loosen the wire twists around the stem, slide the stake a few inches higher, and re-tighten the twists. (Make sure not to make them too tight.) Move the training stake higher and higher as your tree grows to create a perfectly straight and vertical stem.
When the tree is roughly six feet tall, remove the white training stake if you so choose.
I DO NOT recommend attaching the tree stem directly to a permanent plastic tree stake or cane stake. The tree will eventually depend upon that stake for support, and while it will grow taller faster, the weaker trunk won’t be strong enough to support its own weight.
Avoid transplanting your tree to a larger container
For years, I suggested that customers transplant trees to larger containers over time so that trees could be grown in containers and “moved” as needed. I no longer recommend this practice.
There are MANY details which can go wrong with the transplanting process if done incorrectly. Failure to pack the soil or water the tree correctly, damage to the root ball, etc. have resulted in unhappy customers and dead seedlings. As a result, I no longer recommend this process to my customers.
Instead, I recommend my customers delay their purchase until they are six months or so away from planting their seedling. This will insure that their tree has the best chance at a healthy life.