Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees

Follow these basic steps about watering, mulching, pruning, fertilizer, and more to ensure that your trees have a strong foundation for a long, healthy life.

You’ve set your plants up for success by properly planting them, but your work isn’t quite done yet. Newly planted trees and shrubs require some additional care and attention. A tree can take years to become well established, which is achieved when the root system is as wide as the canopy. If you follow the recommendations listed below, your trees and shrubs will be healthy for years to come.


Water is critical for newly planted trees and shrubs. Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Keep the root ball moist, but not soaked. Too much water is just as bad as not enough water.
  • Apply the water over the root ball and the planting area, not on the trunk. Do not allow a sprinkler system to splash water on the trunk or leaves.
  • Use an open-ended garden hose or tree watering bag (such as Treegator).
  • Water every 2-3 days and give each plant at least 10-15 gallons of water per week. Larger trees (over 2 inch trunk diameter at chest height) will need around 8-10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter per week.
  • Water more during hot months and less during cold months.
  • Feel the soil: it’s the best way to check whether the plant needs water. Dig out a bit of dirt (not mulch) from the ground under the canopy. Roll it around in your fingers. If the soil is moist, no water is needed. If it is dry, time to water.
  • Simply look at the leaves. If they appear dry you may need to water.


Mulching provides many benefits to your plants. It keeps the soil cool, helps retain moisture, provides nutrients, helps keeps mowers/string trimmers away from the trunk, and it looks nice. It also protects the roots of newly planted trees, but you need to remember a few things:

  • Keep all mulch at least 4-6 inches away from the base of the trunk.
  • Extend mulch at least to the edge of the canopy, but the further, the better.
  • Apply mulch 2-4 inches deep.
  • If mulch starts to look dry or matted, use a potato hoe to break it up so that it doesn’t become hydrophobic.


It’s very important to not apply any fertilizer for at least a year. If you eventually want to us fertilizer, we recommend you contact a specialist. At Leaf & Limb, we use a soil superfood instead of harmful fertilizers to ensure the health of the tree and the soil food web.


It’s also important to not heavily prune your tree in the first year so that it can recover from the stress of being transplanted. Dead or broken branches can be removed, but limit pruning to those cases.

Other Considerations

On the rare occasions when a tree needs to be staked for support, it is critical that you remove the staking kit after 1-2 years. Otherwise it could kill the plant.

Proper planting is the foundation of a healthy plant, but thoughtful care is also important. Being proactive and monitoring your tree for any changes is the best way to keep a plant in tip-top shape. If you follow the recommendations listed above, you’ll be well on your way to a long, happy future with healthy trees.

Have any specific planting questions? Have a tip we haven’t listed here? Send us a message. We love to hear how you are keeping your trees healthy and happy.

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