Tips for Planting Container Trees

Ernie Neffplanting

By Phillip Rucks

Phillip Rucks is a Florida citrus nurseryman.

The following is a summary of planting tips for container trees garnered from work done by various University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers as well as my own experience:

Keep trees in shade until planted. They should be wet down at least once daily.

Be sure trees are not set out in the field too far in advance of actual planting. The hot sun on the black pots can scald roots, causing damage similar to the damage done by the drying of bare root trees.

Be sure the hole is dug large enough and deep enough so that roots are not jammed into the hole, causing “J” rooting. A post-hole digger usually makes too narrow a hole to correctly plant trees. An auger is preferred. A shovel will work as long as the hole is dug deep enough.


Shake at least 50 percent of the potting soil off tree roots and break up the root ball with hands before planting.

Mud trees in thoroughly to eliminate air pockets and also to bring roots into contact with the planting soil.

Be sure trees are not planted too deep. They should be planted no deeper than where the soil line was when they were in the containers.

Be sure not to over-water trees planted in heavy land, and don’t under-water trees planted in sandy land.

Phillip Rucks owns Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery, Inc. in Frostproof, Florida.

Editor’s note: For more planting tips, see “Nursery Diseases at Planting: What to Watch for” by Ozgur Batuman and Megan Dewdney.

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