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Planting a Tree on Your Property: How to Proceed

Planting a Tree on Your Property: How to Proceed

Exterior renovationsPlanting a Tree on Your Property: How to Proceed

Trees are the ultimate evidence of time gone by. Once you plant a type or species on your property, with time, the sprout will grow, the trunk will thicken, the branches will spread, the buds will bloom, and the foliage will change along with the seasons.

A tree adds a certain lushness to your property, and it contributes to the preservation of the environment. All you have to do is plant it the right way!

Tree-Planting: What You Need to Know

Every year in Quebec, thousands of deciduous and coniferous trees are undoubtedly planted incorrectly. Although trees don’t necessarily succumb right away or at all, it often takes quite some time to get them to a healthy state. Trees vegetate and become susceptible to disease," Pierre Gingras wrote in a 2007 article in La Presse (French only). However, fall—right up to the moment when the ground starts to freeze—remains an excellent time to plant a tree on your property," he explained. When the weather is cool, plants replenish their stocks, a process that's done by the time the leaves have changed colour. Once the leaves change colour, the plant is dormant and will only have an opportunity to revive in the spring.

During spring, you solely have a month, from mid-April to mid-May, to plant a tree. Basically, once the ground has thawed right up until the buds start sprouting. Coniferous trees are planted during the fall (from August 15 to September 15) and during the spring, as soon as the ground has thawed until the new growths bloom in June.

Ball and burlapped and plug plants can be planted as early as the spring thaw and as late as the fall frost. Make sure to pick a cool, cloudy day. In periods of heat waves, water abundantly and regularly, and use an anti-drying agent, along with protective materials like burlap (windbreak) or a shading structure.

leafy tree

Photo: Jo Naylor

The Tree’s Size

First off, determine the available space you have for the tree and bear in mind that it’ll reach maturity one day. Several factors must guide your decision-making, like the following:

  • Tree’s size once it reaches maturity;

  • Its resistance to strong winds and cold weather; 

  • Over-cast the leaves (crown) will create;

  • The likelihood that the tree will hinder public service lines;

  • Space needed for the tree to fully develop;

  • Municipal rules and regulations.

Keep in mind that big and leafy trees planted south- or west-ward will provide some much-welcomed shade during the summer without so much as obstructing the winter sun, while coniferous trees positioned in the north-most corner of your yard will shield you from the cold winds. 

Next, willow and poplar trees have roots that tend to spread out in their search for water sources and risk clogging water and sewer lines. Therefore, it's best to avoid planting them near underground pipelines.

A number of trees are said to be columnar or fastigiate, meaning they grow more in terms of length, with tight, narrow branches along the trunk, explained Larry Hodgson in a 2008 article featured in La Presse. These trees, he listed, take up little space on the ground: Lombardy Poplar, Swedish Columnar Aspen, Tower Poplar, Fastigiate English Oak, Colomnar Crabapple.

Need to prune a tree that’s taking a bit too much space? Check out our article Tree Pruning: Why, When, and How?

The Biological Needs of Trees

Beyond the amount of space occupied by the tree, plants have biological needs related to climate and soil (texture, structure, pH, nutrients, and drainage). Furthermore, each individual species has a different degree of resistance when it comes to frosts, flooding or drought, strong winds, poor exposure to sunlight, and compact, heavy, acidic or alkaline soils.

Tree Canada’s mission is to fortify urban Canadian forests, as well as inspire people to participate and advocate for community greenspaces. As such, they’ve listed all trees and species available in the country.  

yellow leaf trees

Photo: Jason (Audrey’s Dad)

Inspect the tree prior to purchasing it: Look at the foliage to spot the presence of insects or illnesses; look at the branches and trunk to ensure there are no wounds; observe the disposition of the branches and their sturdiness while favouring those that have already been pruned in some capacity. Check the state of the roots: white or light-coloured roots are a way to gauge a tree’s health, more so, the fewer spiral-shaped roots, the better, meaning the tree will recover easily.

Looking for inspiration before planting a tree of your own? Check out our article Renovation Inspo: 10 Tree and Shrub Ideas for Your Landscaping Project

How to Plant a Bare-Root Tree

  1. Dig a hole big and deep enough to allow for the roots to spread. If needed, fertilize the soil that's been set aside.

  2. Cut the dead, sick, broken, or crisscrossing branches. Prune dead or damaged roots. 

  3. Dip the bare roots in a mixture of water and soil right before planting to prevent the roots from drying out and ease their re-growth.

  4. Drop the tree in the pit while ensuring that it’s very straight and the flare is ground level. Spread the roots apart and position the longest root on the wind-prone side of the pit.

  5. Get a plant stake for support.

  6. Backfill the hole, layer by layer, with the dirt and soil set aside. Slightly press down on the patch of dirt around the roots. Add potting soil up to ground level and the root flare, without covering the latter.

  7. Make a border or a basin-like shape with the dirt around the tree to favour watering.

  8. Water abundantly and deeply, and add dirt as needed.

  9. Lay some mulch or a ground protective material around the border or in the dirt, basin-like shape, ensuring the mulch isn’t directly touching the trunk. Water to ensure it holds in place.

  10. Remove the protective material and everything around the trunk: ropes, tags, etc.

How to Plant a Balled-and-Burlapped Tree

  1. Clear the bottom section of the burlapped root ball to locate the flare and tree. Measure the height of the root ball up to that point. The measurement obtained will dictate the depth of the pit. The size of the cavity must be twice as big as the burlapped root ball. 

  2. Dig a pit that’s big and deep enough, with sloping side walls. Fertilize the soil that’s been removed.

  3. Prune the dead, sick, broken, or crisscrossing branches.

  4. Drop the root ball in the planting hole while also ensuring that the tree is very straight and that the flare is level with the ground.

  5. Remove every single part of the geotextile mesh or any other non-biodegradable material. If the root ball is wrapped in a wire mesh or a rope-wrapped burlap, gently free the upper middle section of the root ball. Cut and re-wrap the burlap and the wire mesh toward to bottom of the hole. Cut and remove the rope that’s holding the burlap in place.

  6. Add a supporting stake along the tree’s trunk.

  7. Backfill the hole, layer by layer, with the dirt and soil set aside. Slightly press down on the patch of dirt around the roots. Add potting soil up to the existing ground level and the root flare, without covering the latter.

  8. Make a border or a basin-like shape with the dirt around the tree to favour watering.

  9. Water abundantly and deeply, and add dirt as needed.

  10. Lay some mulch or a ground protective material around the border or in the dirt, basin-like shape, ensuring the mulch isn’t directly touching the trunk. Water to make sure it holds in place.

  11. Remove the protective material and everything around the trunk: ropes, tags, etc.

landscaping

Photo: Raffsid

How to Plant a Potted Tree  

  1. Cut the dead, sick, broken, or crisscrossing branches.

  2. Gently remove the plant from its pot ensuring the root ball isn’t damaged.

  3. If needed, prune the spiral-shaped roots.

  4. Clear the top section of the root ball to locate the plant’s flare. Measure the height of the root ball from this point. This measurement equals the depth of the planting hole. The depth of this cavity must be twice as big as the root ball itself. 

  5. Dig a planting hole that’s big and deep enough, with sloping side walls. If you choose to plant a hedge or create a plant bed, dig continuous cavities. Fertilize the soil that was removed as needed.

  6. Drop the root balls in the pits while ensuring that the plant is set straight and the flare is level with the surrounding ground. 

  7. Add a supporting stake along the tree trunk, if needed.

  8. Backfill the hole, layer by layer, with the dirt and soil set aside. Slightly press down on the patch of dirt around the roots. Add potting soil up to the ground level and the root flare, without covering the latter.

  9. Make a border or a basin-like shape with the dirt around the planting hole to favour watering.

  10. Water abundantly and deeply, and add dirt as needed.

  11. Lay some mulch or a ground protective material around the border or in the dirt, basin-like shape, ensuring the mulch isn’t directly touching the trunk. Water to make sure it holds.

  12. Remove the protective material and everything around the trunk: ropes, tags, etc.

How to Plant a Tree in Poorly Drained Soil

If the soil is either too dense or poorly drained, you'll have to set up a drainage system by reshaping or raising the ground so that the tree can survive. Since such operations are complex and costly, the Espace pour la vie (Space for Life) website suggests another option: planting in an artificially raised ground. Follow these simple steps:

  1. If you’re working with a potted tree, you’ll have to remove it from its pot and prune its spiral-shaped roots.

  2. Clear the top section of the root ball to locate the plant’s flare. Measure the height of the root ball from this point. 

  3. Dig a hole two-thirds the height of the root ball and three times the width of the root ball. The walls of the dug-out pit must be sloped. 

  4. Don't add any amendments or fertilizers to the soil that has been set aside, or gravel at the bottom of the pit.

  5. Drop the root ball in the hole while ensuring the tree is set straight.

  6. Clear the top half of the tree.

  7. Place a stake against the tree trunk if needed.

  8. Backfill the hole, layer by layer, with the dirt and soil set aside. If needed, use firmer soil to shape out a small mound with a height that doesn’t exceed a third of the root ball, otherwise, the roots will dry out fast. 

  9. Avoid making a border or basin-like shape for watering purposes. Water freely and deeply, and add soil as needed.

  10. Don’t add mulch or soil protective materials.

  11. Remove the protective material and everything else around the trunk: ropes, tags, etc. 

leafless tree

Photo: edenik

 

Are you allowed to plant a tree in the city?

According to World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada), urban soils are often poorly oxygenized, and in areas where oxygen levels are low, anaerobic bacteria take over, producing toxic elements for trees, such as acid or methane. In forests, where well-oxygenated underground life converts into mineral and organic substances that can be assimilated by plants, trees can live up to 200 years.

Whereas, in the city, a tree doesn’t surpass the 30-year mark. Cigarette butts, salt spread throughout the winter, wounds caused by snow ploughs, construction work, and the lack of civic responsibility on the part of some citizens contribute to a reduced life expectancy of 5 years in regard to trees lined up in a sidewalk pit.

In Montréal

The Canopy Plan targets a collective tree-planting effort for a healthy urban freight, meaning planting 300,000 trees over a period of just over 10 years. Between 2012 and 2017, the Plan is expected to plant 200,000 trees: 65,000 by the City of Montréal, 15,000 by neighbouring cities, and 120,000 by private or institutional partnerships. 

The other 100,000 trees will be planted between 2018 and 2025: 33,000 by the City of Montréal, 7,000 by neighbouring cities, and 60,000 by private or institutional partnerships. Organized by the Regroupement des éco-quartiers (REQ) and the Société de verdissement du Montréal métropolitain (Soverdi), the second round of the 2016 campaign, A Tree for My Neighbourhood, allowed homeowners to purchase a leafy tree for $25 or a fruit tree for $35. Besides the whole of the Montréal island, it mainly targets the East, the Great Southwestern, and East-Central parts of the island. 

In Laval

One doesn’t need any sort of permit to proceed with tree planting or tree maintenance on private property. Once you’ve obtained a permit to fell trees or you’ve gained eligibility for the financial aid program, you have to make sure that the tree that’s to be planted is amongst the species recommended by the City of Laval. 

Note that planting, maintaining, or felling a tree on public grounds is prohibited. By that, we mean any stretch of public land; one adjacent to a public roadway on City-owned property, of varying dimensions, from one street to the next, between 0 to 10 metres.

In Québec

The city goes forth with planting hundreds of “street trees” in public spaces—a stretch of land of varying dimensions. Tree planting is done according to these circumstances: replacing felled trees, a citizen request by way of the Tree Planting Program, new housing developments where existing tree plantings are already in place, and in neighbourhoods with no trees and poor-quality ash trees.

In a Nutshell

A tree is a greenery for your yard, but make sure you plant it during the right time of the year, either during fall before the ground freezes or between mid-April and mid-May. 

Make sure to plant the right type of tree based on the current state of your yard: Inquire as to the different tree species and their respective peculiarities. 

Look closely at the tree and its roots to validate whether it’s in good health prior to planting it. 

Whether you’re planting a bare-root, balled and burlapped, or potted tree, or doing so in a poorly-drained soil calls for specific details to be kept in mind, but you can safely assume that in all cases, you must prune the broken or diseased branches before planting it.

Also, find out how to locate the tree's flare, the section between the trunk and the roots. Regardless of the planting method, the flare is used as a gauge to measure how deep the tree should be planted in comparison to ground level.

Inquire as to the different rules and regulations currently in effect in your municipality prior to planting a tree in your yard at the risk of having to cut it down if it doesn’t comply with the current regulations. 

Once you’ve planted a tree, take note of these 8 tree maintenance tips!

For landscaping project examples and exterior renovations done by RenoQuotes-affiliated contractors, check out our article 10 Examples of Landscaping Projects.

Get 3 landscaping quotes for your tree-planting project

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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