When To Plant Garden Trees

One of the best possible additions to complete any home garden is a tree, but you have to know when to plant them to get the best results possible.

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One of the best possible additions to complete any home garden is a tree, but you have to know when to plant them to get the best results possible.

The time that you should plant garden trees really depends on your region, local climate, and the type of trees that you want to plant. For most deciduous trees and evergreens, you should plan on planting your trees during the springtime and during the fall.

There are few hobbies out there that are as therapeutic and rewarding as gardening, which is why millions of Americans take so much pride in their yards. With that being said, properly tending to a garden takes a lot of work and there are a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to maintaining your plants to ensure that they stay healthy. One aspect of gardening that many newcomers tend to overlook is when to plant their trees. A common misconception is that trees are much more resilient than other plants. While this might certainly be the case when they are fully grown, the truth is that they are quite delicate when first planted. To help you understand when to plant your trees, we are going to take a closer look at this gardening topic in more detail.

After years of working in a nursery and maintaining my own home garden, I have had a lot of experience planting garden trees. My experience has taught me that the best time to plant garden trees is to plant them in accordance with the season and climate that they will thrive in the best.

Table of Contents

Planting Garden Trees

Trees come in all sorts of shapes and sizes - and much like the rest of the plants in your garden, they have their preferences on when and how they should be planted. Unlike many of the other plants in your garden, a tree is a real investment, as just about any that you do plant are likely to be around for decades to come.

The first thing that you will want to consider is whether you want to start from the seed or from a potted tree. If you are thinking about starting from a seed, you should take a more cautionary approach, as this process will take longer and it can be much more delicate - given that it will need to be nurtured from the moment it sprouts. While taking this approach is a much more intimate experience with your garden tree, it does take more work and it does come with more risk.

The easy way, and what many might argue is the best way, is to start from a potted tree that has already gone through its preliminary growing stages. These garden trees are much more convenient to plant and they will give you a sense of assurance that your tree will adequately grow. You can easily pick up one of these trees at your local nursery or you can even order them online from various sellers.

Now, before you start picking out trees that you like, you should first reflect on the location that you live in, as this will be the biggest indicator of when to plant your tree. This is particularly important given that not every type of tree is suitable for every type of climate and region. To confirm what kind of climate you live in, you should identify your area’s climate zone. Most trees, and plants in general, that you see being sold, will be labeled with their appropriate climate zone(s) so that you can make an informed decision on when/what to plant. Let’s dive right into when to plant garden trees!

Time Of Year

Most of the trees that you plant will like to have a balanced climate that is not too intense - not too hot or too cold. Your tree will become much more adapted to your local climate as it gets rooted and begins to grow, but those early months while it is still embedding itself in your garden are a bit more delicate.

Naive gardeners that take too lackadaisical of an approach with their tree planting often end up having trees that have poor growth or in worst-case scenarios - fail to grow at all and die completely. This often happens due to transplant shock and a lack of attentiveness to meeting their newly planted tree’s needs. Let’s take a closer look at the best times of year to plant garden trees.

Spring & Fall

If you live in a region that has all 4 seasons that are pretty well defined, then you most likely are going to want to start planting in the springtime or in the fall.

One of the most popular times of the year for gardeners to plant their trees is in the springtime, as most people can’t wait to get out into their yards and start planting and tending to their gardens after a long winter.

The springtime provides a lot of beneficial conditions for your tree to transition into your garden smoothly. Most places begin to receive balanced weather around this time of the year and with summer being right around the corner, you can expect your climate to only improve in the coming months.

However, if you are wanting to plant your tree in the springtime, you should make sure that your tree gets a substantial amount of water. Your tree’s roots will not be embedded in your garden yet and the increase in outdoor temperature means that the soil will need extra water in order to be healthy. For the first couple of weeks, after you plant your tree, you should make sure to water it every day. This is especially important to keep up with if you live in an area that has warm weather during the springtime, as you could put your tree at risk otherwise.

Once this initial phase is complete, you can start to cut back on the amount of watering that you give your garden tree. For the next 2 to 3 months, you should start to water your tree every 2 or 3 days, as overwatering your tree is not healthy for it and it could lead to complications in its growth.

On the other hand, many gardeners opt for planting their trees in the fall, which is completely fine if you don’t do it too late. The best way to approach this is to begin planting your garden trees as soon as you feel the season begin to fully settle in. A good rule of thumb that many gardeners often stick to is to begin plantain their trees in the autumn as soon as they see the first sign of leaves falling from other trees that start to shed their leaves.

If you decide to take this approach and plant in the fall, you are going to want to water your tree regularly. You should follow a similar watering cycle as with spring planting but you should try to water in smaller quantities when you do, as you will not need nearly as much to get the same job done.

All 4 Seasons

For the most part, you will find that just about all gardeners tend to plant their trees in the springtime and the fall. While this is the safest way to approach planting trees in your garden, it is by no means the only time of year that you can plant.

The biggest factor that influences these planting seasons is that most people plant in areas that distinctly have all 4 seasons. This may be the case for many regions in the United States but the truth is that you can get away with planting in the winter and the summer in many places around the country.

If you live somewhere that has a relatively stable climate all year long, then you can get away with planting at just about any time of year. The golden rule for most trees that you want to plant is to never do it when the ground is too cold. In general, you should be able to plant most trees that are not overly climate-specific in any soil that is not frozen.

This is particularly the case in many areas along the West Coast and the South West of the United States that have winter weather that rarely drops below freezing. In these regions, you should not have any issues planting a healthy garden tree during even the peak of winter.

However, if you do tend to get freezing temperatures briefly during the winter, then it may be wise to plant your trees during the onset of winter or when it starts to warm up - at the end of winter. To ensure that your tree does not get affected by the harsh conditions of winter weather, you should give your roots at least 6 weeks to settle into the soil. Once, they have done so, your tree should be just fine so long as your climate does not get much colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

With that being said, a fantastic time of year to plant in many regions around the United States is during the summer. If your area receives scorching heat, you may want to plant your trees before your area reaches its maximum temperatures - just to be on the safe side. However, if your region has balanced summers, then you should not have any issues planting even during the peak of the season.

Many gardeners love tending to their plants during the summer as the climate is perfect for spending afternoons out in the yard. What you will want to be extra attentive with during this time of year, however, is watering. Summer heat and sun can be tumultuous for many plants when they are not watered enough. Soil moisture dries up extra quickly and your plant’s roots may have a challenging transition into their new home if they are not receiving enough water.

You should follow a watering pattern of once per day for the first 2 to 3 weeks during the summertime and you should water more generously during this time of the year, as your tree is going to need it. Once this first 2 week period is over, you can begin to cut back a little and water every 2 to 3 days - with generous amounts of water. If your tree is planted in a shaded area, then you should be able to get away with watering every 3 days. However, if your tree receives a lot of sunlight, you are going to want to be vigilant and water every 2 days.


An important and highly effective strategy to implement, regardless of what time of year you plant, is to use mulch during the entire process.

Mulch is essentially any type of material that you use to control the environment of your tree’s soil. Your soil is the most important aspect of nourishing your tree, as it has all of the nutrients that your tree needs to thrive and it will store all of the water that your roots need.

Planting a tree in your garden can be made so much easier with the implementation of mulch, as it will allow your tree to grow in a much more balanced way. Mulch is a great way to ensure that moisture stays plentiful in your soil so that your tree has a safety net in case it gets too dry.

There are many different types of mulch that you can use to benefit your newly planted tree, which will range from organic to inorganic options. Organic mulch is generally made out of materials such as tanbark, woodchips, dried leaves, or sawdust. Whereas inorganic mulch will consist of things like rocks, gravel, fabrics, and rubber.

Either option will be beneficial for your newly planted tree but we find that opting for an organic mulch is a better way to go about it. Organic mulch does break down quicker and will need to be replaced every now and then but it will provide extra benefits to your newly planted tree’s growing process.

Organic mulch will break down and by doing so, it will add extra nutrients to your soil. This will help your tree stay healthy during its growing process - in addition to the added moisture. However, mulch also has some great benefits for gardeners that plan on planting during times of the year that have adverse climate conditions such as too hot or too cold.

In addition to holding moisture, mulch also acts as a barrier between the temperature of your soil and the outside air temperature. Using mulch will provide a sense of security for your newly planted tree’s roots during the essential first 6 weeks after planting (and onwards) by stabilizing the temperature of your soil.

Deciduous Vs Evergreens

We have covered the best times of the year to plant trees but it is also important to recognize that each type of tree has its own preferences for times of year that are ideal for it to be planted.

The best way to cater to your tree’s needs is to identify exactly the type of tree it is and what climate/region suits it best. You can then plan your planting time accordingly to ensure that you get the best results.

To start, you are going to want to decide whether you want to plant a tree that is deciduous or evergreen. Both of these trees can co-exist in many of the same climate zones (within reason) but they may have a better growing process if they are planted to their specifications.

Deciduous Trees

A deciduous tree is essentially any tree that sheds its leaves throughout the year. These are trees that begin to grow their leaves in the spring and then shed them in the fall - at which point, during the winter they will be completely barren.

Deciduous trees are more commonly found in climate areas that have all 4 seasons. However, they can be found in tropical regions as well from time to time.

If you are planning on planting a deciduous tree, you will want to prioritize getting them into the ground around the middle of spring. Whereas if you are planting in the autumn, you should begin planting right at the onset of the season.


The other types of trees that you will likely be dealing with are evergreens. Just as the name implies, these trees stay green all year long - with them never shedding their leaves, even during the coldest times of the year.

Evergreens can virtually be found in just about every type of climate zone, as they are quite common in regions with cold weather, but they are especially apparent in warm/tropical regions.

If you are planting an evergreen tree that is suitable for colder climates, you should follow a very similar planting process as with deciduous trees. However, you may even want to plant them at the onset of spring, as they will thrive with extra rainfall.

However, if you are planting an evergreen that prefers warmer climates such as tropical you should plan on planting in late spring or even early summer - just make sure that you give them plenty of watering.

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