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Tree Planting Resources

"Match Species to Site"

Prior planning is critical to a long term sustainable tree planting project. Most important is matching the species to site. Know the site characteristics before deciding on what tree species to plan. Here is what you need to know: 

Soils information from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service or local NRCS or Farm Services office to determine if the tree can adapt to the site. Some trees grow better in wetter sites and some trees grow better on drier sites. Also note the human or use impacts on the site such as soil compaction or road salt.

Hardiness Zone to determine if your tree will grow in the region.

Annual precipitation and occurrence data from NOAA or the U.S. Climate data site - Illinois

Animal and Insect and disease issue potential such as deer, mice, gophers. See the Forest Health section for more information on insect and disease issues.

Site aspect - North and east sides of hills are cooler, moister and shadier.

Note the human or gray infrastructure impacts such as buildings, power lines and underground utilities.

Tree Selection

Tree Species and varieties vary greatly.  In order to achieve the desired outcome you need to determine the purpose of the planting.  Trees are often planted for shade, fruit, seasonal color, windbreak, phytoremediation, land reclamation, water treatment, or as a design element to break up space. Some trees require more maintenance than others. Consider if you have time to water a newly planted tree and inspect it periodically for insect and disease issues. It is important to consider the mature size of the tree before planting. The most common mistake made is to not allow adequate space and the tree then grows into the house, buildings, utility lines, or obstructs the view of oncoming traffic.  There are several guides available to help you choose a tree that is right for your location.

Here are a few references where you can get examples of matching species to site:

Always buy from a reputable nursery. Contact the Illinois Green Industry Association for more information on members that follow industry standards.  You can also check out The Chicago Regional Tree Initiative's Nursery Tree List

Season for Tree Planting

The seasons for tree planting vary from the bottom to the top of the state.  Southern Illinois has a longer plating season than Northern Illinois. The best time to plant is after the soil has unfrozen in the Spring to early June (depending on the rainfall that year) and again from mid- September until the ground freezes.


Always CALL BEFORE YOU DIG. It's the law. Illinois state law requires that anyone planning an outdoor project that requires digging, regardless of the depth or the size of the project, must call JULIE first.  The 811 number is available for you to call the JULIE (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators). you can also call 1-800-892-0123  to place a local request.

Planting Your Tree

1) Handle your tree with care

2) Dig the proper size hole. Dig the width 2-3 times the width of the ball of container. Dig the depth the size of the container to the root flare.  Do not plant your tree too deeply or it may not survive. Backfill the hole with a small amount of the loosened original soil to create a bed of soil upon which the tree will be placed. 

3) Prepare the tree for planting. For Containerized trees, remove the tree from the container and cut back any girdling or circling roots. For balled and burlapped trees, place the tree in the hole and remove or push down into the hole 2/3 of the burlap. Remove the nails. cut any broken roots with a pruning shear. If a wire basket exists remove it before placing the tree in the hole or cut away the top  two rings.

4) Measure the depth of the hole and the height of the tree root flair to the ground. Make sure that they match so that teh tree when placed in the hole will have the root collar level with the surrounding ground. Then carefully place or roll the tree into the planting hole.

5) Backfill with the original soil. Thoroughly water the tree immediately after planting to allow for settling of the tree. Reposition the tree so that it stands straight, if needed.

6) Mulch your tree - Create a 2 inch to 3 inch mulch ring around the newly planted tree.

7) Post planting care -  Inspect your newly planted tree frequently for the first two years. Water your tree every 7-10 days depending on the current rainfall. Make sure to saturate the ground when watering the trees and then let it dry out.

 Watch It Grow


Check out the VIDEO Section with Tree Planting Videos

"If every American family planted just one Tree, we would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by one billion pounds annually."