Houston Parks and Recreation Department

Tree Planting


When to Plant a Tree

How To Plant A Tree GraphicGenerally, mid November to late February is the best time to plant trees in the Houston area. Planting in late fall or winter will allow roots to become established before moisture demanding summer sets in.


How To Plant A Tree

  1. Planting A Container Grown Tree Do not remove tree from container until you're ready to place into planting hole. Fine roots dry out rapidly when exposed to air.
  2. Hole Size Dig a hole 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball and slightly shallower. The tree should be planted slightly above the original soil level (this is especially important in heavy clay soils to aid in drainage). Roughen the bottom and sides of your planting hole with a shovel or garden trowel making it easier for roots to penetrate the native soil. When the hole is ready, gently remove tree while lightly pressing against sides of container. If necessary, cut container vertically to dislodge root ball.
  3. Placing The Tree In The Hole Set tree gently into hole, lifting by root ball. Tree should be centered and plumb. Cut any circling roots along outer edge of root ball with pruning shears. Hold the tree while backfilling around root ball and tamp soil lightly to eliminate air pockets. Make sure not to cover the root crown (the area of the tree where the roots end and the trunk begins) with soil. Soil covering the root crown can lead to rot at the trunk base. The root ball should be about 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil. Large clods should be broken apart before backfilling.
  4. Mulching Remove any grass or weeds within a 3' minimum diameter circle around tree and create a watering saucer. Cover with 3-4" mulch composed of bark, woodchips compost, pine needles, etc. Do not use fresh grass clippings.
  5. Watering Adequate water is essential at planting time. Root zones should be slow-soaked every seven days for four weeks when the tree is first planted. To properly water your new tree place your hose at the base of the tree and allow water to trickle slowly until soil is saturated. The following is a recommended watering schedule for trees in the Houston area. Adjustments to the schedule should be made during prolonged periods of rain or drought.
    1. Initial watering after planting: Root zones should be slow-soaked every seven days for four weeks.
    2. November-February: Root zones should be slow-soaked every three weeks.
    3. October, March & April: Root zones should be slow-soaked every two weeks.
    4. May-September: Root zones should be slow-soaked once a week.
  6. Care Of Newly Planted Tree After watering, add mulch to compensate for any settling. If necessary, stake tree to keep upright and prune dead, diseased or damaged branches. Research has proven that pruning the crown to "compensate for root loss" actually impedes root regeneration and slows establishment. Structural pruning should be delayed until the second year of growth.

WHAT TO PLANT When creating a planting design for your home the first thing you should do is decide what your desired benefits are and match the correct tree to the site conditions.  Remember every tree has specific needs that must be met in order for them to develop properly. Some question you should ask include:

  • Is the soil well drained or does it retain water?
  • Is the soil acidic or alkaline?
  • Is there direct sunlight available or mostly shade?
  • Are there any overhead utilities or nearby structures to consider?

These and other site factors must be considered when selecting a tree.

Once you've determined what species are best suited for your site, you need to decide what you prefer.

  • Do you want a shade tree or a fruit tree?
  • Would you favor a flowering tree or one with attractive fall color?

If you are planting near your home for energy savings, consider a deciduous tree. These trees provide shade in the summer while allowing the suns warming rays to penetrate through bare branches during the winter.

Once you've determined your needs and wishes your list of candidate trees should be short.  Now consider what trees are currently growing in your yard and neighborhood? Providing diversity in your landscape is a good way to minimize the potential impact of disease and insect damage.  Tree diversity also benefits your landscape by providing a variety of aesthetic features and wildlife habitats. To assist you with your selection refer to the list of recommended trees for the Houston area.

Selecting Your Tree When selecting trees at your nursery, remember, bigger is not always better. The largest trees in a group may have outgrown their containers. Generally, the smaller a tree is when planted, the healthier it will be as it develops and matures. Circling roots can girdle your tree causing stunted growth and poor anchoring. Trees should be free of insects, disease and physical damage. They also should have straight trunks and balanced branching. If a tree appears dormant, scratch a twig to make sure it is green and moist inside.

Where To Plant

Space is a major factor when deciding where to plant a tree. Trees that are given ample space for growth to their mature size are healthier and require less maintenance. Common problems associated with improperly placed trees include power outages, buckled sidewalks and driveways, and obstructed views of traffic. Deciduous shade trees should be planted on the south and west sides of your house to provide cooling shade in the summer and allow the sun to warm your house in the winter.

Some common problems associated with improperly placed trees can include power outages , buckled sidewalks and driveways, and obstructed views of traffic.

Trees and power lines can coexist, and potential conflicts can be avoided by selecting and planting trees with size and growth characteristics appropriate to their location.


Mature Tree Height

Minimum Distance From Structure

Up To 30'

10' Minimum Distance From Structure

30' To 50'

15' Minimum Distance From Structure

50' Plus Feet

20' Minimum Distance From Structure

Power outages can occur when branches come close to utility power lines. Trees and power lines can coexist, and potential conflicts can be avoided by selecting and planting trees with size and growth characteristics appropriate to their location.

Tree Links

COH Tree Protection Ordinance Adopt-An-EsplanadeGuide for Community PlantingHarris County Flood Control DistrictHouston's Regional ForestTexas Forest ServiceTree Diseases

Professional Groups

Int'l Society of ArboricultureSociety of American Foresters

Non-Profit Groups

Buffalo Bayou PartnershipHermann Park ConservancyHouston Parks BoardHouston Arboretum and Nature CenterKeep Houston BeautifulMercer ArboretumScenic Houston
Tree City USATrees for HoustonTexas Urban Forestry Council