Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Let's Plant a Tree: Download PDF

This information is taken from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Kids for Trees. For more information and activities about trees, check their website.

SUBJECTS: Science, Social Studies, Art
SKILLS: observing, critical thinking, communications
OBJECTIVE: Students will learn how to plant a tree and how to select a site that will not interfere with power lines or stunt the growth of the tree.


Planting trees is a very rewarding thing to do. Trees add beauty to our world, provide homes and food for birds and animals, grow to provide wood for home and paper for books, and help the environment. Planting trees is also easy and fun. There are just a few rules to follow.

What to Plant. The trees we plant in our yards, parks and along streets are called saplings. Their size is somewhere between small seedlings and mature trees. If students were trees, they would be saplings. Saplings are usually ready to plant when we buy them. Their roots are well developed and contained neatly in a pot or in a ball of soil wrapped in burlap. If there are any ropes around the tree and roots, they must be cut.

How to Plant. Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root ball on the tree. If the tree is in a pot, remove it from the pot and place it in the hole. If it has a ball of soil wrapped in burlap, place it in the hole and cut any twine which is wrapped around the trunk. The top of the ball should be slightly higher than the surrounding ground surface. Make sure the tree remains straight and fill in the hole with the dirt you removed pressing it down gently with your foot. Place a bark mulch around the base of the tree to cover the entire area of the hole. This will help hold in moisture. Water the tree thoroughly and then water it any time the soil begins to dry out. That's all there is to planting a tree.

Where to Plant. Planting is easy, but you must be very careful selecting the location for the tree. The location will be determined by the mature size of the tree. Look up. Are there any electric wires overhead? If so, would the tree grow into the wires? Look down and around. Are there electric wires underground? It is very dangerous to dig a hole if there are buried electric lines. These are difficult to locate, but people at the electric and telephone companies know where the lines are buried and you can call JULIE (Joint Utilities Locating Information for Excavating) at 1-800-892-0123 to find out if any lines are buried where you want to dig. Look all around. Your tree needs room to grow. Is it too close to a house? Is it too close to another tree? Your tree will get water through its roots underground so there should not be a lot of concrete or asphalt surrounding your tree.

Future Care. Trees need special attention so you should find out as much about your kind of tree as you can. Ask for care instructions at the nursery or garden center where you bought your tree. If you follow a few simple rules, you can have the fun of taking care of and watching your tree grow for years and years. careful.gif



Plant a Tree! Select a location on the school grounds or elsewhere if necessary. Discuss with the class what kind of tree would be appropriate. Find out as much as you can about that kind of tree. Examine the location carefully. Make sure there are no power lines. Call JULIE to check for underground cables. Make sure there is plenty of room for the tree to grow. Plant your tree in the spring perhaps on Arbor Day (the last Friday in April).

Take the class on a neighborhood walk to find trees that have been incorrectly planted. What happens to a tree when it is too close to a building? Find trees that have been pruned because they were interfering with wires. Were these trees pruned or trimmed? Could this have been avoided by planting the tree elsewhere? Invite a representative from your local power company to explain their company's forestry program. Why must trees be pruned? Are there different ways to prune trees? Are there kinds of trees that can be planted under power lines? Invite a local tree nursery professional to your classroom to discuss tree planting and tree care.

On a large piece of paper draw an aerial view of a street (see Activity for example), including the street, several houses, sidewalks, driveways and power lines (above and below ground). Place the paper on the floor so students may walk around and across the neighborhood. Using green (conifers), orange, red and yellow (fall hardwoods) construction paper make several sizes of cones to represent different sizes of trees. Have the students "plant" the trees in the best location.

Take the class on a field trip to an arboretum, city walkway, local tree nursery or a well managed park. Arrange for a guide to conduct a tour and explain tree planting and tree care practices.

sapling, pruning, arbor, mulch, compost, environment

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