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How to Plant and Care for a Seedling


390-070 (4H-988P)

Authors as Published

Step 1

Keep roots cool and moist until planting. For individual seedlings, wrap the roots in a moist paper towel and insert them into a plastic bag (roots only). Store seedlings in an unheated basement or refrigerator. Do not let the roots freeze.

Illustration of a pine seedling with and without paper towel wrap around roots.
Pine Seedling
Illustration of a hardwood seedling with and without paper towel wrap around roots.
Hardwood Seedling

How to Plant and Care for a Seedling

Step 2.

Find a spot with plenty of sun that is away from your house and not under electric or phone wires. Clear all grass within three feet of the seedling. (Young trees do not like to grow in the grass.) Dig a hole slightly deeper than the roots so that they do not bend in the planting hole. Do not plant the seedling any deeper than the first green needles or bud.

Put some garden mulch, pine straw, or leaves in the three-foot area around the tree to keep grass from growing back. Mark your tree with flagging or a small stake so that a lawn mower does not cut it. (Young trees are hard to see). Give your tree water when it gets hot and dry outside.


A cut away illustration of a pine seedling planting showing placement of mulch and depth of planting. It shows 2 inches of mulch and the flagging tied just below the needles.

Note: Your seedling will grow slowly the first year. Do not plant seedlings closer than 10 feet from each other. The best time to plant a seedling is while it is still dormant and the ground is not frozen (February through April).

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Publication Date

September 16, 2022