Plant a lovely tree this fall with tips from Alabama Power

Plant a lovely tree this fall with tips from Alabama Power
It's best to plant trees in the fall, when trees are dormant, said Line Clearing Specialist Blake Lipscomb of Alabama Power. (Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

To enjoy a beautiful flowering tree next spring, now is the right time to get your tree in the ground.

That’s because, as the days get cooler and shorter, trees go into a dormant state in the fall, said Alabama Power Line Clearing Specialist John Morris.

“Planting a tree when it is dormant allows the tree roots to get better established,” said Morris, who graduated from Auburn University in 2002 with a forestry degree. “This allows the tree to be better prepared for the stressful summer months.”

Having trees around your property can provide a wind break – a great benefit as air grows ever cooler – while increasing air quality and adding to your home’s curb appeal.

Tried-and-true rules to establish a healthy tree

To enjoy tree-planting success, Morris recommends digging a hole that is large enough and proportional in size to the root ball of your tree. Use a wheelbarrow to store the displaced dirt while digging.

While many people think it’s a good idea to fertilize around the tree as you plant it, that’s not so, Morris said.


“People think that adding fertilizer directly to the hole will help the tree grow, but instead this hinders the roots from spreading,” Morris said. “You want the roots to spread out – not stay in the soil around it. Roots respond to the environment around it. If you make the roots too comfortable where they are, they won’t spread as well.”

He said it is best to apply a low-grade fertilizer – such as chicken manure – on top of the soil. Because the tree is essentially “in shock” after planting, Morris said, too much fertilizer can overwhelm the plant.

Finding the best tree

To select the right tree for your yard, consider your expectations. Do you prefer trees that provide beautiful color in fall? Or do you enjoy the sight of trees overflowing with colorful spring blooms? That decision should be the first consideration when you choose trees to surround your home.

Morris advises homeowners to consider what the tree will look like 10, 20 or 30 years after planting. Think ahead, considering how the tree will spread and elongate; how the tree will affect your home; whether the tree’s growth will be safe for underground and overhead utilities; and whether the tree’s roots will affect the sidewalk or street.

For a successful tree planting, Morris advises selecting a tree native to Alabama, suited to your climate zone. For year-round greenery, buy a holly or magnolia, which sport deep green leaves through the cold of winter and into Alabama’s hot summers.

“Trees such as a black tupelo or black gum tree provide fantastic fall color,” said Morris, who has worked at Alabama Power for seven years. “These do well in Alabama and tend to resist wind.”

If you enjoy a bevy of blooms in springtime, Morris recommends planting some pink or white dogwoods, which grow well in the South.

“The key to successful dogwoods is making sure you plant them in partial to full shade,” he said. “These trees can’t handle the stress of full Alabama sun.”

Following these tips, just about everyone can lay claim to a “green thumb.”

“These are industry standards,” Morris said. “You almost can’t lose.”

Click for more best practices for tree planting and trimming from Alabama Power.

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