Planting Guides How To Plant Ball and Burlap Trees

Ball & Burlap trees, also called “B&B” are those that have been grown in the field and once they grow to a predetermined size they are dug up. The “ball” is referring to the tree’s root ball and the “burlap” is referring to the cloth covering encompassing the root ball. The tree is wrapped with the native soil it was originally growing in intact around the roots and shipped to your front door. Many varieties of trees are grown and shipped this way and it makes transporting large ones easier.

Continue reading the handling and planting directions outlined below to get your tree off to the best start possible so it will flourish for years to come. If, however, your tree arrived in a container or with only its bare roots, you will want to check out our planting guides that pertain specifically to planting these type of trees.

In a Nutshell

– Remove all the packaging
– Water the tree’s root ball before planting
– Select an appropriate planting site based on your tree’s requirements
– Prepare the soil
– Dig a hole based on the size of the root ball
– Put the tree in the hole, removing the burlap
– Replace most of the soil
– Water well, let the soil drain and put back the remainder of the soil
– Put mulch around the tree and water regularly

Getting Your Ball & Burlap Tree Ready to Plant

Once your B&B tree arrives you will want to remove all the packaging your tree arrived in and carefully remove the tree. Remove any wrapping that surround the tree itself, being careful not to disturb the burlap covered root ball. Do not remove any strings holding the burlap in place, as you will do this at the time of planting.

Care Before Planting

Handle your B&B carefully, as you do not want to disrupt the soil covering the root ball and encased in the burlap. Do not move the tree by the trunk or branches, but instead, move it by lifting the covered section by the strings or ropes attached. If the tree is large, you may require an additional person to help move the tree.

After it arrives, move your tree to a shady location outdoors and not inside a garage or shed, even if the outdoors temperatures are cold. Once you have it moved to the proper location, water the entire burlap covered root ball with a gently stream of water. Do not use a forceful stream or you may dislodge the soil from the root ball.

Your B&B tree will be fine left in the burlap covering until you are ready to plant, provided you keep the roots moist through regular water applications. Depending on your local weather conditions, this may require you to water daily. After several days and if your tree is a sun-lover, you can position it to a sunnier location. It is best not to move the tree immediately after you water because the soil will be soft and may pull away from the rooted section.

Choosing a Planting Location

You want to select a permanent location in your landscape where your B&B tree will have its requirements for proper growth met and will not encroach on your neighbor’s property. Therefore, do not plant close to the property line where your tree’s branches will hang onto another’s property and they will have the right to trim it. This can lead to a misshapen tree that might not recover from a severe pruning.

When selecting an appropriate planting site, know the mature size of your tree and its light requirements. You do not want to plant a tree that grows best in full sun in a shady location. In addition, you also do not want to plant the tree close to any structure it can interfere with, including power or utility lines. Our site lists all the necessary information about your particular tree, which takes the guesswork out of where your B&B tree will grow best. We also have guides that give information on properly planting trees for windbreaks and screens, if you are using your particular tree as such.

Preparing the Planting Site

Once you have selected the best site meeting all your B&B tree’s requirements, it’s time to prep the area for planting. You will want to clear an area that is at least 3 feet in diameter to protect the tree’s trunk from potential damage from lawn equipment bumping into it.

The first thing in preparing the site is removing all the unwanted vegetation growing there (such as weeds and grasses). This is easily done by pulling them out by hand, using a hard rake or spraying the area with an herbicide. If you choose the herbicide route, be sure to wait at least two weeks before planting so the product has time to do its job. Once the vegetation is dead, remove it from the planting site.

Next, you will want to amend the planting site’s soil with organic materials. Do not transport soil in from another location and if your soil is poor and lacks fertility, it is best to amend it with something like well-rotten manure or compost. This not only adds fertility to the area, but also loosens the area so the B&B tree’s roots have an easier time spreading out through the site and assists with drainage.

Spread approximately a 6- to 8-inch layer of organic materials over the site and work into the soil to a depth of about a foot.

Preparing to Plant

The night before you plan to plant your B&B tree, gently water the burlap covered root ball again. It is better and healthier for the tree to plant a hydrated root system than one that is completely dry. Once again, remember to use a gentle stream of water so you do not dislodge the soil contained around the roots and leave the burlap wrapping in place.

Digging the Hole

Next, you will want to dig the hole where your tree is going to grow. Dig the hole three times wider than the entire burlap covered root ball and just as deep. You do not want to plant the tree deeper that it was originally growing because it puts undue stress on it. If you feel the planting hole may be a bit too deep, don’t stress because you can fix this once you place the tree in the hole and see how much additional soil you will need to add.

Planting Your Ball & Burlap Tree

If your tree is big, planting it will be an easier job with the assistance of an additional person. Moving your B&B tree by the strings or ropes, place the root ball into the hole and make sure it is not going to be planted deeper than it is growing now. If so, lift the root ball up and add the needed soil to lift it up to the required depth. If the depth is good, it is time to remove the burlap covering.

Using a clean knife, cut away any strings or ropes holding the burlap in place and slice down the sides of the burlap. You can cut away the sections of burlap and leave what is on the bottom of the tree, if it is standard cloth burlap and doesn’t easily release itself, as it will eventually disintegrate into the soil. However, if the covering isn’t standard cloth burlap, you will need to remove all of the covering, as it will not disintegrate into the soil. Leaving this type of covering in the planting hole can negatively affect the growth of your tree. The assistance of another person is helpful when lifting the root ball and removing the covering from the bottom.

Once you have the cloth removed and the tree situated back in the hole, backfill the hole halfway with soil and firm up around the root ball using your foot.

Watering the Tree

After you have the planting hole half-filled with soil, fill it with water. This not only waters the root system again, but also helps settle the soil around it. Allow the water to drain completely from the hole before finishing planting.

Finishing the Planting

After the water drains from the planting hole, backfill with the remainder of the soil and firm up around the base of the B&B tree by pressing down with your foot. Make sure you aren’t adding too much soil and planting the tree deeper than it was originally growing. You also want to make sure the soil is level so the water remains over the root system and does not flow away from it.

If desired, but not necessary, you can create a 4-inch tall soil dam around the planting site, which will keep the water directly over the root system and not running off into the yard. To help the area’s soil retain its moisture and cut down on unwanted weed growth, add a 3-inch layer of organic mulch over the planting site. Just be sure to keep the mulch pulled several inches away from the B&B tree’s trunks. Water again, thoroughly soaking the root ball.

Planting in Heavy or Clay Soil

If your planting site’s soil is heavy like clay and has a tendency to retain too much water, you can create a mound to plant your B&B tree and lift the roots out of the wet conditions. The vast majority of trees don’t tolerate growing in soils that are constantly soggy. Pile the soil up about a foot, creating a mound, before planting the tree.

Staking Ball & Burlap Trees

If the root ball on your Ball & Burlap tree is relatively large, and the top portion or canopy isn’t too filled out and leafy, you do not have to stake your tree. However, if the planting site is windy, the root ball is small with a large, leafy canopy, or the soil has pulled away from the root ball when you planted it or removed the burlap, it might be beneficial to stake it for its first season of growth. After that, remove the stakes because the root system has established itself in the planting site and staking is no longer needed.

When staking your tree you will need two stakes that are around 5 feet tall, a hammer and tree staking straps or another soft material like canvas strapping. Do not use ropes or wire as it can damage the tree by cutting into the trunk.

Place the stakes on opposite sides of the tree and about 1.5 feet from the tree’s root ball. Hammer the stakes into the ground about 18 inches and tie the straps around the tree and then around the stake in a figure eight style. This allows the trunk some leeway as it moves with wind, which leads to a stronger structure and root system. You do not want to tie the rope tightly and directly around the trunk or damage can occur.

Follow-Up Care of Ball & Burlap Trees

While your Ball & Burlap tree is establishing itself into the new planting site it’s imperative you water regularly. Depending on your local weather conditions, give the tree a deep watering twice weekly for the first few months after planting. After that, you can reduce watering to once each week. However, if your conditions are hot and dry, you may have to water several times each week. Remove the stakes after the first season of growth and refresh the mulch each spring. Fertilize the following spring after planting using a fertilizer blend for trees, following package directions on amounts and frequency of use.

Giving your Ball & Burlap tree the care it requires by selecting an appropriate site, planting correctly and giving it the best follow-up care assures your tree will thrive in the landscape for years to come and be a healthy and problem-free addition.

Comments 2 comments

  1. February 22, 2020 by John Deignan

    When planting a b&b tree do you recommend root washing if root ball contains clay soil. Any suggestions on pulling soil back to locate tree hips before planting

  2. June 18, 2021 by Jean

    Great Planting information!!!!!