As soil goes, clay is dense and comprises tiny particles that combine tightly and keep water and air from flowing freely. It has good qualities and bad concerning the growth of your trees.
Some trees thrive in the dense, nutrient-rich, heaviness of clay, while others need a lot of help when planting.
For plants that like wet feet and appreciate the fact that clay is slow to warm up come spring, then it is almost perfect just as it is.
For plants that do not like wet feet, however, planting a tree in clay soil is very important. Each variety of tree you grow will require careful consideration for how it is planted.
Please read below for tips on planting a tree in clay soil to give it a chance of survival.
How to plant a tree in clay soil
If you are planting one type of tree or a variety in clay soil, amending it is a best practice. First, create a hole the same depth and twice as round as your plant’s root ball. Break up the clods of earth and incorporate organic materials like well-rotted tree bark, manure, leaf mold, and peat moss.
Amending the soil
The roots of a plant are its foundation. Provide them with a healthy start, and they will have a better chance of making it through next winter, then budding in the spring.
Digging up enough clay to plant your tree is a chore, and making the hole big enough to make a healthy mix for it to live in is work, no doubt.
The work you do now will give your plant a better chance of surviving in clay soil. Just like plants in a home garden, every tree has specific needs.
Some trees will thrive in clay soil with little help from you. In contrast, others will need to be tended until they can make it on their own.
What type of tree to plant in clay soil
Trees that do well in clay soil, with very little attention to their needs when planting, include cottonwood, crabapple, Hawthorne, silver maple, elm, and several others.
If you plant trees that like drier feet, you will need to amend your soil and provide proper drainage.
Even plants that do well in clay will benefit from adding organic material to the soil.
Every tree has specific nutritional requirements, and knowing these for the tree you plant will help you understand what to add to your soil.
Make sure to have your soil sampled before planting.
What soil trees need to thrive
For trees that do well in clay, you only need to dig a hole as deep as the root ball and half again as round, break up the soil a little, and set your tree. After that, water it and stake it if necessary.
You will need to add rich organic matter and facilitate drainage for trees that need this care when planting.
Every tree you consider will have different nutritional requirements, sun requirements, and drainage requirements.
Some growers add vermiculite to their organic growing mix of fruit trees to aid in root development.
Mixing this material with the organic material you add to the soil will make the soil loftier and aid in water transfer.
Where you plant your tree matters
Every plant prefers sunlight in varying amounts, and where you site your tree matters. A tree’s growth potential is as affected by sunlight as the ground in which it is planted.
No amount of soil preparation will make up for low sun or too much sun. Proper siting of your tree will help it grow strong and healthy.
Drainage is also a factor and for plants sited in low spots, dig a hole for your tree half as deep as the root ball.
Mix organic material with the dirt from the hole, set the plant slightly above ground level, cover it with your dirt mix, mulch, and water.
Staking Newly Planted Trees
When you search for answers regarding the need to stake trees, you will find several lines of thought on the subject.
Some gardeners swear by staking, and others say no, it is bad for the plant.
Short, young trees probably will not require you to stake them. If you are planting trees that are several years old, staking may be necessary until their roots are firmly attached to the ground.
How to Care for a Planted Tree
You will need to water your newly planted tree for the first several weeks after planting. Be careful not to underwater or overwater your tree by checking how damp the soil around it is.
If you put mulch around the base of your tree, water will evaporate more slowly, and you will not need to water as often.
Once the tree has been in the ground for a few weeks, you should cut back on your watering routine, but do not ignore your plant.
Drought, storms, and rain can all affect how you should care for your newly planted tree.
Frequently asked questions about how to plant a tree in clay soil
Do I need to amend the soil?
There’s no need to amend the soil. However, every plant will do better if you know the pH of your soil and its mineral composition. You can add to the soil what is necessary to grow a particular variety of trees.
What extra care does a newly planted tree require?
Trees still young and close to the ground will require nothing but daily watering until they are established. Older, taller trees may need to be staked until their root systems are strong enough for the tree to stand on its own.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.