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Stumped on Where to Plant Your New Tree

By Daniel Cunningham

We received a fantastic question from Mary this morning who is interested in planting new trees on her property and because NOW is a great time to plant container-grown or ball & burlaped trees, I thought I’d share!

“Hi, Daniel!

I attended one of your tree seminars & would like to plant a couple of trees in my yard. I previously had a sycamore in my back yard which I lost 3 years ago due to ice storm damage. I had it cut down and ground down. I’ve heard that I shouldn’t plant in the same place. Is there a length of time that I could wait and plant in the same place? If not how far apart do I need to plant the new tree? I’m wanting to plant a live oak. In the front yard I lost some type of maple several years ago which I also had ground down. I would like to plant a Red Bud. Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you, Mary”

Thanks for reaching out Mary! The adage that you shouldn’t plant a tree back in the same place is most critical if 1) your tree died from a fungal, bacterial, or viral disease AND 2) you are going to try replanting with the exact same or a closely related species. In that scenario, there would be potential for pathogens to be transmitted through the decomposing root system or root remnants of the previous tree.

In your case, planting a live oak and or redbud (both great species for our area and are part of our Rooted In “Top Trees for Texas” list. The aforementioned scenario shouldn’t be a concern. If the previous sycamore and maple had a substantial root flare, and even if the stumps were ground, it is a good idea to move the new tree a few feet (or more) away in order to allow for room to dig your new planting hole and avoid any potential issues with soil fertility and or drainage.

Generally, we don’t want to plant new trees directly over the top of existing stumps in yard-like settings because the new planting location might have limited soil exposure and inadequate rooting depth potentially affecting nutrient uptake / structural stability. On larger stumps, the wood chips and sawdust incorporated into the soil during stump grinding would have a high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio, potentially compromising nitrogen availability for the new tree- if it was planted directly within the cavity of the recently ground stump.

Because of our relatively warm soil temperatures here in North Texas and because it has been 3 years, there is a good chance that your ground stump has decomposed quite a bit. Still, moving your new tree over a few feet will allow you to more easily dig your new planting hole 2-3 times the diameter of is a container and avoid any potential issues. Good luck and happy planting!

Here are a couple of resources that might be helpful in planting your new trees, and now is a perfect time to get growing!

New Tree Planting Guide

Texas Plant Clinic (For more information on tree diseases)

or sign up for a FREE Rooted in class on Texas Trees!

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