Tree planting in January?

Asked January 8, 2018, 2:16 PM EST

Dear Experts, I am writing to get advice about tree planting. The county planted a tree in the right of way in front of our house last week--when temperatures were in the teens. A neighbor also received a tree the preceding week. I have always thought that its best to plant new shrubs/trees in late fall, before the ground freezes, in order that a plant will be able to establish roots before the heat of the summer. I am concerned that our new tree will die before the ground thaws. We haven't watered it yet, since the temperatures are still below freezing. What should we do? And, if you think this was not the right time to plant, would you please let the county know? Thank you!

Montgomery County Maryland normal growth trees tree planting in frozen soil tree planting in winter

3 Responses

Fall or early spring are the best times to plant trees. In the spring, it's good to plant dormant plants before they have broken dormancy. Assuming the new tree is dormant, it will remain dormant until spring. However, as soil temperatures often remain warmer than air temperatures in winter, the roots may become active and begin to establish during warm spells.

Watering it will be helpful if they did not water it when they planted it, though this was probably done. Assuming the soil in the planting hole is moist, it should stay moist the entire winter and not need watering because there is little evaporation from soil in winter due to the cool temperatures. Next spring and through the summer though, watering will be the critical factor in its survival. Then, you will have the most impact.

Our curiosity wonders: how did they plant into frozen soil?


Thank you so much for the reply! I wasn't home when they did the planting, but my neighbor was. She said they were hacking at the frozen soil with hatchets! Apparently, it took a long time, and was very loud. So, it sounds like this tree may not be doomed. Should I try watering it today, since the temps are higher? or is the ground still frozen?

We were hoping the hole was pre-dug.
There should not be big air pockets in the soil tucked in around the tree's roots. Hopefully the soil crumbled enough to be workable.

It's supposed to be warm for a couple of days. You'll have to check the soil at your location, as we can't say from here what the conditions there would be. You might want to wait a day or two, and water before the next cold spell arrives.