Don't Choose a Problem Tree
Don't Plant Too Close to a Building
Plant a tree with its mature size in mind. Many arborists suggest planting a tree no closer to a structure than one-half of its expected mature canopy spread. Tree roots and branches need space. Pruning a tree planted too close to a structure to keep it from damaging your roof, foundation or siding can damage or disfigure the tree. Also, some trees develop large surface roots that can crack or lift driveways, patios and sidewalks. If that's a concern, plant well away from these surfaces or choose a tree less likely to produce above-ground roots. Also, watch out for overhead power lines—most shade trees will grow at least to the height of residential power lines. Choose shorter, ornamental trees for these areas.
Check Your Soil Before Watering and Water Carefully
There's no magic formula for how much water to give your tree in its first year, so don't rely on a “rule of thumb” for watering. Too little water can kill a tree. But overwatering in clay soil can cause root rot, which can also kill a tree. You'll need to water your new tree until the root system is well established. The right amount of water depends on the weather conditions, your soil and the planting site. The most reliable method for knowing when to water is to stick a popsicle stick (or your finger) 2 to 3 in. into the ground. If the soil is damp down 3 in., you're giving it enough water. If not, water once or twice a day—whatever's needed to keep the soil damp but not saturated around the root-ball. Allow the soil's surface to begin to dry out between waterings.
For the first few weeks, you may have to water every few days depending on the weather. After that, longer (deeper), less frequent watering is much better than shorter (quicker), frequent watering. To help the tree create deep roots to resist drought and wind, encircle it with a soaker hose a few feet out from the trunk and run it on a trickle for an hour.