What do plants mean?

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Plant Any Tree Step by Step (Burlap Wrapped, Potted and Seedlings)

You’re ready. You asked yourself all the right questions about what tree is best for you. You ventured out and hand-selected the perfect tree and found just the right place to plant it.

Now, you just need to know how to plant a tree. Let’s do this! Whether you’re planting a balled and burlap tree, a container-grown tree or a tree sapling, find step-by-step planting instructions below.

How to Plant a Potted Tree, Tree Seedling or Tree Wrapped in Burlap (Steps)

Before you begin, read these tree planting tips.

  • Plant your new tree as soon as you can to set your tree up for its best chance of survival. Otherwise, place it in a cool, dark place that’s away from wind and direct sunlight, and keep the soil damp.

  • Before you begin digging, contact your utility or gas company to make sure there are no pipes or wires there. In many states, this is required by law.

  • Pay extra-close attention when positioning the tree depth around the root flare. Planting the root flare too deep is the biggest tree planting mistake! Sometimes, you may have to partially remove the soil from the top of the container or root ball to even find the flare.

How long does it take to plant a tree?

Generally, a sapling can be planted in 15 to 30 minutes while container-grown or burlap trees take an hour to plant.

How do you plant a tree wrapped in burlap?

  1. To move your tree, roll it or hold it by the root ball– never the trunk or branches.

  2. Dig a saucer-shaped hole as deep as the root ball and at least twice as wide.

  3. Position your tree, so the area where the roots meet the trunk is at or slightly above the ground. That’s called the root flare. The biggest mistake we see is people planting new trees too deep. Also, make sure the ground beneath the root ball is solid beneath the root ball so that the tree doesn’t settle lower because of its own weight.

  4. Cut the twine and remove the burlap around the base of the trunk and the top of the root ball. It’s hard to tell the difference between synthetic and organic, and sometimes even organic burlap doesn’t decompose properly.

  5. Then, if there’s a wire cage, remove at least the upper third of it.

  6. Hold the tree upright and refill the hole with the soil you just removed. If the soil is lumpy, break it up a little before placing back in the hole. Then, pack it down to get rid of any air pockets. Add water as you backfill.

  7. Add 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch to the edge of the tree’s canopy. Then, water again.

  8. If your tree has a small root ball and seems to be top-heavy, stake it to provide enough support. Remove it after a year.

How to Plant a Potted Tree and Tips for Planting Trees in Pots in the Ground

  1. An hour before you plant, water the tree to reduce transplant shock and make it easier to remove from the container.

  2. When moving the tree, grab and hold by the container–never the trunk or branches.

  3. Dig a saucer-shaped hole as deep as the container and 2 to 3 times as wide.

  4. To remove the tree from its planter, place it on its side. Because you just watered it, the tree should easily slide out when you tap the bottom of the container. If needed, tilt. Just be sure to support the trunk!

  5. Cut off any roots that are squishy or dead. If the roots look tangled, make several vertical cuts in the sides of the root ball and an X-shape cut in the bottom to loosen the roots. Straighten any roots that are circling the margins of the container as best you can. If the roots are much larger than when you first measured, see if you need to make the planting hole bigger.

  6. Position your tree, so the area where the roots meet the trunk is at or slightly above the ground. That’s called the root flare.

  7. Hold the tree upright, and refill the hole with the soil you just removed. Pack the soil to get rid of any air pockets.

  8. Add 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch, and water.

How to Plant Tree Seedlings Outside (Process of Planting a Sapling)

  1. Handle the sapling very carefully. It’s very easy to cause root damage or accidentally break the sapling.

  2. Dig a saucer-shaped hole as deep as the tree’s roots system and 3 to 4 times as wide.

  3. Remove any organic matter, like leaves or twigs, from the hole.

  4. Position your tree, so the area where the roots meet the trunk is at or slightly above the ground. That’s called the root flare.

  5. Hold the sapling upright, and refill the hole with the soil you just removed. Pack to get rid of any air pockets.

  6. Add 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch, and water.

Watering newly planted trees and shrubs

Mulching trees and shrubs maximizes water uptake

When trees and shrubs are planted into turf, competition for nutrients, water, and space occurs below ground between turf roots and woody plant roots. Turf wins because its dense fibrous root system prevents woody plants from producing water- and nutrient-absorbing roots in the top few inches of soil. As a result, woody plant establishment and growth is slower in turf areas than in mulched or bare soil areas.

To optimize root production, water uptake, and establishment of newly planted trees and shrubs:

  1. Eliminate turf and weeds from the base of the plant out to several feet beyond the plant canopy.
  2. Leave the top of the root ball bare and start the mulch application at the outer edge of the root ball.
  3. Apply a 3-inch layer of organic mulch around newly planted trees and shrubs in a circle that extends several feet beyond the tree or shrub canopy.

Mulching around newly planted trees and shrubs with organic materials (wood chips, pine needles, etc.) has several advantages over bare soil cultivation.

Mulch:

  • Decreases water evaporation from soil.
  • Serves as a sponge that prevents runoff around plants growing in heavy clay soils or on sloped sites.
  • Helps to control seed germination and growth of weeds.
  • Insulates soil and buffers extreme summer and winter soil temperatures.
  • Reduces soil compaction from mowing equipment.
  • Prevents damage to stems and trunks by lawn mowers and weed cutters.
  • Improves soil health (increases microbial activity, nutrient- and water-holding capacity, soil pore spaces, and air penetration) as it decomposes.

Don’t add more than a 3-inch layer of mulch because deep mulch applications may:

  • Prevent movement of rain or irrigation water into the root ball of newly planted trees and shrubs. This can result in roots drying up and plant stress.
  • Lead to root production and growth in the mulch. This often results in circling and stem-girdling roots.
  • Reduce oxygen levels around roots and cause root suffocation.
  • Keep poorly drained soils too wet, which favors root rot development.
  • Keep bark excessively wet when piled around trunks and stems. This may lead to bark decay.
  • Create habitat for rodents that chew bark and girdle trunks and stems.

Planting and transplanting trees and shrubs

Plant a tree and watch it thrive for years to come!

Trees can be obtained from the nursery in many forms—bare root, container-grown, balled and burlapped, or dug by tree spade. Transplanting can be successful with all forms. Always put extra effort into the planting process to ensure a good start for your tree. The faster the root system is re-established, the better the chances for survival, and the more rapidly it will grow.

The Planting Site

Planting too deep is one of the most commonly encountered problems of landscape trees. It is not uncommon for trees to come from the nursery with the roots already too deep in the root ball. If the existing soil from the planting hole has a high clay content and is not friable (crumbly), it could be amended with up to 10-15 percent composted organic matter (leave mold or compost) before backfilling the hole.

Drainage

In poorly drained, compacted soils, typical of modern housing developments, improved drainage may be needed. The planting hole can hold water like a bucket. More urban trees die from too much water than from not enough water. To test the drainage of your planting hole, pour a few gallons of water in the hole before planting the tree. If it hasn’t soaked in after an hour, you have a drainage problem. If the hole is near a slope, you may be able to run a small, underground drain pipe from the bottom of the planting hole to lower down on the slope.

Planting Procedure

The planting hole should be wider than the roots or root ball, two to three times wider is recommended.

The planting hole should only be as deep as the root ball. Don’t dig the hole any deeper than the depth of the roots or root ball because the tree needs support from underneath to stabilize it. Make sure the root collar, or area of the trunk that flares out near the soil line, is visible. The uppermost lateral roots should be just below the soil surface.

The sides of the hole should slope up gradually, making it saucer- or bowl-shaped.

Container or bare-root plants

Remove plant from container or packaging material and inspect the root system for dead or injured roots. Remove damaged roots and cut back spiraling roots to encourage proper development. Shaving a thin layer of roots from the root ball is the best way to eliminate roots circling along the container wall.

Center the plant in the planting hole. Keep it straight with the branches pointing in the direction you want them to grow.

Backfill the planting hole with soil, gently filling around the roots to eliminate air pockets.

With the extra remaining soil, create a saucer or water basin around the outer edge of the soil ball. This will keep water in the root zone and prevent run off. The basin should be removed before winter.

Balled-and-burlapped plants

Once the plant is in the hole, remove all twine and cut as much burlap as possible. If the plant is in a wire basket, remove as much wire as possible. Low-profile baskets are designed so no wire needs to be removed.

Work the prepared soil firmly around the soil ball, but do not compact.

Fertilization

Fertilization at the time of planting is not recommended. Until a root system is large enough to absorb more water research has shown that fertilization is ineffective until the tree has had time to partially re-establish its root system.

Season to Transplant

Spring is the best season for transplanting. The longer growing season allows roots to re-establish before winter. Fall also is considered a good time to plant, but allow 6 weeks before the ground freezes for plants to establish new roots. Some species do not transplant well in the fall (e.g., birch, magnolia, poplar, redbud). Summer planting is possible if a judicious watering program is followed, particularly if the plants were dug from the nursery in spring or grown in containers.

Mulching

Properly applied mulch can increase tree growth in the first few years after planting. Apply an even layer of mulch, 3-4 inches deep, with a diameter at least four times the diameter of the root ball, should be placed around every newly planted tree to conserve soil moisture and help moderate soil temperatures. Do not mound the mulch or let it rest against trunk of tree.

Staking

When stability is a problem, such as windy sites or sandy soils, trunks of trees should be staked for 1-3 years until new lateral roots stabilize the tree. Avoid staking too rigidly. Guy wires or staking materials should be checked monthly during the growing season to prevent damage to the bark. Failure to loosen or remove staking wires has girdled many trees.

Trunk Wraps

Young trees and trees with thin bark (e.g. maple) can be damaged by very cold weather. Stems can be protected by wrapping trunks in late fall, from the bottom up so that the wrap overlaps like shingles. There are numerous tree wraps and loose tree collar wraps available commercially. Remove the wrap each spring. Trunk wrapping is not essential on all trees. It is most beneficial on young trees with thin bark.

Pruning

It is very important to ensure the best possible branch structure while trees are young. At the time of planting, remove all rubbing branches, dead, or broken branches. Side branches of trees with a central leader should be evenly spaced up and down the trunk. Do not allow more than one leader in shade trees or conifers.

Watering

Proper watering is the single most important aspect of maintenance of transplanted trees. Too much or too little water can cause damage. In the first few months after planting a tree, most of its moisture comes from the root ball. The root ball can dry out in only a day or two, even if surrounding soil remains moist. The only way to know is to probe the soil in the root ball and check its moisture. Even after trees are well established, they should be watered generously during periods of low rainfall (e.g. every 7 to 10 days). Tree water bags have permeable bottoms, which allows the water to drip into the soil of the rootball, where it is needed most. They have the advantage of delivering a specific amount of water. They need to be filled regularly (every 5 to 7 days on average) to be effective. Remove at end of season when not needed.

Transplant Stress

Research has shown that a tree can lose 80 to 95% of its root system as a result of transplanting. This causes a great deal of stress. After transplanting, the tree may form fewer and smaller leaves and grow very little. How long the stress period lasts depends on the size of the tree, its site, and the care it is given. A small tree (2-3 inch diameter), planted on a good site and given adequate water, should return to vigorous growth in 2-3 years. A poor site or inadequate care will lengthen this period. Large trees take longer to recover from transplanting than small trees; approximately 1 year of recovery is needed for each inch of diameter. As long as branches are not dying and growth improves each year, the tree is doing well.

Plants, flowers and other foliage symbolize emotions, ideas and actions. Each plant has its own meaning and surrounding yourself with plants that symbolize things you want or value can create a positive environment. Knowing plant symbolism can help you pick decor and gifts that are more meaningful and personalized. Symbolism is also important when picking out plants for one of life’s biggest moments like a wedding or other ceremony.

Another thing to keep in mind when selecting a plant or floral gift is that different colors have their own meanings as well. To give you a better idea of what each plant means, we’ve included the history of plant symbolism, the symbolism of the most popular plants and printable plant symbolism wall art for you to gift or keep for yourself.

  • Plant Symbolism History
  • Plants + Their Meanings
  • Symbolism Infographic
  • Printable Plant Lover Wall Art

Plant Symbolism History

There is evidence of plant symbolism in literature, art and folklore as early as the Ancient Greeks and likely other comparable civilizations. Plant and flower symbolism has appeared throughout history in religious texts like the Bible, in art and literature during the Middle Ages and Renaissance (including Shakespearean plays), all the way into modern day culture.

Plant and flower meanings became a popular subject to study after Joseph Hammer-Purgstall’s Dictionnaire du language des fleurs was published in 1809. Translated to “dictionary of the language of flowers,” this publication formalized the study of plant symbolism.

Plant Meanings + Symbolism

With so many different plants to choose from, we put together this ultimate guide of plants and their meanings. Skip to your favorite plant or peruse the whole guide to find new favorites and add to your garden wish list!

Air Plant (Tillandsia)

  • Freedom and creativity
  • Great for: People who like change or live in small spaces

Air plants thrive in temperatures between 50 and 90º F, and indirect sunlight but make sure to keep them away from any cold or hot drafts that could dry them out. To water an air plant soak them in water for 10–15 minutes every 1–2 weeks.

Bonsai (Juniperus procumbens)

  • Harmony, wisdom and calm
  • Great for: Someone who needs more balance in their life

Bonsai trees love plenty of direct sunlight, 50–70ºF and being watered once a week. They also need misting on their leaves so their pores don’t get clogged. Bonsai tree care entails pruning which will become easier with practice.

Cactus (Cactaceae)

  • Protection and endurance
  • Great for: Someone who is very determined or going through a tough time

Cacti thrive when they are watered about once a week, although they can survive with less. Most cacti love bright light but make sure you look into the needs of your cactus as different species have different care requirements.

Ficus (Ficus microcarpa)

  • Abundance and peace
  • Great for: Someone who is a leader to symbolize unity and success

Ficus plants need indirect sunlight and to be kept in temperatures above 60º F. Ficus plants should be watered weekly, but back off of watering during the winter.

Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

  • Perseverance and longing
  • Great for: Someone who continually follows their dreams—try a hanging arrangement to symbolize reaching new heights

Pothos plants care includes keeping them in medium indoor light and in a temperature range of 55–90º F. Allow their soil to dry in between waterings in the cooler months and keep the soil moist in warmer parts of the year.

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena braunii)

  • Good fortune and longevity
  • Great for: Someone who is entering a new chapter in their life

Make sure the roots of your bamboo are always covered with water, try filling the vase every 7–10 days. Bamboo prefers moderate to indirect sunlight and temperatures of 65-95°F.

Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)

  • Wealth and good fortune
  • Great for: Someone who is career-driven or starting a new business

Money Trees do best in temperatures of 65–75º F, but can survive in temperatures 10º+ F higher and lower than their optimal range. They like some direct and indirect sunlight and moist soil in the hotter months, but allow its soil to dry in between watering when it’s cold.

Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)

  • Honor, respect and longevity
  • Great for: Someone who values their background and family history

Monstera plant care involves watering the plant when the first couple of inches of their soil is dry. Keep them in indirect sunlight and in temperatures 68–86º F.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

  • Peace and sympathy
  • Great for: Someone who went through a recent loss or needs a reminder of peace in their life

Peace lilies do best in evenly moist soil. They prefer bright light and are most comfortable in temperatures above 55º F.

Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

  • Love of nature and growth
  • Great for: Someone who cares about the environment or experiencing personal growth

Philodendrons can survive in the temperature range of 55–90º F and do best in indirect light. They should be watered when their soil is half dry.

Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

  • Devotion and focus
  • Great for: Someone who loves to stay organized and on schedule like the changing leaves of a prayer plant

Grow prayer plants in a temperature range of 55–85º F and in medium to filtered bright light, although they can also survive in low light. Use warm water to keep their soil moist but not soggy and overwatered.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

  • Cleanliness and tenacity
  • Great for: Someone who is creative or as a housewarming gift because it naturally purifies the air

Snake plant care includes keeping them in indirect light and temperatures above 50º F. You should let their soil dry in between watering and avoid getting the leaves wet.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

  • Mindfulness and health
  • Great for: Someone moving away from home for the first time

Spider plants love bright indirect light and temperatures of 55–80º F. Water your spider plant well but be careful not to overwater. Their small size makes them a great apartment plant.

Succulent (Sedum morganianum)

  • Loyalty and endurance
  • Great for: Someone who’s trustworthy and always there for you

Succulents are fairly low-maintenance plants, a good rule of thumb for watering is to water them once a week and make sure the soil is wet but not soaked. Most succulents need at least six hours of sunlight and prefer temperatures no colder than 50º F.

Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

  • Strength and courage
  • Great for: Someone who’s adventurous or eccentric

Venus flytraps require direct sunlight, so try placing them near a sunny window. They prefer warmer climates but can survive in temperatures ranging from 32–86º F. They prefer soil that is wet but not soggy so water them as they lose moisture depending on the season.

Additional Plant Meanings + Symbolism

Didn’t see your favorite plant above? Check out these additional plants, the list includes flower and herb meanings as well.

Aloe (Aloe vera)

  • Healing and protection
  • Great for: People interested in holistic health

Aloe does best in bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures of 55–80º F. They should be watered every three weeks and even less during cold months.

Azalea (Rhododendron)

  • Femininity, strength and beauty
  • Great for: Reminding someone of their inner and outer beauty

Azaleas will thrive best in indirect sunlight and cannot be kept in temperatures below 40º F. Proper azalea care includes keeping soil evenly moist but be careful to not overwater them.

Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)

  • Love and femininity
  • Great for: An anniversary or Valentine’s Day bouquet to show your affection

Carnations love being watered 1–2 times weekly depending on the soil, it should be kept moist but not wet. Some other carnation care tips include keeping them in bright indirect light.

Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

  • Innocence and purity
  • Great for: New and expecting mothers to symbolize their bundle of joy

Daisies do best when they are watered any time the top inch of their soil is dry. To keep daisies alive longer, keep them away from extreme heat, they prefer cooler temperatures below 70ºF.

Fern (Adiantum pedatum)

  • Health, luck and protection
  • Great for: Someone moving to a new city or in a transition period of their life

You should water ferns regularly, making sure they are evenly moist. Ferns prefer shade or partial light and a temperature of 65–75ºF.

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

  • Trust, clarity and purity
  • Great for: A family member or long-time friend as a fragrant reminder of your solid relationship

Keep gardenia plants’ soil moist but well-drained. Gardenias require bright and indirect light and can tolerate temperatures no lower than 62º F.

Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)

  • Eternal love and persistence
  • Great for: Someone to remind them of their endurance and love

Kalanchoe loves light but make sure it gets no more than two hours of direct sunlight and that they are kept in temperatures above 60º F. They should be watered every two weeks in warmer months, but test the soil to make sure it’s moist and not wet.

Lavender (Lavandula)

  • Relaxation and comfort
  • Great for: Someone who needs to destress or loves a trip to the spa

Lavender prefers full sunlight and comfortably warm temperatures. Water new lavender once or twice a week and reduce watering as they grow.

Orchid (Orchidaceae)

  • Admiration and love
  • Great for: A mentor or someone that has inspired you—they also add a delicate vibrancy to home decor

Orchids can survive in temperatures of 60–100º F during their growing season and 55–70º F during their off-season. There are different care requirements for orchids depending on their species.

Peony (Paeonia)

  • Compassion and good relationships
  • Great for: Someone in a new or evolving relationship or someone starting a family

Peonies need about six hours of moderate sunlight to thrive. They should be watered once to twice a week, depending on the moistness of the soil.

Rose (Rosa)

  • Romance and love
  • Great for: Someone that you love — different colored roses stand for different types of love

Roses need bright light for at least six hours per day and prefer temperatures no lower than 55º F. Rose care includes watering them when an inch of their soil is dry.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

  • Remembrance, love and fidelity
  • Great for: Those who love to cook or maintain their own herb garden

This medicinal herb loves a lot of light and to be watered about twice a week. Rosemary can’t tolerate temperatures lower than 30º F but is a great fit for an indoor herb garden.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

  • Health, purity and wisdom
  • Great for: Spiritual people who enjoy smudging their house to eradicate negative energy

Sage does best in medium to bright light and does not do well in temperatures lower than 25º F. Let a sage plant’s soil dry in between watering. Sage is fairly cold and drought-resistant, making it an easy herb plan to take care of.

Sunflower (Helianthus)

  • Happiness, adoration and loyalty
  • Great for: The warm and fuzzy type of friend who brings joy to everyone’s day

Sunflowers need full sunlight, prefer a temperature range of 70–78º F and their watering needs vary based on their phase in the growing cycle. Sunflowers are best kept as outdoor plants because they can grow to be 9–12 feet tall, but they can bring color and cheer indoors in the form of a bouquet.

Tulip (Tulipa)

  • Unconditional love and cheer
  • Great for: Springtime home decor and for mothers to show your appreciation

Tulips should be watered about once or twice weekly and placed somewhere that receives sun and shade throughout the day. Tulips like to be potted in cold soil but prefer moderate air temperatures.

Winter Cactus (Schlumbergera)

  • Vibrancy and celebration
  • Great for: A holiday, birthday, host gift and those who love color in their homes

Christmas cactus plants love lots of indirect sunlight but need a dark period for six weeks leading up to winter with 12 hours of darkness per day. They should be watered thoroughly and allowed to dry in between watering.

Printable Plant Lover Wall Art

We featured popular plants on cute, ready-to-print cards. These free wall art prints include the plant symbolism and a related quote — they are perfect for a plant lover or to accompany a plant as a gift.

Whether you’re looking for a plant for a beginner or an experienced gardener, knowing the meaning behind the plant adds more depth to your decor, garden or gift choice. Certain plants are also great for different styles and purposes like feng shui and other office and home decor designs. Want to learn more about any other plants’ symbolism? Let us know in the comments below!

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