Frequently asked questions

Find the answers to all your right tree, right place questions

  • Why plant a tree?
    We plant trees for lots of reasons, to mark occasions, to have a picnic under, to make an enchanted forest, to hang a birdhouse from, to make books from, to grow your own free snacks, to climb and catch a view that would otherwise get missed. Trees support and sustain biodiversity, attracting animals, birds and mammals and they sustain us - without them life would be near impossible on planet earth; they soak up harmful carbon dioxide emissions by converting them into oxygen.
  • What type of tree should I plant?
    You may be able to get a suitable tree from your local council if it runs a tree giveaway scheme. If you buy a tree, please seek advice from whoever sells it to you. Ask for a native species, appropriate for the climate, soil and position you have in mind.
  • How do I plant a tree?
    There are step-by-step instructions How to plant a small tree on the Gardener's website.
  • Which tree is right for me?
    Read about the six species distributed by the HTA garden centres.
  • Can I plant the tree in my garden?
    Yes. BBC Tree O'Clock trees have been chosen with garden planting in mind. The Hawthorn, Hazel and Field Maple can be kept trimmed as bushes. The Rowan will not grow very tall. The Silver Birch will grow quite tall but is a narrow graceful tree with light leaf litter. Of all the trees, Cherry will grow the largest and should be planted well away from walls or boundaries where it may eventually cast shade on neighbouring property.
  • What public spaces can I use?
    You will need to speak to your local council to see if they have any public spaces available for tree planting.
  • How big should my tree be?
    For the record attempt we recommend that you go for transplants, whips or cell-grown trees. These are usually 30-150cm in height, easy to move and should grow quickly.
  • How much space will my tree need?
    Different types grow to different sizes - read the next question for guidance. When planting out on 5 December, leave at least 1 metre between your tree and any other plants.
  • My tree has green netting around the root plug. Do I need to remove it before planting?
    No. The net will eventually break down and until then your tree will happily grow through the net and be easier to find during the winter months. The net may also stop animals eating the stem. If you prefer to remove the net, do so - but please dispose of the net responsibly.
  • How should I prepare the ground?
    Breaking up the soil by turning it over with a fork or spade is a good idea. Make sure it's not frozen or waterlogged when you plant. You can prepare the ground before 5 December and cover it over until Tree O'Clock. Remember that for the world record, you can't use any powered machinery during the actual hour.
  • What are whips?
    Whips are unbranched young tree seedlings (about 2-3 years old) that have been specifically grown for planting.
  • What are cell grown trees?
    Cell grown trees are trees grown in small containers or trays. They are planted with completely intact, fibrous root system, which minimises stress, and ensures good survival.
  • Do I need to fertilise my tree?
    No. In fact it is often better not to. Fertiliser encourages weed growth.
  • What do I do after I have planted my tree?
    Once you have planted your tree, keep it weed free for the first year or so. Weeds will compete for valuable water and nutrients. Keeping your tree weed free will help it to establish.
  • Do I need to water my tree?
    No. Provided the root plug is damp and there is some moisture in the ground no additional water should be needed for autumn planting. If the root plug is dry for any reason before planting just soak it for an hour or so. This will help the roots grow out into the soil when you plant it.
  • What is mulching?
    Once the tree is in its hole with the soil back in, a layer of mulch on top can protect the tree from getting too cold, dried out or smothered in weeds. Gardeners use things like bark chips, cocoa shells or even old carpet.
  • Why doesn't my tree have any leaves?
    It is a native deciduous tree and naturally loses its leaves in autumn. If you are planting it in your garden it may help you identify where your tree is planted if you put a cane in next to it. It can be difficult to see when it has no leaves on.
  • Why are some of the leaves on my tree not green?
    Native deciduous trees lose their leaves in autumn. As part of this process the leaves naturally change colour.
  • Why is my Hawthorn tree cut back?
    Our nursery suppliers advise that it is best to cut back Hawthorn to encourage growth in spring. Normally this is done at the time of planting. To save you doing this, the nursery has already cut them back for you to an appropriate height. Plus there are fewer thorns for you to worry about.
  • Why does my Birch tree have white spots on the stem?
    The white spots are called lenticels and are one of the ways in which your Birch tree breathes. They are nothing to worry about.
  • Will my Hazel tree produce nuts that I can eat?
    Yes - but you will have to be patient.
  • Can I eat the cherries from my Cherry tree?
    No. They are wild cherries which provide great food for birds - but not so great for humans.
  • Is any part of my tree poisonous?
    The short answer is no - but berries of Rowan and Hawthorn and any cherries should not be eaten straight from the tree as they could cause stomach pains. If in any doubt - never eat anything you are not sure of.
  • I've never heard of Rowan - what sort of tree is it?
    Rowan is the Scottish name for Mountain Ash. It is a small multi-stemmed tree which in autumn is full of red berries - making it really attractive to birds.
  • Do I have to plant Field Maple in a field?
    No. It is often found planted individually as a small specimen tree or planted with other plants as a hedgerow.
  • What do I do if my tree dies?
    Obviously we do hope that your tree survives and thrives. However, as with any planting, there is a chance that local environmental conditions aren't suitable. Don't lose heart - plant another one in spring or next autumn. Try a different species or a different location.
  • How close can I plant my tree to a wall or building?
    The National House-Building Council recommends "a distance equal to three-quarters of the mature height of the tree. However high water demand trees including elm, eucalyptus, oak, poplar, willow and some common cypress species, should be planted no closer to the home than one and-a-quarter times the mature height. Be careful not to plant trees near your neighbour's home. They could cause damage and you could be liable for the cost of repair."
  • Where can I plant my tree?
    Your garden or allotment. If you do not own the land where you will be planting your tree you will need to ensure that you have permission from the landowner. You will also need to ensure that the type of tree you are planting is native to that habitat. It's easy to identify the local trees using our tree hunt sheet or you could use the Forestry Commission's tree name trail.
  • Do you want more information on tree planting and aftercare?
    check out these websites:

    BTCV - How to plant a hedgerow

    The Woodland Trust - British Trees

    The Woodland Trust - How to plant your wood

    The Tree Council - How to plant a tree

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