You can spend a lot of money on plants, but if you do not plant them properly they are likely to fail.

Have you heard the tree-planting saying, "plant a $10 tree in a $100 hole"? Probably not, unless you frequently discuss landscape topics with garden club members or green industry professionals. I’ve always liked this message, as it stresses the importance of the actual planting of the tree versus the tree itself. 

One misconception is that the planting hole needs to be filled in with compost or soil amendments at the time of planting.

It is recommended that you avoid adding amendments directly to the planting hole, as the roots may concentrate their growth in this area and may not grow as far out as they would if they were planted in native soil. When you amend only the planting hole you are in theory planting a tree in a pot of soil in the ground. Instead, spread the organic matter out over the entire planting bed and work it into the top six inches of native soil, then plant the tree after the compost has been worked in. Perhaps a more simple solution is to add no organic matter at all and plant directly into the native soil.

Another fallacy is that it's better to plant the root ball of a tree too deep than too far above the ground.

Planting too deep can trap moisture around the bark, which leads to rot of growing tissues and can ultimately result in the death of the tree. As a result, the University of Florida recommends planting containerized trees with 10 percent of the root ball above the soil line. You can even let the root flare (the top-most root coming off the main trunk) be your guide for planting at the proper height. For a visual, picture your neck as the trunk and the slope of your neck coming into your shoulder as the root flare. You want the shoulder area of the trunk to be at or just above ground level. 

Another common mistake with tree planting is to dig the hole deep and narrow.

The bottom of the planting hole should be at the same height of the root ball or a little less when the tree is placed in the hole. The planting hole should be shallow, wide and two to three times the diameter of the root ball.

Once your tree is planted, place mulch over the entire bed except the root ball of the tree. To find out more about planting and pruning landscape trees, attend the Saturday in the Garden class from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Extension office. There is a $5 registration fee for the class. Discovery Gardens will also be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no entrance fee.

For other gardening questions, visit our Master Gardener Plant Clinic. For landscape and garden ideas, visit Discovery Gardens. Both are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Extension Services Office, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares.

Brooke Moffis is the Residential Horticulture Agent of the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension office. Email burnb48@ufl.edu.