Where to plant
The trick to successful planting is good planning.
Credit: Jill Jennings / WTML
Planting a single tree
- Think about where you’re planting in relation to your house, your neighbours, and any other buildings.
- Consider the ultimate size that the tree will grow to. Will it still fit the space you have in mind?
- Some roots and branches may spread beyond the boundaries of your property and trees can cause structural damage. Be aware of places where limbs may fall or roots might grow.
- We don't recommend growing trees in pots as they quickly outgrow them and will suffer stress if moved when they're bigger. If you have limited space, read our blog for advice on the best British trees for gardens.
- A tree may be small when you plant it, but think about how big it will grow over the years. Trees can cause structural damage so it’s vital to consider anything the roots might disturb or where limbs could fall. The canopy may eventually spread beyond the boundaries of your property, and roots could stretch even further, so be aware of building foundations and underground services like water pipes and broadband cables. Check our guide to 31 native trees to see how big different species can grow. For more advice and information, contact the Arboricultural Association.
What can I do with surplus saplings?
Unfortunately, we can't take donations of trees due to the risk of spreading pests and diseases. We're also unable to accept offers to plant trees in our woods, as individual woods are managed on a site-by-site basis to maintain the delicate balance of each ecosystem. If you have young trees and nowhere suitable to plant, ask local community groups like parish councils, gardening clubs, guides, scouts or schools if they could use them. You could also check the Tree Council website for planting events or projects in your area.
Larger planting projects
Make sure you are clear on your reasons for planting and how you will maintain the woodland longer term. This will impact your tree planting plans.
You will also need to consider the following carefully:
Do you own the land you want to plant on?
You will need permission to plant from the legal landowner.
Is your land suitable?
There are some places you mustn’t plant trees, such as:
- archaeological sites – speak to your county archaeologist if you’re unsure
- sites with rare or protected species
- grassland that has never been ploughed
Buildings and services
Be aware of any under or above ground services and design your planting accordingly. Growing trees can interfere with electricity cables, building structures or underground pipes so leave plenty of space.
It’s important to think about the final size and spread of the trees and how you will use the site as the trees grow. Avoid planting under existing trees, as shade and lack of water will seriously restrict growth. Allow plenty of distance from existing hedges as they could swamp the growth of new trees, and you’ll need access to the hedge for future maintenance.
Some species like poplar, alder and willow grow well in damp areas but no trees like permanently wet ground. If you are considering planting near a main river you will need to talk to the Environment Agency or equivalent, as tree planting may not be allowed.
Spacing will depend on what you want from your trees. We recommend you plant in wavy lines and vary the spacing across your site. This will enable you to balance more densely planted sections with open areas for a natural look and feel. Plant small groups of the same species together – this will help reduce competition between different species as they grow.
We recommend planting about two metres apart, but you can plant 1-5m apart depending on your space and plan. If you’re planting a single hedge, place trees 30cm apart. For a thick hedge, plant a double row of trees in a zig zag pattern. Space your rows 50cm apart, with 40-45cm between each tree.
Regulations differ across the UK so it’s best to check with the Forestry Commission or equivalent if you aren’t sure.
In England, planning permission isn’t needed if your project is under 2ha and in a low risk area. Check your area using the Forestry Commission land information search. If you are in a low risk area but over 2ha, or if you are in a sensitive area, you will need to contact the Forestry Commission about completing an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Fencing and stock
If livestock are near your planting areas, fencing is essential to prevent tree damage.
Leaving some open spaces in your woodland will encourage different habitats and enhance biodiversity value. A glade is an ideal place for wildflowers, while planting shrubs around the edge will benefit species such as butterflies, bats and birds.
Footpaths and access
Including a footpath in your new woodland will allow you to easily enjoy the trees as they grow. They may need to be maintained by mowing, so consider any access needed now and in the future.
The local community
Your new woodland will impact the local landscape too, so consider how it may affect other people. You may want to talk to neighbours about your planting design to avoid future conflicts, or consider holding a planting event for the community. Avoid planting in areas where ball games will be played or where activity could hamper the growth of your saplings.
Which species to plant
Different trees have different purposes and needs. Choose your species according to the land you have and what you want from your trees.
How to plant a tree
Follow our guide to three of the most successful ways to plant.
How to care for your trees
Once your trees are in the ground it’s important to care for them to help them thrive, particularly in the first few years.