The following article was co-authored by myself and Arlene Taus Salomon, a Certified Arborist on Maui, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Arbor Day in Hawaii.  See a short bio for Arlene below.  It was first published in the November 9, 2005, edition of Ka Nupepa.  _Carol Kwan

How to Plant a Tree So It Lives a Hundred Years
By Carol Kwan and Arlene Taus Salomon

 Pick the Right Location
 A keiki tree can grow into a giant.  Pick the right tree for the right place.

Look Up – common obstructions include

  1. Utility lines, streetlights
  2. Buildings, especially eaves
  3. Other Trees

Look Down – common obstructions include 

  1. Underground utilities – sewer, water, electrical, etc.
  2. Structures – sidewalks, building foundations

 Look All Around – 

Avoid planting where the mature tree will conflict with 

  1. Buildings – allow space so branches don’t rub
  2. Roadways – consider vehicle/tree conflicts and sight lines
  3. Walkways – avoid slip and trip hazards from fruits and roots

 Buy a Quality Plant –
There is no substitute for a quality plant. Be selective when purchasing trees.

 Avoid purchasing trees with the following defects 

  1. Severe girdling or circling roots – make sure that the roots are not visibly circling the trunk. A tree that has been sitting in a pot too long generally has girdling roots.
  2. Many codominant stems – these are side branches that are the same size diameter as the leader stem or trunk
  3. Injured bark and presence of pests                

Plant the tree properly 

  1. Prepare a proper planting hole. Planting depth should never be deeper than the tree’s root ball. Loosen the soil at least twice as wide but do not dig any deeper than the tree’s root ball– firm on the bottom, loose on the sides
  2. Don’t bury the trunk! Keep buttress roots visible and flush with the soil level in planting area 
  3. Cut any circling roots
  4. Stake only if necessary for stability.  Brace in a manner that allows slight movement. Use broad ties and remove within a year.
  5. Water after planting and for the next several months.  Keep the soil moist, but not saturated.  Don’t drown the tree!
  6. Never fertilize at planting time. Give the tree a chance to acclimate. Do fertilize lightly after fresh new leaf growth matures. A soil sample is recommended for proper additions of elements based on a lab analysis

 For more information, visit, click on Tree Care Information, and then on New Tree Planting.  For selecting the right tree, visit the Honolulu Board of Water Supply website at and click on Conservation, Oahu Planting Guide for a listing of Hawaiian and Polynesian introduced plants suitable for your area if you live on Oahu.

This article was funded in part by Kaulunani, an Urban Forestry Program of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the USDA Forest Service.

Arlene Taus Salomon has her B.F.A. in Fine Arts and is an ISA Certified Arborist. She has taught tree biology workshops for VITEC at University of Hawaii Maui College and has a horticultural consulting business specializing in native plants, landscape design, and all aspects of tree care. She was the recipient of the 2004 Malama  i ka ‘Aina award presented by the Maui Invasive Species Committee and the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals for her work preserving and protecting Maui’s environment. She is also a mixed media artist and photographer.  She can be reached at (808) 875-1191.

 For information about Carol Kwan, please visit the About Us page.