Plant Seedlings Early for Best Survival and Maximum First-Year Growth
The planting season for loblolly pine bareroot seedlings runs from early December until March 1 (dormant season).The planting window for containerized seedlings can extend longer on either side of this window if the soil surface and moisture conditions are right. From the most recent data collected in this chart, ArborGen customers generally plant seedlings throughout this window, with most planting in January and February. You can see that 17 percent were planted even earlier in November and December; however, it is concerning that 18 percent have planted in March and April, which is later than the desirable planting time regarding seedling growth rate and first-year survival.
Phillip Wakely (US Forest Service author of Planting the Southern Pines, 1954) recommended: “Throughout most of the lower South, the optimum planting season extends from about December 1 to March 1.” (Figure 2). Other scientists have repeated these results many times over the years since this foundational research was published. So why does planting earlier improve survival and growth?
Planting bareroot seedlings early (December through February) provides better survival rates for most pine species, given the seedling has a head start to grow new roots and get established before the onset of new top growth in the spring. A bareroot pine seedling takes 4 to 6 weeks to grow new roots after transplanting if ideal soil moisture is present. Trees planted in December to mid-February have plenty of time to grow new roots before spring flush. Later planting may not provide seedlings the time they need to develop new roots before the shoots start growing and temperatures increase. No new roots mean poor water and nutrient uptake and can result in seedling dieback or mortality as the stresses of summer heat and dry periods arrive.
So to ensure good survival and the best possible first-year growth for your new seedlings, start planning now to get your seedlings planted adequately from December to February. Ensure your mechanical and chemical site prep is done well in advance to give beds time to settle and time for site prep chemicals to do their job. Call your tree planter or consultant and let them know you want to plant your seedlings early so they can get the crews lined up to be on your site as soon as possible.
Avoid planting in March if possible, but if you must, take extra care in seedling, refrigeration, and handling, and closely monitor planting operations.
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Success with Advanced Genetics Seedlings
Charles Purtle, an experienced Arkansas forest landowner, shares his success with planting advanced genetics seedlings. Watch the video below.
Planting Season is Almost Here - Be Prepared!
We always encourage everyone to plant as early as possible. Bareroot seedlings are lifted and packed while fully dormant and they should be planted as soon as your workforce and the weather allow to achieve optimal results.
Please ask for the ArborGen Seedling Care & Planting Guide when picking up your order from your nursery, or click the button below to download your copy today.
What’s Happening in the Field
It’s that time of year when we’re busy harvesting pine cones for next year’s crop of the very best Loblolly Pine available. Watch this video to see our team getting it done.
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