Why Is My Tree Not Growing?

A very popular saying is, “In the first year, a tree sleeps, in the second, it creeps, and in the third, it leaps”. Meaning, no growth, slow growth, and then fast growth. So if you planted your tree less than three years ago, there’s no need to worry just yet.

Your tree might not be growing because its roots have coiled up in a container. Another common cause of slow tree growth is dehydration. If you’ve planted the tree with the root flare below the ground, it won’t grow properly. Certain trees suffer from growth stunts if they don’t get enough sun.

The root formation of a tree directly affects the growth of the trunk and branches. Trees grow fast in soil that’s soft enough for the roots to grow through. The roots of a tree also need a certain amount of oxygen for survival. The soil needs to be nutrient-rich enough for the roots to feed off. It’s also possible to plant a tree too deep or shallow.

Today, we look at how to stimulate tree growth from root to crown.

How Deep To Plant A Tree

The proper depth for a newly planted tree is when the root flare is at the same level as the ground. The root flare is at the bottom of the tree where the trunk and roots meet, the roots “flare” outward. Don’t cover the top of the root flare with soil.

Dig a hole two or three times the size of the root ball you’re planting. This way when you fill it with soil, it will be loose enough for the roots to move easily. If the root ball is covered with plastic or wire basket, remove it after putting the tree into the hole.

Best Soil Type For Tree Growth

The best type of soil to grow your tree in is loamy soil. It’s a mixture of all three soil types, sand, clay, and silt. This creates the perfect combination for the soil to hold enough water to feed the roots, but still, enough drainage to make sure the roots don’t suffocate or rot.

If the ground you’re planting in is sandy and lacking in nutrients, mix it with a suitable compost while you’re filling the hole. The extra soil that you’ll have above the ground can raise the ground around the tree.

This will help rainwater to flow to the roots. Slightly raise the ground three to six feet away from the tree trunk. The diameter of the raised circle should be twice the diameter of the root ball. Circling bricks around the tree in this way has a similar effect.

Add 1 to 2 inches of mulch around the tree while avoiding the base of the tree where the flare is situated. Stay around 1 or 2 feet away from the tree flare. The mulch will feed the roots and keep them cool during hot weather.

How Much Should You Water A New Tree?

A newly planted tree needs to be watered at least 3 to 4 times per week. The watering should be enough to reach the roots all the way to the bottom every time to avoid roots moving upward to drink.

After a month of watering 3 to 4 times per week, you can start watering once or twice per week for up to 12 months before you really see any significant tree growth.

How Do You Stimulate Tree Growth?

You can stimulate tree growth by planting the roots at the right depth and keeping them fed and watered. Tree growth primarily depends on the growth of the roots, but we’ll advise each part of the tree individually.

How To Promote Root Growth

The most important aspect of tree growth is the growth of its roots. If the roots can’t spread out to support and feed the rest of the tree, it simply won’t grow any bigger. So we advise digging a hole that’s two to three times bigger than the root ball.

Tree roots spread outward to the sides more than they do deep into the ground. In most cases, the roots are 3 times wider than the tree canopy. Plant in a large area for the roots to spread as they need to.

Feed the tree with slow-release organic fertilizers high in phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen for the first two years. Feed the soil with bone meal and rock phosphate to increase phosphorus intake. Wood ashes are a significant source of potassium, also beneficial for tree growth.

Don’t over-water a young tree or you’ll deprive the roots of oxygen.

Water and compost in a large area underneath the tree so that you feed and water all the roots and not just the ones close to the trunk.

How To Promote Tree Trunk Growth

The best way to grow trees with big trunks is to make sure the tree roots are properly watered and fed.

You can also leave the branches at the bottom of the tree to grow out for the first three years before cutting them off. The energy from the sun will move through the leaves and branches to the trunk to grow bigger.

The more hours of sunlight your tree gets, the bigger it will grow, including the trunk. Plant the tree in a large open area fully exposed to sunlight. Don’t plant a tree too close to the walls because the side on the wall will not get enough sun.

How To Promote Branch Growth

To promote tree branch growth, you can remove excess branches that are getting in the way of the other stronger ones. This should be done with caution and not too much in the first two years.

First-year – After 12 months have passed, you can try to identify tiny branches that are coming out from the trunk and cut them off using some compound pruning shears. Don’t remove more than 5 to 10% of the branches, only the tiny ones coming out close to the bigger ones.

Second year – After the second year is complete, cut off the smaller branches on the trunk again, this time around 10 to 15% of all the branches, but still, only the smaller ones.

Third year – Once the tree is 24 to 36 months old, you can do some aggressive pruning of the branches that look weak, or that are getting in the way of others.

Remove lateral branches that are more than half the size of the tree trunk so that they don’t break off and kill the entire tree.

Try to balance out the weight of the branches all around the tree, don’t cut too much off one side. Remove any branches that rub against each other. Remove smaller branches first.

How To Promote Leaf Growth

You can promote leaf growth by feeding the roots with the above-mentioned nitrogen and phosphorus. It helps the roots and everything else grow faster, including the leaves. Leaf growth will also be strong if the tree is in the sun all day.

What Are The Signs Of A Tree Dying?

Some signs that your tree is dying are:

  • If the trunk and branches seem dry and cracked.
  • The Leaves will fall off in Spring and Summer.
  • If there are more dying leaves than healthy ones.
  • Dead branches often mean the rest will follow.
  • If some branches have leaves but others are leafless and dry.
  • numerous bugs are consuming it.

Does Pruning A Tree Stimulate Growth?

Pruning does stimulate tree growth because it involves moving weaker branches out of the way for bigger branches to thrive. Pruning also includes removing leaves and branches that look sick with disease, like fungal infections for those shady area trees. Removing the moldy leaves and branches will help eliminate the problem.

Pruning helps to let more sun into the remaining branches. The more sun the tree gets, the less susceptible to disease it will be, and the bigger it will grow.

Pruning helps provide space for branches to grow comfortably. It also helps to keep the tree balanced in all directions. A well-pruned tree is also less likely to blow over during strong winds because the wind can flow through it.


If you’re wondering why your tree isn’t growing, remember the saying “In the first year, a tree sleeps, in the second, it creeps, and in the third, it leaps.” If your tree was planted less than three years ago, there’s no need to worry just yet.

Several factors can hinder tree growth, such as root coiling in containers and dehydration. Ensure the root flare is at ground level during planting and provide adequate watering, reaching the deep roots.

The right planting depth, suitable soil composition (preferably loamy soil), and proper watering frequency are crucial for optimal tree growth.

To promote root growth, dig a hole larger than the root ball, and use slow-release organic fertilizers. Encourage trunk growth by leaving lower branches intact for the first three years and ensuring adequate sunlight exposure. For branch growth, selectively prune weaker branches and remove rubbing branches.

Leaf growth thrives when the roots receive sufficient nutrients and the tree is exposed to sunlight throughout the day. Watch out for signs of a dying tree and intervene promptly.

Pruning is an effective technique to stimulate growth by removing weaker branches, increasing sunlight penetration, and maintaining balance and stability. Proper pruning also helps prevent uprooting during strong winds.

By understanding and addressing these factors, including planting depth, watering, and pruning, you can stimulate robust tree growth from root to crown, ensuring the long-term health and beauty of your trees.

Manny Moore

Getting my hands dirty and building a place that me and my small family love is a driving factor for what I do and how I do it. I want to share what I have learned and practiced so that it is just that much easier for everyone to have another tool in their tool belt. Your home should be a place that you love and feel comfortable in and your backyard should be no different.

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