Choosing Seedlings or Transplants

Age Class Description
A tree seedling is described by its age and how it was produced. Stock types are expressed as a two-part code, with the parts separated by a plus sign (e.g. 3+0, 2+2). The first number, or fraction, represents the number of years the stock has grown in a seedbed; the second digit, or fraction, represents the number of additional years spent in a transplant bed. Adding the two numbers gives the tree’s total age.

Seedling Attributes
Seedlings germinate from seed sown directly into nursery seedbeds and remain in the same nursery bed from one to four years until ready for harvesting for field planting. Seedlings are significantly smaller, with less heft than their transplant counterparts. They require more intensive post planting care and attention but can be an inexpensive planting option on prepared sites where weeds and grass competition will be managed and water or irrigation is available.

Transplant Attributes
Transplants are produced by harvesting small bareroot seedlings from high-density seedbeds, grading them to standards and replanting them into low-density beds where they will continue to grow for an additional period of time. Transplants have a lower top-to-root ratio, a more fibrous root system, a larger stem diameter and are more heavily branched than seedlings of the same age. These factors contribute greatly to their increased survival and post-planting performance. They are sized to match the more difficult planting sites most of our customers are familiar with. Transplants may tolerate less intensive vegetation control after field planting but survival and performance is enhanced by post planting maintenance.

Guide for selecting and matching tree species click here

Care and Handling



Preplant Seedling Care


Bareroot Tree Seedlings are sensitive, living organisms requiring air, water and nutrients to survive and grow. They can be exposed to stress or injury during the harvesting, handling and planting operations. Once harvested, they have limited reserves of moisture and nutrients. Plant stress is cumulative and must be minimized if the tree planting project is to be successful. Moisture loss, temperature fluctuations, rough handling and improper storage are the primary factors contributing to planting failures. The nurseryman and the tree planter must do everything possible to promote good stock handling and planting practises.


Here are some helpful tips:

• Plant your seedlings immediately, if possible.

Short term storage. Seedling can be stored in a cool, dry (but not below freezing) place, protected from the elements, for 2 or 3 days. Allow for air circulation and do not stack containers.

Long term storage. Refrigerated storage at 2-3 degrees C. can extend storage time for up to two to three weeks. Monitor stock conditions during storage. Deciduous species can be heeled-in loosely in a trench with their roots well covered with soil and watered regularly until required for planting. Plant the trees before the buds break.

On-site storage. Determine how trees will be stored at the planting site before picking

up the seedlings. The trees must be protected from sun and wind at all times. When

removing the seedlings from the package, dip the roots in water before placing the

seedlings in the planting bucket.


Planting Arrangement and Spacing


The spacing and arrangement of your planting will be critical to achieving your specific

objectives. Commercial forestry, Christmas tree and Nursery planting demand straight regimented rows with equal and appropriate spacing to meet the desired objective. The row width spacing is strongly influenced by the necessity to conduct mowing, spraying or harvest operations. Most commercial forest production plantations have 7 to 8 foot wide rows and 6 to 7 foot spacing in the row. Christmas tree spacing is usually 6 or 7 feet between rows and 5 to 6 foot spacing in the row. Ornamental nursery production spacing must be geared to the size of the product to be grown and the harvest method. Conservation, recreation and wildlife planting can be much less regimented in the pattern of planting and in the mixing of species. If you do not like the appearance of rows and are not concerned about access between the trees, give your plantation a more natural appearance by planting trees in a random pattern. In general however spacing of 6 to 8 feet between trees is still suitable.


For steps to successful tree planting click here.


The internet is a great source for information and can help make decisions on species selection, site characteristics, plantation maintenance and many other cultural aspects of tree maintenance. Besides our own website, several other helpful websites are listed below:



Forestry Extension Notes contains a vast resource of user-friendly fact sheets click here



Forests Ontario is the voice for Ontario's forests. They are a provincial resource and trusted authority for those seeking to invest in the future of our forests - through donations, sponsorship, volunteerism, tree planting, community awareness events and forest management click here