Tree seedlings are living, breathing organisms that require careful handling at all stages of the reforestation process.
From the time of lifting at the nursery until seedlings are transplanted in the field, there is danger of weakening or killing
the seedlings due to improper handling techniques. This problem is further complicated by the varying environmental conditions that occur during the planting season.

There are several environmental factors beyond anyone's control that can contribute to a tree planting failure. Dry weather and severe freezes are two factors most commonly associated with a planting failure. However, there are a far greater number of factors totally within human control that contribute to tree planting failure. Timing of planting, storage, handling, seedling quality, and tree planting techniques are the most commonly overlooked aspects that can make or break the success of a tree planting operation.

Everyone involved in the reforestation process must accept responsibility for proper seedling care, handling, and planting. Successful tree planting does not happen by chance - it requires thought, planning, and attention to detail.

Seedling Care and Handling Tips

From the time you receive your seedlings until they are planted, proper care is vital to maintaining their healthy condition. Remember, seedlings are perishable, so it's best to plant them as soon as possible once you have received your order. Here are a few seedling care and handling tips to keep in mind:

  • Minimize exposure to wind and sun during transporting seedlings.
  • Store in refrigerated location, if available.
  • Allow for ventilation around stacked seedling packages.
  • Protect seedlings from freezing temperatures.
  • Mend any accidental tears in the seedling package with tape to reduce moisture loss.
  • Do not water seedlings.  Watering will wash away the protective gel applied to the roots at the nursery.
  • Protect seedlings from direct sunlight and wind before and during planting.

Seedling Storage

Store seedlings in a building, shed, or other protective area that will protect seedlings from freezing, heating, direct sunlight, and wind.

For Non-Refrigerated Storage

  • If temperature inside storage area is between 50ºF and 70ºF, seedlings should be planted within three to five days.
  • If temperature inside storage area is above 75ºF, do not store seedlings more than 24 hours.
  • Seedlings should not be stored in bags/bundles/boxes for more than a few hours at temperatures above 85ºF.
    • Lethal temperature occurs in bag/bundles/boxes at 118ºF, but seedlings can be weakened or damaged if the temperature in bags/bundles/ boxes remains at 85ºF for very long.
  • Seedlings should not be stored in an area where the temperature is 32ºF or less.
    • Do not allow seedlings to freeze.

Tree Planting 

The key to a seedling's survival after planting is the ability of the root system to quickly begin taking up water and nutrients. The following chart provides guidelines which will help achieve seedling survival.

Weather Conditions
Day Temp (ºF) Relative Humidity Wind Speed Available Soil Water

Excellent Planting Day

33º - 75º 50% Less than 10 mph 75% -field capacity

Marginal-Planting is okay

76º - 85º

30% - 50%

10 - 15 mph

50% - 75%

Critical -

32º or less, 85º or greater 30% or less 15 mph Less than 50%

Seed Source 

When buying tree seed or seedlings, it is extremely important to know the geographic location of the seed source. Planting seedlings or seed from a seed source outside of natural geographic region can lead to growth loss and, in some cases, mortality. The following recommendations are offered as guidelines for selecting seed or seedlings from geographic locations appropriate for your planting area. The movement of plant materials beyond these geographic limits may contribute to planting failures and unexplained mortality 15 to 20 years into timber rotation.

Loblolly Pines: Mississippi has been divided into two zones for the purpose of proper seed source selection for loblolly pine. Seed used to grow trees to be planted in north Mississippi should be from north Mississippi, south Arkansas, north Louisiana, northeast Texas, north Alabama, north Georgia, or Piedmont South Carolina.  Seed to be used to grow trees to be planted in south Mississippi should be from south Mississippi, south Louisiana, southeast Texas, south Alabama, south Georgia, north Florida, or coastal South Carolina up to Georgetown, South Carolina.

Slash Pine: Any seed source north of Tampa, Florida, that has been screened for fusiform rust susceptibility is acceptable.

Longleaf Pine: Based on present data, the best sources for Mississippi are those from south Mississippi and south Alabama.

Hardwood: Long-term test data concerning the effects of hardwood seed source movement is not conclusive at this time. Until more test data is available, local sources should be used.
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Piedmont or Coastal Loblolly Pine?

If you will be planting seedlings in the following counties, order Piedmont Loblolly Pine: Alcorn, Attalla, Benton, Bolivar, Calhoun, Carroll, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clay, Coahoma, Desoto, Grenada, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Leflore, Lowndes, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Prentiss, Pontotoc, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tippah, Tishomingo, Tunica, Union, Washington, Webster, Winston, Yalobusha, and Yazoo.

If you will be planting seedlings in the following counties, order Coastal Loblolly Pine: Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Clarke, Copiah, Covington, Forrest, Franklin, George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson Davis, Jefferson, Jones, Kemper, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lincoln, Madison, Marion, Neshoba, Newton, Pearl River, Perry, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Smith, Stone, Walthall, Warren, Wayne, and Wilkinson.

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