Planting a tree seems like and can be a pretty simple process. However, if you think through a few factors before selecting and planting a tree, you give it the best chance to succeed and add benefits to your property for decades to come. Here are a few tips.
1. Match species to site
Make sure the tree is cold hardy for your region. Check your soils to determine if there will be a nutrient/pH incompatibility before planting so that you won't have to correct it later. Look at what trees do well in your area.
2. Leave space for growth
Trees grow, of course, but it seems that people sometimes forget about this. I recently completed a management plan for a homeowners' association in Illinois where about 300/1000 trees have outgrown their space only 10 years after planting. Trees don't give us much benefit until they reach maturity, so give them the space to do so!
3. Inspect for defects
Examine the tree at the nursery or garden center. Look for the following:
Good form - does it have a good central leader? Broken branches?
Signs of disease/insects
Healthy root flare
Basically, start with a healthy tree to minimize problems later.
4. Proper planting hole
Dig the hole just deep enough to plant the root ball or bare roots. The root flare should sit a couple inches above grade once planted. Dig the hole about 3X the root ball width. Backfill with soil of similar texture to the surrounding soil.
5. Post planting care
Make sure to water the tree regularly after planting. A lack of water is the number one reason why newly-planted trees don't survive.
You should also place mulch around the base of the tree, but not touching it. Mulch against the trunk can lead to rot on the trunk and root problems down the line. A 3-4 inch layer of mulch is best. Replenish as needed.
Only stake the tree if it can't stand on its own, or if vandalism is a concern. If you must stake, remove it after one growing season.