To provide an objective approach for comparing various planting methods likely to differ in cost, seedling performance, and cost efficiency, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) seedlings were dug-hole or slit planted with either straight, deformed, or pruned taproots, and planting rate (seconds per seedling) and three-year survival and growth of seedlings were measured. The per-hectare cost of dug-hole planting seedlings to ensure straight taproots ($273) was over five times that of slit planting seedlings with intentionally deformed or pruned taproots ($50). Although third-year pine survival did not differ significantly among treatments (74% to 87%), yield index was 58% higher for seedlings dug-hole planted with straight taproots (1152 dm3 stem volume/ha) versus that for seedlings slit planted with deformed or pruned taproots (730 dm3/ha). Third-year cost efficiency (yield index ÷ planting cost) of slit planted seedlings with deformed or pruned taproots (11.7 dm3/$) was over three times that of dug-hole planted seedlings with straight taproots (3.5 dm3/$). These short-term results suggest that the higher values of yield index resulting from straight-root planting do not justify its considerably greater cost.