Posted by Brent Wilson on 6/6/2016 to Planting & Growing Tips
Below are general guidelines for properly planting most types of shrubs in garden or landscape beds. Of course, different types of shrubs may have specific cultural requirements, such as sun, soil moisture, soil type and soil pH, so you'll want to check to make sure your planting site meets these requirements before planting. On every plant page in Wilson Bros Gardens you'll find specific cultural requirements.
Step-By-Step Planting Instructions for Shrubs
Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the rootball. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.
Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area, and any specific needs your specific type of shrub may have, you might need to amend the native soil. When planting in dense clay or poor quality soil it can't hurt to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as composted cow manure, mushroom compost, sand, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy or quick-draining soil you might need to mix in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained moist soil there might be no need for adding a soil amendment.
To remove your shrub from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and try to gently lift and remove it from its container. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the root ball. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This will help to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.
If you are planting in well-drained soil set your shrub in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level (1-inch or so) to allow for settling. If your soil is moderately drained, meaning it drains slowly after rain, and the type of shrub your planting does not like wet feet, the top of the root ball should be 2 to 3 inches above ground level. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.
NOTE: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet), and the type of shrub your planting requires well-drained soil, you can create a mound of soil completely above ground level to plant your shrub in or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils.
After setting your shrub in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting the root ball higher than ground level taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level, as shown in the planting diagram above. To avoid suffocating your shrub, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.
Step 6 (Optional)
When planting your shrub in a site far away from a water source, and the type of shrub you are planting likes a moist but well-drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole, as shown in the diagram above. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a growing season or two.
Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted shrub with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.
Apply a 1 to 2" layer of aged, shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area to conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your plant will appreciate. Do not use freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.
How To Water a Newly Planted Shrub
Watering a newly planted shrub is pretty straight forward. The best time of day to water shrubs is between the early morning hours and noon. Avoid watering in the late evening or at night. Doing so can lead to the onset of damaging foliar diseases.
At Planting Time
Water the shrub in it's pot just before planting. Then water the planting area deeply two times after planting to ensure the soil in the planting area is soaked to a depth of the base of the rootball of the plant.
Watering During The First Year
There is no set schedule for watering newly planted shrubs. With the exception of a very few shrubs that prefer boggy or wet soils, most shrubs prefer a well-drained but moist soil. In the absence of adequate rainfall, water newly planted shrubs enough to keep the soil moist but not constantly soaking wet. Allow soil to dry out somewhat between waterings. I prefer watering deeply less frequently than just splashing a little water around the plant every day, which will most likely end in a plant that dies of thirst during the heat if summer. When watering, you want to at least soak the top several inches of the soil. Don't forget to water the top of the root ball as well as the surrounding area.
When a shrub has established a good root system it usually will not require as close attention to watering. In the absence of sufficient rainfall water as needed to keep the plant healthy and moist. As always, deep soaking is best. Wilting leaves is an indicator your shrubs could use a good deep soaking.
Related Articles from Our Experts