Planting & Caring For Burning Bush

When planted right and in the right spot, Burning Bush is exceptionally easy to grow. You can grow them in garden beds or containers.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know...


Cultural Preferences



Soil Preferences

Burning Bush tolerate a wide range of soil. They grow best in a moist but well-drained moist soil of average fertility. When established, dry soil conditions are tolerated. Constantly soggy or wet soil can be problematic.


How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Burning Bush, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. 

To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting soil. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH Preference

Burning Bush grow best in an acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging between 6.0 to 7.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 


Testing Soil pH  

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Burning Bush, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. 

You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Preferences

Dwarf Burning Bush grow best in full sun or part shade. For best fall foliage color I suggest at least 5 hours of direct sunlight per day from spring through fall.




How To Plant A Burning Bush

Scroll down for container planting instructions


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the root ball. 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.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area it may be beneficial to amend the soil. When planting in dense clay or very poor soils it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some bagged top soil, 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, quick-draining soil consider mixing in some top soil, peat moss or compost to help with moisture retention. When planting in a moist but well-drained soil of average fertility there is no need for adding a soil amendment.


Step 3

To remove your Burning Bush from the container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the root ball. Then, firmly grasp the base of the plant and try to gently lift and remove the root ball from the container. If the root ball is stuck in the container use a snipping tool or utility knife to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, carefully 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. 


Step 4

To plant, set your Burning Bush in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly 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 and stays constantly soggy or wet improve drainage or select a different plant species more tolerant of wet soils. 



Step 5

After setting your Burning Bush 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. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

When planting in a location that is far from a water source and with well-drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a 3-inch high water retaining berm (catch basin / doughnut) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. 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 year or so or when the plant has established itself.


Step 7

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, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development you can also water your newly planted Azalea with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

To conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth, Apply a 1 to 2" layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your plant will appreciate. Avoid the use of 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 Plant A Burning Bush In A Container


Burning Bush growing in pots appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy or wet soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, I highly suggest a pot with a drainage hole filled with a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof.  To enhance drainage, you can also add 10 to 20% perlite or pumice to the soil mixture. 

Choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the colors of your plant, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.



Container Planting Instructions

Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. If you place gravel or other materials in the bottom of the container lay the fabric over it.


Step 2

To remove your Burning Bush from the container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the root ball. Then, firmly grasp the base of the plant and try to gently lift and remove the root ball from the container. If the root ball is stuck in the container use a snipping tool or utility knife to cut the container away.


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set the plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2 to 1" below the rim of the container.



Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of the root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips, sphagnum moss or stone mulch to soil surface for decorative purposes and to help conserve moisture.




How To Care For Burning Bush

Feeding - Watering - Pruning



How To Fertilize Burning Bush

Burning Bush are not heavy feeders however will benefit from fertilization. To maintain deep green foliage and support steady growth and overall health of the plant, feed Burning Bush in spring with a slow-release shrub & tree food, preferably one containing iron and/or sulfur. Alternatively, you can feed with a natural organic plant food. To avoid stimulating new growth that could be damaged by an early frost, cease fertilization two months prior to the first frost date in your area.

In Containers

Feed Burning Bush growing in containers as directed on the product label with a slow-release granular or water-soluble plant fertilizer listed for use in containers. 


Soil pH

Burning Bush grow best in a moderately acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging from 6.0 to 7.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.


Testing Soil pH  

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil and whether or not it's suitable for growing Burning Bush it's a good idea to test the pH in the planting area. 

You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions. To reduce acidity, or make soil more alkaline, you can apply pelletized limestone.




How To Water a Burning Bush


Burning Bush prefer a well-drained soil. When young they'll require some water to establish roots however are quite drought tolerant when established. Constantly soggy or wet soil conditions are problematic. So be careful not to over-water!

Tip:  When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliar diseases. Test the soil moisture and adjust irrigation time if necessary to maintain a moist but not wet soil.


At Planting Time 

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development you can also water you newly planted Burning Bush with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants. 

Note:  When planted during the winter dormant season plants will require less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


During the First Active Growth Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted Burning Bush every day. More often than not, this causes soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the root ball and surrounding soil damp to moist. 

Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently, and allowing the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again, is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Shrubs planted during the winter dormant season, when plants are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


Thereafter

When established, Burning Bush are quite drought tolerant. Only during a prolonged drought will established plants require supplemental irrigation. If you see new leaves wilting or the tips of new stems bending over during dry weather this could be a sign your plants could use a good deep soaking.



How To Prune a Burning Bush


Burning Bush do not require pruning, however respond well to it. Healthy growth does not depend on regular pruning, so in most cases, your Burning Bush will look best if left alone. However, if and when you need to control their size or shape pruning will become necessary.


When to Prune

Light pruning to remove a stray or damaged branch can be performed any time of year. To avoid stimulating new growth that could be damaged by a freeze, we recommend ceasing pruning 2 months prior to the first frost date in your area. 


How to Prune

Thinning: Use a sharp pair of bypass hand pruners to remove up to 1/3 of the old or dying branches. This will keep growth manageable - at least for a few years. An alternative is to slowly encourage a more upright, tree-like form by removing all of the lower branches over time.

Shearing: Use hedge clippers to shape multiple bushes growing together into a traditional hedge. Make sure to trim the top slightly narrower than the bottom to allow light to penetrate to all of the branches.

Rejuvenation Pruning: To encourage all new growth on very old plants, prune the bush back severely, to within 6 to 12 inches from the ground. Although this type of pruning is extreme, the plant will recover nicely over a period of years, providing its in good health.



Plant Long & Prosper!

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