Trees & Shrubs: Selection, Planting & Care

Tree & Shrub Planting: Care Instructions

In order to ensure successful planting, the following steps should be taken:

Step 1 – Plant Selection

When selecting plants for your landscape, consider the needs for your plants to thrive and the characteristics of the proposed site. Most plants love the sun, and need plenty of it to grow healthy. If it’s a flowering type shrub or tree, the sun will provide energy for blooms. There are many exceptions where part sun (4 hours or less) is all that’s needed for the plant to do well. Also consider the mature size of the plant, and allow enough room for the plants to grow. Be aware of pests in your community, and understand the steps to take to protect your plants from being eaten and destroyed.

Step 2 – Site Preparation
If replacing a dead shrub, you must remove most of the existing roots. When preparing a site, whether a replacement shrub, a total renovation, or a new installation, it may be a good idea to amend the soil to ensure plenty of nutrients for your new plants to grow in. While top soil is a good planting medium for stability, it lacks nutrients to really jump start your plants for a long & prosperous life, and can be ‘heavy’ for a lot of plants. Most trees & shrubs require well-draining soil. If you have clay-type soil, add plenty of organic matter (compost, manure, peat moss), to give you the necessary drainage requirements.

Step 3 – Finalize Your Layout
Position your plants in the landscape PRIOR TO REMOVING from containers. You want to disturb the root ball as little as possible so adjust your plants accordingly, find the best sides, while still in the containers.

Step 4 – Digging The Hole
Dig a hole up to twice as wide as the container or root ball, but no deeper than the existing root ball. The soil at grade level should be just about even with the soil level of the root ball, but never higher. In some cases where you are planting in very poorly draining soil, 2-4″ of the rootball should be above grade level, and mulched to the crown of the plant, in order to alleviate the plant from drowning. In the case of a tree in this situation, as much as 1/3 of the root ball can be left above ground and covered with soil and then mulch.

Step 5 – Planting
If the shrub or tree is balled & burlapped, or has a wire cage, keep it intact when putting in the hole. Removing these materials isn’t necessary, as the burlap will decompose and the roots will be able to penetrate it. Our experience has taught us that untying the burlap, and tucking it down under the sides of the root ball will provide even more successful results if possible.

If the shrub or tree you’ve purchased is in a container, remove carefully by gently laying the plant on its side and slide the container off (a second set of hands is sometimes needed) . If the plant is root bound, meaning the roots are circling the pot, gently pull at some of the roots to free them and give them a good opportunity to reach out in their new surroundings. Once the plant is in the hole, if you need to adjust the soil level, remove plant and add necessary adjustments. Again, it is important that your plant be at or slightly higher than grade level. Be careful to not disturb the root ball so as it falls apart. Back-fill half way with amended soil, and water in, allowing the soil to settle. Fill remaining space with soil, and pack down firmly to ensure plant is stable, and there are no ‘pockets’ for water to sit. You can usually adjust the level of a plant by simply applying more pressure on the needed side.

Step 6 – Fertilize or Feed Your Plant
A little time-release fertilizer will do your plant good, or add in some compost/dehydrated manure when amending the soil. We recommend Osmocote, applied per product instructions, and work into the top of the soil surrounding the plant.

Step 7-Watering
Your plant requires plenty of water to help it adapt to its new environment. If you’ve amended the soil as recommended above, a good soaking will go a long way. In order for your plant to prosper, you must provide it water regularly (every other day, sometimes daily on very hot days) until it is well-established during the first growing season, after which times most plants can tolerate dry spells. A wilted plant is not a dead plant, and most of the time, will spring back to life with a good watering.

Watering Non-Negotiables, Recommendations, & Suggestions:
• If possible, plant your tree or shrub as soon as you get it home. If you’ve purchased items in anticipation of site preparation/planting, items should be kept in a shady area and must be watered twice daily until you get them in the ground in order to maintain the warranty. A plant in a container dries out much faster than something in the ground!

• DO NOT use a sprinkler or hand nozzle. Use an opened ended hose on a slow, steady, flow. Lay the hose near the plants root system and let the hose run. Puddling is fine at this point. If you experience significant surface runoff, stick the wooden end of any garden tool into the soil and create a hole to put hose in and let water soak the area. Watering deeply encourages wide-spread root development.

• Water even if it rains.

• Watering is best done in the morning or evening, or both on a hot day.

• Is it best to water ‘from below’, that is, below a plants foliage and straight to a plants root system. Watering above, especially in the evening when a plant doesn’t have time to dry off before night sets in, opens it up to foliar diseases.

• Be careful not to water dark leaf foliage, like a Japanese Maple, as the sun can burn the leaves!

• There is a misconception out there that planting trees & shrubs in the Summer time is a no-no. While Spring & Fall are ideal times of year to plant these items due to cooler weather, you CAN plant year round-you just need to ensure to water well!

Additional Tips for Successful Plants:
• Mulching is always recommended. It provides a layer of protection from the sun, keeps competing weeds to a minimum, and retains necessary moisture. Always be careful to not to over-mulch near the base of the plant, as you can suffocate or create pest problems.

• Don’t Prune Hard-you can shock a plant by taking away too much of it’s foliage at once. A light pruning each year is recommended. Always research proper pruning times to ensure flowering.

• When in doubt, read plant tags for planting/care instructions.