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© 2019 by Creekside Nursery, Inc

Photos taken by heartandglory.com

How to Plant Shrubs & Trees Properly

One of the most common questions we receive is "What's the right way to plant this shrub?"  Here we give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to properly plant shrubs & trees.  A little bit of know-how will give you years of beautiful results!

Materials Needed

  • shrub/tree

  • shovel

  • water

  • mulch

Choose an Appropriate Site for Your New Addition

A major factor in the success of your new shrub or tree thriving is planting it in the space with the correct amount of sunlight.  READ THE TAG!  It will tell you exactly how much sun your particular plant needs to have.

  • Sun = 6+ hours of direct sun

  • Partial Sun/Partial Shade = 4-6 hours of direct sun

  • Shade = less than 4 hours of direct sun

Prepare the Area

  1. Rake away any leaf litter or existing mulch from the area you’re going to be planting.

  2. Dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the container. As you dig, pile the soil around the perimeter of the hole in at least two different areas. This makes it easier to backfill your shrub after planting.

  3. Place the shrub while it is still in its container into the freshly dug hole.  Make sure you have plenty of space around the perimeter of the pot.  You want lots of wiggle room.  Also make sure that once out of the pot, your plant's root ball will sit slightly above the ground. 

  4. Remove the shrub from its container by knocking briskly around the pot sides and bottom to loosen it, and carefully slide the plant out. Do not pull or yank on the stem(s). Alternatively, the pot can be cut away from the rootball with a pair of hand pruners.

Plant Your Shrub/Tree
  1. Place the plant in the hole to check the depth. The top of the rootball should be slightly above the soil surface. If it is too high, remove the plant and dig a bit more. If it is too low, push in some soil from around the hole. Check again and repeat if necessary to achieve proper depth.

  2. Step a few feet away from the plant and make sure that it looks good from the most viewed angle.  If planting a tree, make sure that it is standing up straight & level.

  3. Once you’ve decided on the most attractive side of your plant, use your hands to “rough up” the root ball a bit. The idea is to free them from the tight shape that the container has molded them into. Unwind any large, woody roots, and gently loosen the small roots away from the soil. This helps the plant become established more easily and quickly, so don’t forget this important step.

  4. Backfill using only the soil you excavated. As you backfill, tamp the soil lightly around the roots to eliminate air pockets, continuing until you reach the top of the root ball.  Be careful not to place dirt on top of the rootball, especially if you have heavy clay soil as this can cause possible water retention and possible root rot. Important: We do not recommend adding anything to the hole or amending the soil when you plant. Peat moss, compost, garden soil, potting mix and other products can cause drainage problems that make it difficult for your shrub to get established.​

Final Steps

  1. Water your new shrub, making sure to thoroughly saturate the rootball and the surrounding soil. The best way to do this is to set your hose on a very low flow and leave it on for an hour or two. Apply the water at the edge of the rootball, and move the hose to different points around the plant a few times during this period.

  2. Most shrubs benefit from a 2-3” thick layer of shredded bark mulch applied over the entire root zone of the plant. This helps keep roots cool and conserves water, minimizing stress on your new plant and encouraging rapid development root development.

  3. Keep your new shrub well watered – it should not be allowed to dry out completely during its first season. In the coming months, the plant will devote most of its energy to growing roots, so you may not see a lot of growth on top. Typically, shrubs begin to grow vigorously in their second season; growth and flowering increase every season as long as conditions remain favorable.

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