A beginner’s guide to planting a shrub

A beginner's guide to planting a shrub

Shrubs make a handsome addition to any property and add definite curb appeal. Follow these easy steps to properly plant your shrubs so they flourish.

Shrubs are supplied by nurseries in three forms: container grown, with balled roots, or with bare roots. Container shrubs are established plants growing in pots of soil or soil substitute. Balled and burlapped (sometimes called balled-root) shrubs have some soil around the roots, kept in place by burlap. Plants that have difficulty establishing themselves are sold this way to keep the root systems intact.

Shrubs that develop easily after transplanting are sold with bare roots. Shrubs are best planted in fall or early winter after dormancy has set in but before the ground is frozen, or early spring. Evergreens can be set out earlier in the fall or later in the spring than can deciduous shrubs.

Prepare the soil

  1. Remove weeds with a garden fork.
  2. Dig over the soil to one spade’s depth, and if possible, let it settle for about two weeks.
  3. If you must plant immediately, firm the whole bed thoroughly by treading it down. If you are planting more than one shrub, work out the spacing beforehand and mark the planting positions.
  4. The space between shrubs should be at least half the total of their combined ultimate spread. For example, two shrubs expected to spread 1.2 metres and 1.8 metres (four feet and six feet), respectively, should be planted about 1.5 metres (five feet) apart.

Dig a hole

  1. Remove the marker.
  2. Dig a hole slightly deeper and twice as wide as the container or root ball.
  3. If the plant is bare rooted, allow room for its roots to spread comfortably. Measure for depth against the plant itself.
  4. If working with a container-grown shrub, the surface of the soil in the pot should be level with the ground.
  5. With balled- or bare-root shrubs, use the mark on the stem that indicates the former soil level.
  6. Do not remove natural burlap around a balled-root shrub, but do remove synthetic burlap and any ropes and string.
  7. Do not mix anything into the soil you remove, a rich soil stops the shrub sending roots out into the surrounding area.
  8. Break up the soil in the bottom of the hole and add some of the removed soil to bring the base up to the correct planting level.
  9. Trim the top growth of the shrub if required.

Planting a shrub

  1. If the shrub is container grown, water it well before removing the container. Make sure that the plant has an extensive root system. If it does not, return it to the nursery.
  2. If your shrub is bare rooted, look for damaged or diseased roots and cut them back to healthy growth.
  3. Before putting the plant in the hole, make a small mound on the bottom over which to spread the roots.
  4. When you set the shrub in the hole, hold it firmly by the base of the stem in order to keep it vertical while you fill in the hole with the prepared soil.
  5. With a container-grown or balled-root shrub, fill the hole halfway — balled-root plants should have the burlap untied and laid back across the hole at this point — then water thoroughly and let the water drain before adding more soil.
  6. Tread the soil firmly.
  7. Top with more soil, tread again, and build a small wall of soil around the hole to retain water.
  8. Soak well all around the base of the plant.
  9. With a bare-root shrub, lift the plant up and down as you fill the hole, gently shaking the roots so that the soil will settle around them.
  10. Firm the soil with your feet several times to eliminate air pockets.

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