Planting and Care Basics
(applies primarily to trees and shrubs)
- Select a plant appropriate for the soil type, soil moisture and light. Right plant – right place. (we can help you with this part!)
- Give your new plant a thorough watering in the pot. Set the potted plant near where you are going to plant it. Dig a hole 2 to 3 times as wide, and at approximately the same depth as the soil level in the pot. Roughen the sides of the hole so it is not smooth. This is especially important with heavy or clay soils. Return some soil into the middle of the hole and form it into a small mound shape.
- Take the plant out of its pot and inspect the roots. If there are any roots wrapping around the root ball in a circle (called circling roots), or roots at angles heading anywhere but outward from the root mass, cut them off. For perennials, if there is a large "disc" of roots massed at the bottom, cut that off and work the root mass to open it up. An old bread knife works well. The roots provide water and nutrients to your plant and should be handled with care, but leaving circling, strangling or matted roots on your plant will lead to plant health problems. Roots are sensitive to drying out so do not allow them to lay out exposed to sun and wind. Set the plant in the hole so the root crown is level with the surrounding ground. If you can, gently spread looser roots around the mound. Dampen the soil in the hole and around the roots and backfill the hole. Building a dirt rim around the outer edge of the hole will help hold water nearer the roots. Tamp the soil down and thoroughly water to settle everything in and completely moisten the soil around the roots.
- We typically do not recommend adding soil amendments. If the right plant is in the right place it should do well on its own without added fertilizers, pH adjusters, peat, compost, etc. It is much easier to select plants that will work in the environment selected rather than trying to force the environment to accommodate the plant. If you are working with heavy clay soil, you may amend with peat up to 25% of the dirt mass going back into the hole. In these cases, it is also advisable to make a much wider hole as well, maybe 3 to 5 times as wide as the plant.
- Cover the exposed dirt area with 2”-3” of mulch. This will hinder airborne weed seed germination and maximize moisture retention. The mulch should be in a flat layer, not a volcano. Leave a 1”-2” space around the trunk/stem of the plant. Crowding the trunk or root collar with mulch will encourage mold and insects. You may also place a porous landscaping fabric around your plant before mulching.
- Water your plant the equivalent of 1” - 2" per week throughout the first growing season. Subsequent dry years may require additional watering as well. (1” water weekly = 20% water hose pressure for 20 minutes, twice per week.) Rain counts!
- VERY IMPORTANT – to maximize transplanting success, keep the area around the plant free of weeds and invading sod, keep it properly watered, and if necessary, protect it from animals that may want to eat your new plant. (see page on Plant Predator Protection for more information)