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What are the Best Tips for Shrub Planting?

C. Ausbrooks
C. Ausbrooks

Proper shrub planting is critical to ensure survival for the first few years, and promote healthy development of shrubs in following years. Improper shrub planting may result in diseases, and difficult root establishment. Choosing the right place and time, preparing the roots properly, and smart purchasing are all important aspects of shrub planting.

Purchase container grown shrubs if possible, as they are the easiest to grow. The roots have already begun growing, and will quickly become established in the new soil after planting. Shrubs are also available balled and wrapped in burlap, or as bare roots. These should be avoided because they require extra maintenance before planting, and will not adapt as well to their new environment.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Choose a location that fits with the chosen species of shrub. Some shrubs can grow quite large, and will require considerable space in the landscape. Do not plant larger shrubs near vegetables or other plants which are dependent on sunlight. As the shrub grows, it may block the light and become detrimental to existing plants.

Shrubs should be planted in the proper season to optimize growth. The best time for shrub planting is in late summer or early fall, so the roots can become established before winter. If this is not possible, plant in late winter after the ground has thawed to allow the root systems time to grow before the hot, dry summer. Bare root shrubs should be planted as soon as purchased, regardless of season. The longer they are out of soil, the more difficult it will be for them to adjust.

Root maintenance is another essential part of shrub planting. Straighten and prune exceptionally long roots before planting new shrubs. Roots circling the root ball will not grow properly, and will severely limit the amount of water the shrub can absorb. Roots should extend several inches out from the root ball. Cut back any roots longer than this, as they will not fit in the planting hole, and will not grow properly.

Dig the planting hole twice as wide as the shrub's root ball, and break up the sides of the hole with a shovel. This will allow the roots to easily penetrate the soil. The hole should be slightly less shallow than the root ball, and a mound of soil should be formed in the center of the hole. Place the root ball directly on top of the mound, with the roots spread out around it to eliminate unnecessary pressure.

Form a small basin around the trunk after planting shrubs to promote water penetration. The shrub will have trouble absorbing water the first few months due to its small root structure. Water thoroughly immediately after planting to help close air pockets, and to settle the soil. Dry root balls are not able to absorb water, so apply enough water to thoroughly soak the soil.

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