Many residents will be adding new shrubs to the landscape. Everyone knows how to plant a shrub - Right? You open a hole, pop the plant in the ground, water and away it grows. Well, let's back up a little. If you want the plant to survive, the new shrub is going to need a lot more care from the very beginning. Following are six things you just have to do to be successful.
1. Make sure the plant is not pot bound - When you purchase the plant check the root system. If the roots are tightly wrapped in a ball, the plant may not survive. If you do purchase this plant, the roots have to be disturbed or cut apart some. Otherwise, the plant sits in the root ball.
2. Make sure the root system is wet at planting time. Many plants are grown in a highly organic soil mix. If this dries, you may not be able to get it wet again after planting. It is best to make sure the root ball is wet by watering several times before planing.
3. Prepare a hole wider but not deeper than the root ball. If the plant is too deep, the roots may suffocate and you end up with a rotting root system. You do not have to add amendments to the fill soil. It won't hurt but most studies show little value. Do check the soil pH for azaleas and other acid loving plants and adjust if needed.
4. Skip feeding your plants when they are set in the ground. Avoid tossing a bunch of fertilizer in the planting hole. You could burn the roots and most would be washed away during the early waterings. Wait 4 to 6 weeks and then apply the first feeding to the surface of the soil.
5. Build a 4- to 6-inch berm of soil around the edge of the root ball. This is to hold water at each watering so it has to run down through the root ball and then out into the surrounding soil.
6. Water your plantings. Water daily the first few weeks. Then you can reduce the waterings to every 2 to 3 days for the next few months. Some plants may need special waterings most of the year. It can take time for roots to grow out and into the surrounding soil to obtain the water they need.
You may feel you can skip some of these steps and you might be able to with a few shrubs. But most need good care. A lack of good care is usually the reason azaleas, podocarpus, hibiscus, camellias and similar decline within a year in local landscapes.