How to Plant a Shrub

Опубликовал Admin
4-05-2021, 04:30
Garden shrubs serve many purposes, both ornamental and practical. Their scented flowers and colorful foliage please the senses, and their berries attract birds. Yet shrubs also play more mundane roles. They can artfully camouflage eyesores like garbage cans, compost piles, and bulky air-conditioners. A row of tall shrubs can give you privacy by hiding your home from neighbors. The method for planting a shrub varies slightly depending on whether it has a burlap rootball or bare roots, or is being replanted from a container.

Preparing Your Location

  1. Consider possible locations. It’s important to choose a plant that will thrive where you place it. You may not have a location that’s right for a shrub you want, but you can evaluate the available space to choose a plant that’s perfect for that spot. Before you buy your plant, take time to evaluate what type of shrub will thrive in the location you choose. Make notes of sun exposure, temperature fluctuations, soil moisture, root growth area, and soil composition and acidity. Ask someone at the nursery or garden center to help you choose the right plant.
    • Is the shrub being planted near your house, garage, or taller plants that will block out sunlight at certain times each day? Every plant needs a specific amount of sun and shade, so it’s important to note how much sunlight the shrub will receive.
    • Set up a thermometer and mark down the temperature at different times to determine how much the temperature fluctuates.
    • Measure the distance from the location you intend to plant to the closest objects on all sides. Roots spread laterally, so the amount of space around the planted location will determine how much room the plant has to grow. Keep in mind that other plants nearby may compete for water and nutrients in the soil.
    • You can purchase kits to test pH at your local nursery. For optimal growing conditions, you should maintain a pH between 5.8 and 6.5.
  2. Choose an attractive spot. Shrubs are decorative plants, so you want to take advantage of their cosmetic appeal. Use your shrub to conceal unsightly objects on your lawn like air conditioning units. Create privacy by planting a row of tall hedges, or improve the curb appeal of your home with an attractive shrub near the door.
  3. Measure the roots. New plants come in three varieties, balled and burlapped or B&B shrubs, bare roots shrubs, and containerized shrubs. You’ll need to measure the height of the roots from the ground to the “root flare,” part of the shrub at the base of the trunk where roots begin to spread out. This process is simplest for those shrubs that are bulbed and burlapped or containerized because the roots are tightly confined. Bare roots shrubs take a little more time and effort, but it’s important to measure properly to ensure adequate space for healthy root production.
    • For bulbed and burlapped and containerized shrubs, place the handle of a shovel across the top of the rootball. The distance from the shovel handle to the ground is how deep the hole should be. The hole should be three to five times wider than the rootball at its widest point.
    • For a containerized plant still in its pot, you can simply measure the height of the pot and subtract any space between the top of the pot and the dirt.
    • For bare roots shrubs, find the darker line around the main trunk of the plant. This is where the plant was previously at ground level, and this line should be replaced at or slightly above ground level. Measure from this line to the bottom of the root system. Spread the roots over the ground gently. Try not to break or bend the roots unnaturally. It may be easiest to create a small mound of dirt, and spread the roots over the sides with the highest point of the mound below the trunk. Measure across the widest point of the root spread. The hole should be three to five times wider than the spread.
  4. Dig the hole. Once you’ve measured the rootball you want to offer the newly planted roots soft soil that does not prevent or hinder growth. Dig out the soil, and place it on a tarp. Then, thoroughly break up the soil until it is has a granular appearance. Don’t till the earth deeper than is necessary. You’ll want the bottom to be solid to prevent shifting. Make sure the sides of your hole slope out from the middle and do not have a “glazed” appearance. Shoveling compacts the dirt, and the smooth looking soil may block out water or make it difficult for roots to grow.
  5. Assess drainage. Once you have a hole of the right size, fill it with water. If the water completely drains away within 24 hours, you have good drainage and can place your shrub. If not, wait for the water to completely drain, and attempt the test again. If there is still standing water after 24 hours, consider planting in a different location.

Planting Balled-and-Burlapped Shrubs

  1. Place the shrub in the hole. Always move B&B shrubs by the roots, not the trunk or branches of the plant. This can damage or kill the shrub. Gently place the rootball into the hole keeping the shrub vertical. The root flare should be at or slightly above the natural ground level.
    • The hole should be as deep as the distance between the root flare and the ground.
    • The hole should be between three and five times wider than the rootball.
  2. Cut away burlap, string, and wire. After the rootball is in the hole, remove as much of these containing materials as possible. While most burlap will disintegrate, it will still impede root growth for several weeks, so it’s better to remove burlap in the beginning. Don’t worry about pulling burlap or wire from below the rootball. These will not affect the ability of roots to grow.
  3. Backfill the hole. Keep adjusting the plant to ensure it stays vertical, and return the soil the hole a few inches at a time. Hold the bush gently and tamp down the dirt with your foot as you refill. Stomp lightly to make sure there are no large air pockets in the dirt, but you don’t want to make the soil so dense it blocks root growth. Continue the process until the entire hole is filled in.
    • Don’t add fertilizer, peat moss, mulch or other amendments to the natural soil.
    • Remove any rocks or debris from the soil as you refill.
    • Create a small ring of raised dirt around the hole to direct water inward to the root system.
    • Leave a ring around the trunk free of dirt where water can collect and drain down to the roots.
  4. Water the shrub thoroughly. Allow the water to soak into the soil for several hours after you plant it, but do not over water. Water the shrub once a week. Dig down two inches. If the soil at this level is moist, you are done watering.

Planting Bare Roots Shrubs

  1. Keep roots moist prior to planting. This can be done by soaking the roots in water for several hours each day, or if you need to preserve the root system for a longer period of time, you may want to consider “heeling” the plant. Heeling requires placing the shrub's roots in a shallow hole with light dirt coverage and watering it regularly. This can preserve the plant for up to three months.
    • Every bare roots shrub is different. Ask your nursery for specific care instructions, and make sure you let the nursery know how long it will be before you plant the shrub.
    • For plants that need high levels of moisture, you may need to keep the roots submerged until you plant.
    • For plants that need a lower level of moisture, you can typically keep them sheltered and water the roots several times a day.
    • Heeling is the best option if you plan to keep the shrub for several days, weeks, or up to three months prior to planting. Dig a shallow trench in the dirt. Lay the roots out resting diagonally along the trench. Cover the roots lightly, and water the soil regularly (several times a week) until you’re ready to plant the shrub.
  2. Prune dead roots. Once you’re ready to move the bare roots shrub from its temporary location to be planted, gently remove any water absorbing materials that are attached to the roots. Examine roots and remove any that are broken or bent. If there are roots that have circled, prune these away as well. Left on the plant, these roots can circle around the trunk, choking it.
  3. Drench roots before placing. After pruning, soak the roots in water for at least two hours, but they can soak up to a full day. Fill a bucket or planter with water at a level high enough to fully submerge the root system without stuffing or cramping. This allows the freshly pruned roots to absorb water and ensures ease of root growth after planting. Move the shrub directly from the soaking spot to the hole.
  4. Create a cone of dirt in the bottom of the hole. This is a supportive structure that allows the roots to rest without bunching below the weight of the shrub. Create a small, dense mound of dirt in the bottom of the hole. Then, place the tip of the cone directly below the trunk where it begins to branch out. Gently, spread the roots around the mound of dirt.
  5. Position the shrub. Once the roots are spread over the cone of dirt, carefully shift the shrub to a fully vertical, upright position. Make sure the most attractive side of the shrub is facing the direction where it will be viewed most often. Hold the shrub in this position as you refill the hole.
    • The hole should be deep enough to cover the full roots without bunching.
    • The width of the hole should be at least three times as wide as the fully extended roots, but for the best effect, the hole should be five times the width of the roots.
  6. Refill the hole. Carefully scoop dirt back into the hole a few inches at a time, taking care not to step on, break, or harm the roots. Unlike bulbed and burlapped or containerized shrubs, do not tamp down the dirt as this may cause root damage. Instead, when the hole is half-filled, water it thoroughly to remove unnecessary air pockets and compact the dirt to support the roots without impeding root growth. Finish filling the hole, and water again.
  7. Keep the shrub hydrated. Make an impression around the trunk and a raised ridge around the outside of the hole to direct water towards the roots. Water the shrub thoroughly once a week. To ensure you water the plant adequately, dig down two to three inches in several spots around the plant before you begin watering. Check to see that the soil here is damp but not saturated. When saturated, you will see standing water.

Replanting Containerized Shrubs

  1. Keep the shrub in the container before planting. Ask the garden center or nursery attendant to for any special care instructions necessary while the shrub is still in the container. Water the plant regularly, and keep it in the appropriate amount of sunlight.
  2. Remove the plant from the container. Carefully move the shrub to the location where it will be planted. Take care to handle the shrub by holding the container. If the plant is very large, ask a friend to help. Never carry the shrub by the trunk or branches. Once in place, carefully tip the container on its side, roll back and forth to loosen the roots, and gently shift the plant out of the pot. Always handle the shrubs by the containerized rootball, but be gentle so as not to damage the roots.
    • If you are struggling to remove the plant, roll the container gently back and forth while pressing down on the sides of the container. This should loosen the plant enough to remove it.
    • If you’re still unable to remove the shrub, run a spade or shovel around the inside of the container between the pot and the rootball.
    • You can also use small amounts of water to dampen the soil around the outer edge of the pot.
    • Most shrubs that are intended to be replanted are kept in plastic pots. If your plant is in a ceramic pot, you can use water to dampen the dirt, and run a shovel between the roots and the container. If you’re still unable to remove the plant from the pot, you may need to break the ceramic away taking care not harm yourself or damage the roots.
  3. Prepare the roots. Once the plant has been removed from its container, examine the rootball carefully. Prune off any broken, bent, or looped roots. Before placing the rootball, cut several vertical lines into the sides. Use a spade or knife to carefully make a ½ inch incision from the top of the containerized rootball to the bottom. Do this evenly spaced around the plant. Typically four incisions are adequate.
    • If the containerized roots have become bunched, hardened, or have overtaken all of the soil, you may need to purchase a different plant.
    • If the rootball has many looped roots that are greater than an inch in diameter, there is a high risk that the roots will wrap around the trunk, strangling the shrub. You should consider purchasing a different plant.
  4. Situate the shrub in the hole. Once the roots are prepared, place the shrub vertically in the hole. The root ball should be in the center, and the sides of the hole should slope down toward the plant.
    • Make sure the hole is at least as deep as the dirt in the container.
    • Dig the hole at least three times the width of the diameter of the containerized shrub.
  5. Replace dirt around the plant. When backfilling, replace several inches of soil at a time, and tamp down with the handle of your shovel. The goal is to remove air bubbles that may prevent nutrients and water from reaching the roots, but you don’t want the earth to be packed so firmly that it impedes root growth. Replace the dirt to the original soil line. Leave a small ring around the trunk without dirt, and create a small raised ridge all the way around the hole to direct water to the root system.
  6. Spread mulch around the shrub. Mulch insulates the soil and prevents the loss of moisture. If you would like, you can add three to four inches of mulch around the base of the shrub. Create the same ringed indentation around the trunk in the mulch as you did with the soil. Do not pile mulch against the trunk of the shrub.
  7. Water the area. Soak the refilled hole for several hours. Water the shrub thoroughly once a week rather than watering a small amount each day, as this increases the risk for root rot and other plant-based diseases. To determine the earth has reached the appropriate level of moisture, dig a few inches into the soil and check periodically to see if it is damp. You want the soil to be moist, but avoid standing water.


  • Add variety and year-round color to your garden landscaping by planting shrubs that flower or change foliage color at different times of the year. For example, consider planting shrubs that flower in winter and spring alongside shrubs that flower in fall and summer.
  • Shrubs should be planted at different times of the year depending on their type. Before you plant, make sure the shrub will thrive at the time of year you’re planting.
  • Always call your local utility companies before digging to ensure you will not hit any electrical or pipe lines.
  • Strategically-placed potted shrubs can also be a good way to hide outdoor pipes.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Tarp or plastic sheet
  • Garden hose
  • Knife or garden tool
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