Proper planting and care of nursery stock seems to be a mystery for many homeowners,
especially with all the conflicting advice around. The real truth is that ordinary
good, well-drained top soil will grow any plant just fine. The problems start when the
naturally occurring topsoil is stripped away or a compacted subsoil and topsoil layer are
left behind after construction of the home. Topsoil over a very compacted subsoil
does little good as the poor drainage problem remains.
Planting of trees and shrubs
If you have ordinary good soil that has not been compacted, dig a hole
to 3 times the diameter of the root ball and 1 to 1 1/2 times as deep.
Place plant in hole by backfilling the hole until the plant is at a
level where grown in the nursery. If the soil is heavy clay, raise the planting
level to account for slower drainage and mound up the soil around the plant. (See diagram) On
trees, be sure to keep the root flare above ground level. You may
have to carefully pull some loose soil off the top of the root ball to
"discover" the root flare of the tree. Be sure to compact
the soil well on the bottom of the planting hole so that the tree or
shrub does not settle deeper when watering in.
Before backfilling hole, roll back burlap and/or wire basket on balled
and burlapped plants after the plant is in the hole. EXCEPTION:
Poly-beige or plastic burlap must be removed entirely without breaking the soil
Remove so-called "plantable" containers carefully without
breaking the root ball. Container-grown plants must have their outer root system
broken and spread out or they will never become established. Simply cutting the
roots with a knife in 3 or 4 places is not good enough. Exposing about 1" of
root system by vigorous shaking will work.
additives: It has been proven by experiment that large
additions of peat moss, bagged topsoil, and the like, hinder root
spread. Always backfill the material taken out the hole, mixing in
no more than 25% Canadian peat in the backfill is satisfactory.
EXCEPTION: Rhododendrons, azaleas, and their relatives as well as
dogwoods, hemlocks and magnolias, must have more peat and are extremely fussy
about drainage. The rates of peat moss are doubled for these plants.
Rhododendron-Azalea planting instructions
for amount of peat. Sweet
Peet can be used in place of the peat moss. See below for information on
Foundation plantings are best if the soil is raised above the yard.
First, work up the soil and add good topsoil to form the landscape bed. It
will look good and the plants will love it.
After all other preparations, gradually backfill the hole while tamping
soil around roots with your foot. Do not break soil ball.
On trees or very
large shrubs, fill hole 3/4 full and then water thoroughly. After water goes down,
fill hole to the top and mulch with about 2" of bark mulch. Smaller shrubs may
be watered thoroughly after they are mulched with about 2" of bark. Be sure to
keep the bark away from the plant's base, especially on evergreen azaleas.
Dogwoods are fussier about
soil drainage then most plants so be sure when planting that the root
ball has fast, deep drainage. Simply dig a hole 1 foot deep by 2’ across
to test drainage and fill it with water. If the water does not
completely drain out in 3-4 hours, you will have to raise the planting
height by mounding the soil up higher than the ground level.
Diagram Click on image for larger version
Planting with Pre-Moistened Sphagnum Peat Moss
When planting with (2 cu ft) Pre-Moistened Sphagnum
Peat Moss, follow these guidelines:
Size of plant(s)
One 2 cu ft bag equals:
15" balled &
18-24" balled *
24" balled &
6-8' tree (1-1.25"
(use 1.5 - 2 bags)
1.5-2" caliper b&b
(Use 2-3 bags)
Planting with dry
Canadian Peat Moss
When planting with dry Canadian Peat Moss, follow these guidelines:
Size of plant(s)
One bale equals:
3 gallon +
- 1¼" caliper (b&b)
1 1/2" - 2"+
(Use 3-4 of a bale)
**Rates based on planting hole twice the
diameter of the root ball with a mixture of 25% peat moss and 75% soil.
Use Sweet Peet as an addition to the above peat moss at one half the rate
for even better results. Note: NO Sweet Peet is necessary if it has
already been incorporated into a new planting bed.
Water plants thoroughly at installation, then water each plant fully
once a week for balled &
burlapped plants and every 3 days for container-grown plants. Keep this schedule for 3
weeks. Water only when necessary after the first 3 week period. Hot weather and drought
conditions may require more water than normal conditions. To be sure the
plants get enough water, follow this very simple rule of thumb: one gallon of water for a
one gallon plant, two gallons of water for a two gallon plant, etc. For balled and
burlapped shrubs, a minimum of one gallon of water for every foot of shrub height or
spread is ideal. Balled and burlapped trees need ten gallons of water for every one inch
of trunk diameter. For example, a 2 caliper tree would take twenty gallons of water
to water it thoroughly. Remember newly planted balled and burlapped plants usually need
watered only once weekly unlike container-grown plants which like watered every third day.
If the weather is cool and very wet or hot and very dry, the water schedule will have to
be adjusted as necessary.
Newly planted trees and shrubs (the following does not include
Rhododendrons, Azaleas and their relatives) should be fertilized at half
the rate of established plants. Fertilize established plants 3-4 times a
April 1-15, June 1-15, August 1, October 20November 10th. Plant-tone is an
excellent organic fertilizer that has many essential trace elements as well. Rates to use
on established plants: Shrubs: One cupful for each one foot of branch spread. Trees:
Two and a half cups per one inch of trunk diameter. (Remember, use Holly Tone, not Plant
Tone for plants such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas and their relatives) Note: Always
scatter the fertilizer under the drip line or over the surface of the root ball and water
in. Never concentrate plant tone in one spot or against the plants trunk. Remember,
reduce rates by half for newly planted shrubs. (One pound=3 cups)