Step-By-Step Instructions for Planting Most Shrubs In Average Soil
Below are general guidelines for properly planting most types of container-grown shrubs in the landscape. This planting technique is suitable for most average soils.
STEP 1 - Begin by digging a hole at least twice as wide as the rootball and not much deeper than the rootball.
STEP 2 - Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil you are planting in, you might need to add a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in heavy clay soil thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as composted cow manure, mushroom compost, or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the clay soil. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider adding in some peat moss and or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy soil you might not need to add any soil amendment.
STEP 3 - Gently remove your plant from the pot it was growing in. If the root ball is stuck in the pot either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and pound lightly on the side of the container. This usually helps to loosen the root ball in the container. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If rootbound, it may be necessary to use a claw tool to loosen roots.
STEP 4 - If you're planting your shrub in well-drained soil, or a raised bed or mound, set plant into hole so that top of root-ball is level or slightly above the level of the soil surface. If you are planting on level ground, or in areas where the soil holds water for more than 12 hours or so after a rain, set the plant in the planting hole making sure that the top edge of the root ball is several inches above ground level. If necessary, add some of the back-fill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.
Note: If planting on a slope, where there will most likely be good drainage, you may plant with top edge of root ball even to ground level. Azaleas, Camelias, and Rhododendrons and other plants that do not like wet feet at all, may require higher planting, particularly if the soil in the planting area is consistently moist.
STEP 5 - Use your hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball tapering your soil mixture gradually to the ground level, essentially creating a slightly raised mound. Do not put any backfill soil on top of the root ball as doing so can suffocate your plant.
STEP 6 (Optional)** - With remaining soil mixture build a water retaining ring to around 3" or so in height around perimiter of planting hole or mound.
STEP 7 - Broadcast a granular shrub fertilizer, or organic fertilizer, atop rootball in amount suggested on label. To enhance root development, you might also consider watering your newly planted shrub with a solution of Root Stimulator.
STEP 8 - Water your newly planted shrub deeply at time of planting. Thereafter, monitor soil moisture by using the finger test, and water when necessary. Most likely, your newly planted shrub will not need watering everyday. Over-watered plants can develop root-rot and die. A good soaking rain or watering once or twice a week is usually all that's necessary until your shrub is established. Once established, most shrubs will need little attention to watering, except during dry periods or prolonged drought. Shrubs planted during the Fall and Winter months, while in dormancy, will require less water.
STEP 9 - To retain adequate moisture and suppress weed growth, apply a 2 inch layer of wood mulch, or a 4-inch layer of pine straw.
How To Water Newly Planted Shrubs
Watering a newly planted shrub is pretty straight forward.
At Planting Time: Water the plant in it's pot just before planting. Then water the planting area deeply two times after planting to ensure the soil in the planting area is soaked to a depth of the base of the rootball of the plant.
Watering During The First Year: There is no set schedule for watering newly planted shrubs. With the exception of a very few shrubs that prefer boggy, wet soils, most shrubs prefer a well-drained but moist soil. In the absence of adequate rainfall, water newly planted shrubs enough to keep the soil moist but not constantly soaking wet. Allow soil to dry out somewhat between waterings. I prefer watering deeply less frequently than just splashing a little water around the plant every day, which will most likely end in a plant that dies of thirst. When watering, you want to at least soak the top several inches of the soil. Don't forget to water the top of the root ball as well as the surrounding area.
Watering Therafter: Usually, a properly planted and watered shrub establishes a good root system during it's first year and, therefore, will not require as much supplemental irrigation. Watering should only be necessary during a prolonged period of dry weather, and give it a good soaking at least one a week or so until normal rainfall resumes.
What Time Of Day To Water: Glad you asked this question:-)...the answer to it is a very important one. The best time of day to water shrubs is between the early morning hours and noon. Avoid watering in the late evening or at night. Doing so can lead to the onset of damaging disease and fungus.