We are now in one of the two best times of the year (the other being winter) for planting trees and ornamental shrubs in our landscapes. The huge spring variety of plants in the big box stores would lead the gardener to believe that spring is the best time to plant. It is not. Planting now allows plants to concentrate on developing a good strong root system instead of expending energy on maintaining leaves and flowers or fruit. Winter rains provide the moisture a new plant needs; thus, we are not having to be out watering new plantings on almost a daily basis. If the local big box stores do not have what you need visit locally owned nurseries. Our area has several very nice ones. If they don’t have what you need, perhaps they can special order for you.
There are just a few simple rules to help your new plant thrive. The most basic of these is to plant the right plant in the right place. That means the homeowner plants a plant where it can grow with the least stress on the plant and least work (i.e., maintenance, pest and disease prevention and treatment) for the homeowner. For example, not using a shrub for a foundation planting that will quickly overtake the windows and, thus, require hours of maintenance to keep it pruned into shape. As a MG one of the most common questions I have been asked is what to do about a foundation planning (the one under the front windows of your home) that has gotten too big; see photo. Another example of the right plant in the right place would be planting a shrub that requires shade in the shade instead of in a full sun location. That shade lover will not flourish; gallons of water will be necessary to help it live at all.
Another very important thing to remember when planting a new tree or a shrub is not plant it too deeply. Planting too deep is one sure way to kill a plant. First of all, do not dig the hole any deeper than the root ball (but do dig the hole at least three times as wide as the root ball). As a matter of fact, it is better to position the planting so that the top of the root ball is at least an inch or so over the soil line. If you dig the hole too deep and then add soil to the hole, the soil and the plant will eventually settle, causing it to be planted too deeply. Research also indicates that for a single hole planting, it is best not to amend the soil with other materials but to backfill your hole with the native soil. Use of the native soil that you removed when you dug your hole allows the plant to adapt to its new home more easily.
One other point to remember is that when you mulch, do not place your mulch directly against the trunk. Mulch placed up against the bark is an open invitation to insects and disease to invade your healthy plant. Think doughnut instead of volcano as you place your mulch around your plant.
There are many other considerations to think about as you plant. The Extension Service has lots of excellent publications discussing them. We will take up some other pointers for successful planting in future blogs.