Planting Shrubs / Pruning Shrubs Instructions
Site Location for Planting your Shrubs
Proper placement of shrubs is
critical for your enjoyment and their long-term survival. Before
planting your shrub, consider the shrub's mature size. When
the shrub nears maturity, will it be too close to your house or
other structures? Be considerate of your neighbors. Will it provide
too much shade for your vegetable and flower gardens? Most vegetables
and many flowers require considerable amounts of sun. If you intend
to grow these plants, consider how the placement of shrubs will
affect these gardens. Will it obstruct driveways or sidewalks? Will
it cause problems for buried or overhead utilities?
A properly planted and maintained
shrub will grow faster and live longer than one that is incorrectly
planted. Shrubs can be planted almost any time of the year as long
as the ground is not frozen. Late summer or early fall is the optimum
time to plant shrubs in many areas. This gives the shrub a chance
to establish new roots before winter arrives and the ground freezes.
When spring arrives, the shrub is ready to grow. The second choice
for planting is late winter or early spring. Planting in hot summer
weather should be avoided. Planting in frozen soil during the winter
is difficult and tough on shrub roots. When the shrub is dormant
and the ground is frozen, there is no opportunity for the growth
of new roots.
Shrubs are purchased as
container grown, balled and burlapped (B&B), and bare root. Generally,
container grown are the easiest to plant and successfully establish
in any season, including summer. With container grown stock, the
plant has been growing in a container for a period of time. When
planting container grown plants, little damage is done to the roots
as the plant is transferred to the soil. Container grown shrubs
range in size from very small plants in gallon pots up to large
shrubs in huge pots. B&B plants frequently have been dug from a
nursery, wrapped in burlap, and kept in the nursery for an additional
period of time, giving the roots opportunity to regenerate. B&B
plants can be quite large. Bare root shrubs require special care.
Because there is no soil on the roots, they must be planted when
they are dormant to avoid drying out. The roots must be kept moist
until planted. Bare root plants should be planted as soon as possible
Carefully follow the planting
instructions that come with your shrub. If specific instructions
are not available, follow these tips:
Dig a hole twice as wide as, and slightly shallower than, the
root ball. Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole with a pick
or shovel so that roots can penetrate the soil.
With a potted shrub, gently remove the shrub from the container.
Lay the shrub on its side with the container end near the planting
hole. Hit the bottom and sides of the container until the root ball
is loosened. If roots are growing in a circular pattern around the
root ball, slice through the roots on a couple of sides of the root
ball. With shrubs wrapped in burlap, remove the string or wire that
holds the burlap to the root crown. It is unnecessary to completely
remove the burlap. Plastic wraps must be completely removed. Gently
separate circling roots on the root ball. Shorten exceptionally
long roots, and guide the shortened roots downward and outward.
Root tips die quickly when exposed to light and air, so don't waste
Place the root ball in the hole. Leave the top of the root ball
(where the roots end and the trunk begins) 1/2 to 1 inch above the
surrounding soil, making sure not to cover it unless roots are exposed.
For bare root plants, make a mound of soil in the middle of the
hole and spread plant roots out evenly over mound. Do not set shrubs
too deep. As you add soil to fill in around the shrub, lightly tamp
the soil to collapse air pockets, or add water to help settle the
soil. Form a temporary water basin around the base of the shrub
to encourage water penetration, and water thoroughly after planting.
A shrub with a dry root ball cannot absorb water; if the root ball
is extremely dry, allow water to trickle into the soil by placing
the hose at the base of the shrub.
Mulch around the shrub. A 3-foot diameter circle of mulch is
For the first year or two, especially
after a week or so of especially hot or dry weather, watch your
shrubs closely for signs of moisture stress. If you see leaf wilting
or hard, caked soil, water the shrubs well and slowly enough to
allow the water to soak in. This will encourage deep root growth.
Keep the area under the shrubs mulched.
Some species of evergreen shrubs
may need protection against winter sun and wind. A thorough watering
in the fall before the ground freezes is recommended. Spray solutions
are available to help prevent drying of foliage during the winter.
Fertilization is usually not needed
for newly planted shrubs. Depending on soil and growing conditions,
fertilizer may be beneficial at a later time.
Usually, pruning is not needed
on newly planted shrubs. As the shrub grows, lower branches may
be pruned to provide clearance above the ground, or to remove dead
or damaged limbs or suckers that sprout from the trunk. Sometimes
larger shrubs need pruning to allow more light to enter the canopy.
Small branches can be removed easily with pruners. Large branches
should be removed with a pruning saw. All cuts should be vertical.
This will allow the shrub to heal quickly without the use of sealants.
Major pruning should be done in late winter or early spring. At
this time the shrub is more likely to "bleed" as sap is rising through
the plant. This is actually healthy and will help prevent invasion
by many disease organisms. Heavy pruning in the late summer or fall
may reduce the shrub's winter hardiness. Removal of large branches
can be hazardous. If in doubt about your ability to prune properly,
contact a professional with the proper equipment.
Under no circumstance should shrubs
be topped. Not only does this practice ruin the natural shape of
the shrub, but it increases susceptibility to diseases and results
in very narrow crotch angles, the angle between the trunk and the
side branch. Narrow crotch angles are weaker than wide ones and
more susceptible to damage from wind and ice. If a large shrub requires
major reduction in height or size, contact a professionally trained
arborist. There are other methods to selectively remove large branches
without sacrificing the health or beauty of the shrub.