Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubs complete a landscape, providing interest with height, shape, color, and texture. They bring life to an area with their presence and by providing habitat for wildlife. Trees and shrubs can serve countless functions, such as acting as a wind break, providing shade, and producing food. Once established, most trees and shrubs require little care to remain healthy thereafter. In order for a tree to be successful, it’s important to choose the right plant for your location and needs.
Consider these factors when choosing a tree or shrub:
- USDA Hardiness Zone
- Light exposure of the planting location.
- Soil type of the planting location.
- Desired mature height and width of the plant.
- Desired bloom period.
Proper planting and establishment of trees and shrubs is critical to the health of the tree. A tree or shrub is established once it has adjusted to its new environment and has grown its roots enough to be able to adequately take in moisture and nutrients. This takes time, and some care is required during this time to ensure the plant survives and thrives.
In loose, well-drained soil, dig a hole that is 2-3 times the width of the root spread, soil ball, or container size of the plant. Dig the hole no deeper than the height of the root ball, so that the roots will be just below the ground surface.
The soil you remove from the hole is called backfill. Mix organic matter, such as compost or composted manure, with the backfill so that the soil contains no more than 10% organic matter. If you add more than this, the soil will be too dissimilar to the surrounding soil, making the hole either hold water too long or not long enough.
Be careful not to break the root ball, cutting off the container if needed.
If the tree is B&B (balled & burlapped) there’s no need to remove the entire piece
of burlap or wire cage, if it has one. Burlap will dissolve over time and the wire cage will rust away.
Cut or pull away any matted or tangled roots, so they radiate out away from the root ball. Be careful to not remove the soil from the root ball.
The root ball should be sitting just at, or slightly above ground level. A common mistake people make is planting trees too deep, so keep it shallow. Make sure it is straight by checking from different directions.
If B&B has a wire cage, fold back the wire, so it does not stick above the ground and cut back burlap so it doesn’t wick away moisture. Ideally you could cut a few of the wires to weaken the cage if it has one. You want the cage and the burlap left on the tree to hold the root ball together as the tree gets established.
Stand the plant in the center of the hole and carefully backfill with soil. Work the soil in and around the root ball, and firm with your hands. Continue filling the hole until it is three-fourths full. Fill it with water using the directions below and let the water drain. This settles the soil and eliminates air pockets around the roots. Do not pack the soil after it is watered. Check to see that it is still straight, and finish filling the hole.
At the top of the hole, create a slight saucer around the tree to catch water. This will hold the water and allow it to soak in the root area where it’s needed.
If you want your newly planted trees and shrubs to survive their first year, you must be sure they get the right amount of water. Over-watering is just as harmful as under-watering. How often and how much you water depends upon your soil type and the amount of rainfall received.
We recommend watering newly planted trees or shrubs with Bonide Root & Grow Root Stimulator. Follow label directions for the diameter of the plant. Water the soil with Root & Grow at the time of planting, then once a week for 3 weeks, and then once a month for 2 to 3 months.
For well-drained soils, apply 1 inch of water per week in summer and fall. Water regularly and supplement brief rain showers. If there is a heavy rain (2 or more inches), you may still need to water the following week, since much of a heavy rain often runs off. If using a lawn sprinkler, put a straight-sided aluminum can near the tree or shrub and water until the can contains one inch of water. Watering should be monitored for the first two growing seasons.
To avoid burning roots, don’t add dry fertilizers or fresh manure to the backfill mix. Root & Grow includes fertilizer in the solution (4-10-3 analysis). Additional fertilizer is not needed during the first growing season and should be added later only to correct deficiencies. Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Fertilizer Spikes are a great option for adding fertilizer to established trees and shrubs, which can be used once in spring and once in fall, according to package instructions.
Many newly planted trees do better without staking, but in some cases staking is necessary. Stake trees taller than 6 feet, bare root trees, or trees planted in an area of excessive wind, to keep them from tipping.
To stake, pound three stakes or posts into the ground, at least 18 inches deep, around the tree just on the inside of the planting hole, being careful not to go into the root ball.
Use a nylon strap, such as pantyhose, to place against the tree so that it can hold the tree in place, but also expand with the growth of the tree and bend in the wind. Place the nylon strap around the trunk and tie with rope to stake, getting rid of slack, but not so much that it places pressure on the tree. Remove supports once the tree becomes established, usually after one growing season.
After watering, add no more than 2-3 inches of bark mulch or other coarse material over the entire root spread. Keep mulch 1-2 inches away from the trunk of the tree and the stems of shrubs. Use any of these mulches we carry for tree and shrubs: cypress bark, hardwood mulch, pine bark nuggets, pine bark mulch, gold mulch, red mulch, or cocoa bean mulch. Check out our page on Mulch for more information.