There's a way to increase the odds that your shrub will have a good, long life.
establishing shrubs
Credit: Jacky Parker Photography

You're giving your front yard a mini makeover and that includes adding a few new shrubs. They're beauties, and you want to keep them healthy for years to come. Right now it's important to ensure each new shrub's roots get established-the sooner, the better, as this will increase the plant's chances for survival and help it grow more rapidly. Here's how to do it.

Don't be gentle.

Rough up the sides of the hole before backfilling to prevent any glazing of existing soil, which will impede root growth into the soil, says Kurt Morrell, the A.P. Farm Associate Vice President for Landscape Operations at the New York Botanical Garden.

Handle it correctly.

There's a right way and a wrong way to handle a new shrub: Always pick it up in its container or by its root ball. Never pick the plant up by its trunk or you will destroy tiny hair roots that aid in water uptake. These roots take about 48 hours to grow back.

Work with the root ball.

If your shrubs are in containers, remove them from their pots. Inspect the shrubs for dead or injured roots. "Tease the root ball or containerized root ball," says Morrell. "This must be done to ensure good root-soil contact." Another option is to take a knife and cut vertically on opposite sides of the root ball to loosen the roots.

Plant it properly.

It's best to plant a container shrub at the same height that it has been planted in its pot-planting too deeply is a common problem. Make sure to plant the shrub so that its good side is facing out.

Soak it.

Water the new planting thoroughly and immediately after planting. Water it again the next day so that the root ball is completely saturated. If you dutifully water the shrub for its first few years, it stands a much better chance of survival, especially during high temperatures.


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