The Secrets Of Planting Shrubs And Trees

By Marshall Clewis

Most of the planting is done in the spring, between the time the frost leaves the ground and the time the leaf buds break on deciduous trees and shrubs. You may plant evergreens a week later as they do not usually start new growth as early as deciduous plants. In the fall, plant evergreens, herbaceous perennials and bulbs before the middle of September. Plant deciduous trees and shrubs a little later, when their leaves are ready to fall.

Care on Arrival

When the shrubs arrive from the nursery, unpack them and report immediately any discrepancy in the order or condition of the stock. If the material cannot be planted immediately, dig a trench and pack the roots close together in it, covering them with earth packed down firmly to exclude air. Evergreens that have the roots tightly balled and burlapped may be stood in the shade and sprinkled with water but not soaked.

Digging and Filling the Holes

Dig the holes before you prepare the plants to go in them. It is very important to keep the roots moist at all times, and they will dry out if you have them lying in the sun or wind while you dig the hole. Dig the holes wide enough that the roots can be spread out naturally, and deep enough that 3 to 4 inches of good topsoil can be placed in the bottom and still allow the plant to be set about 1 inch lower than it grew before.

Hold the plant in place while you fill in good topsoil over the roots. Gently shake the plant up and down two or three times to help settle the earth around the roots. Then tamp the soil down firmly. Soak it with water and as soon as it has settled fill the hole with soil; leave a saucerlike depression around the plant to hold future water, which it should receive at least once a week until it is established.

When planting evergreens do not remove the burlap from the roots. Place topsoil in the bottom of the hole to hold the ball at the right height. Remove the cord or nails that hold the ball together and roll the burlap back gently into the bottom of the hole, where it will rot in time. Then add soil and water as above.


Small trees should be staked and large trees guyed with wires at the time they are planted to avoid being swayed by the wind. Make sure that the stake does not rub the tree and that wires and ties do not chafe it.

For small trees from 8 to 10 feet tall, drive a 2 x 2 inch hardwood stake (about as long as the tree) firmly into the bottom of the hole before planting the tree. Place the tree 2 to 3 inches from the stake so that the roots are not scraped. After the tree has been planted, tie the trunk to the stake about a foot from the ground and again every 3 feet, using a piece of rubber hose between them in a figure 8 and then making a loop around the two.

For guy-wiring larger trees, drive three or four short stakes into the ground about 5 feet from the tree on opposite sides. So that the tree will not be scraped, run the wires through a piece of hose placed around the tree 8 to 10 feet from the ground.


Prune deciduous shrubs, shasta daisies and trees at planting, to balance the roots they have lost and to train their shape. When pruning shasta daisies and trees, remove some of the branches close to the trunk. Leave the main leader going straight up, with branches 6 to 12 inches apart ascending but alternating evenly around it. Remove broken branches and any that are crossed.

When pruning shrubs, remove weak, twisted or broken branches at the base. Also, cut back the strong canes to a point just above a leaf bud that points outward, so that the new branches will not cross. - 29857

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