Once you plant has arrived, it is important that you open the box as soon as possible, remove the plant and water it thoroughly. All plants are watered before they are packed for shipment. This helps keep the plant moist throughout its long journey. However, some moisture is going to escape and most absorbed.
It often takes the roots 4-6 weeks to get acclimated to their new location and to start getting established in the new soil. Once this happens, you will begin to see new growth start to emerge on you plant (in the spring or summer).
The plants have been shipped in dark trucks and passed through many hands. Often times, the new plants may be stressed (foliage discoloration, droopy leaves and/or dry dirt) from all the travel and handling they have experienced. Not to worry! They will perk back up!
After watering your plant thoroughly, it is a good idea to move the plant to the shade for a few hours before planting. They may be kept here for a few days, if necessary, until you can get them in the ground. Do NOT let the roots dry out.
Loosen the roots and soil that surround you new plant. If some of the roots have grown in circles around the potted soil, make four vertical, ¼” deep cuts into the roots around the diameter of the root ball. Then loosen them gently with your hands. Spread the roots gently with your hands to encourage the roots to grow out and away from the plant.
The best time to plant potted plants is in the spring. You may plant them any time during the growing season, but during the hot summer months you will need to water more often to keep the tender new roots moist. You can safely plant potted plants up until six weeks before the first hard frost.
Bare root plants
Trees are shipped bare root after they have gone dormant in the fall. This means all the leaves have fallen off and the tree is in its winter sleep. They can stay this way until mid-spring. It is easier on the plant to be shipped this way as it reduces stress from heat, leaf production and possible damage to branches.
For you, bare root plants are a lot less work. Nature usually provides more precipitation in the cooler months, meaning you won’t have to water as often. If the soil does begin to dry out a couple inches down, you will need to give it some water. But, generally this won’t be necessary very often in the fall and winter months. During this time the tree can put all its energy into establishing its roots in the new soil. When spring rolls around, it will be ready to sprout out new growth.
General Planting Information
This is the most important step to ensure your plant lives a long and healthy life. All plants must have good drainage, nutrients, and available water at all times. Plants need to be planted as soon after arriving as possible.
Dig the hole two to three times as wide, and a little deeper than the potted plant. Removing grass and weeds from around your plant will reduce competition for nutrients and moisture. On bare root plants the hole needs to be as deep as the roots and 2-3’ wide.
To ensure good drainage and add nutrients to the soil, mix a 50% ratio of premium soil, compost, and/or peat moss with the dirt you just dug. This addition of organic materials will help clay soils drain better and sandy soils to retain enough moisture for the plant to thrive.
Mulch is a plant’s best friend. It is a true workhorse for your garden. It holds down grasses and weeds that will compete with your new plants’ roots for water, and also helps the soil retain water. It helps the soil from becoming overly compacted and acts as an insulator keeping the soil temperatures more even. Create a mulch bed around your plant that is 2-3 inches thick, while encircling your plant with a several foot diameter. It is also recommended to leave a slight area free of mulch just where your stem reaches the ground. Click How to Mulch for more information on mulching in your landscape.
For new plants you may add a root stimulator (see RootBlast on our website) or a slow release fertilizer. It is not necessary to add chemical nutrients to your plant until the root system has gotten established. You will receive the benefit of natural fertilizers when you integrate organic matter into your soil. After the plant is established you may wish to add a fertilizer suited for your plant.
Most new shrubs need general watering the first months they are in your yard. Be careful not to over water. An over-watered shrub often looks like an under-watered shrub. If you see your shrub wilting or leaves curling on the edges and are constantly watering, back off with the water and see how your plant does on its own for a bit. Feel the ground to be sure it is dry at least an inch down before watering again.
During hot, dry spells be sure to deeply water your shrub and the surrounding soil twice a week or more. Long, deep waterings are much more beneficial than short ones. Sprinklers are usually not enough for new plants trying to get established. Take time to water these new plants deeply.
For more information on how to get started, read out FREE Quick Start Guide.