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Planting 101

How to Plant a Plant

Do you have a green thumb? After hours combing through the garden center, dreaming about the picturesque scene the front of your home will be, hundreds of dollars, and a crowded, somewhat painful drive home, it’s time to put them in the ground. Maybe you just dig a hole that will fit the plant, plop it in, cover it up and call it quits? And maybe you’re reading this article because you realize that has failed every year you’ve tried it. Follow these basic rules below and your plants will be much more likely to not only survive the season, but flourish!

Bare Root Plants

Keep it Wet

The most important factor in planting bare root plants is to keep the roots soaked until you get around to putting it in the ground. It’s especially important that they soak for awhile just before planting. The woody plants will need a 2 hour soak, while other plants are fine with 10-20 minutes.

Prune the Dead Roots

To promote healthy growth clip off any dead roots, but don’t touch the healthy ones, even if it means you need to dig a bigger hole. Harming the healthy ones could damage the entire plant.

Dig a big Hole

It’s a good idea to dig the hole about twice the size you think it should be, then put the soil back until it’s the right size. This will loosen up the soil and give the plant a nice, airy hole. The finished hole should be wide enough that you don’t need to squeeze any of the roots, and deep enough so that the point where the roots meet the trunk is right at soil level.

More Tips

Water the plant so the soil is moist around the plant and keep it well watered for the first year.

Don’t fertilize for at least 4 weeks after it is planted.

Trees will probably need to be staked for at least one year.

Container Grown Ornamentals

Look at the Roots

After taking your plant out of the container, look at the roots. You will see thin white lines running all around the plant, that’s normal. Keep your eye out for the larger woody roots. These can become ingrown and turn into separate plants. To prevent that, just cut them.

Fluff the roots

If they seem especially tight and difficult, take a small knife and make slits from the top down to the base in the bottom 2/3rds of the plant. This will help the plant spread out quickly giving you a nice, healthy plant.

Dig the hole

You’ll want the hole to be 2-3 times wider than the container and deep enough so that the top of the plant is level with the soil. Test the depth by putting the plant in the hole to make sure you have it just right.

FIlling the Hole

First fill the hole half way, breaking up any clots to prevent air pockets. Then water the hole and fill it the rest of the way leaving the soil of the container exposed. Create a mound of dirt around the edges of the previous hole creating a trench around the plant and water it again. The mound will ensure all the water soaks right into the plant’s roots. Then put a layer of mulch over the hole about 2-3 inches deep, but not near the stem of the plant (to prevent insect problems).


Step back and take a good look. Do you see any damaged branches? go ahead and cut those off to prevent disease, hold off on any structural pruning for at least a year after it’s planted.

Balled and Burlapped Trees

Dig the Hole

Dig a saucer shaped hole (sloping sides) 2-3 times wider than the root ball. It might be easier to rototill the area first. Check the depth by placing the tree in the hole (always lift it by the root ball). you’ll want the top of the ball to be just above ground level.

Cut it loose

With the tree in the hole, cut away all the burlap/wire/rope/twine/nails from the tree. You can leave plain burlap under the ball, but only if it isn’t treated.

Fill the Hole

With someone holding the tree straight, firmly pack the hole with soil making sure there are no pockets of air.

Watering the Tree

Create a mound around the edge of the previous hole so the water stays focused on the tree. Water it generously and cover the area with 2-4 inches of mulch. Keep the mulch 4 inches away from the trunk (to prevent insect problems). Keep the soil moist for the first year, watering every week if the weather is dry.


For the first year, keep your eye out for any dead or damaged branches and remove them. Also, make sure all your tags are off!

Remember- Live life together!

Bring in a child, spouse, or friend; learn together, keep it fun, and make a memory. Life is too short to do it alone!

Have a different type of plant you’re looking at putting in the ground? Send us an email and we’ll let you know how it should be planted, or let us do it for you.

Have questions about your lawn? Send us an email at and we’d be happy to help. Be prepared to be featured on our blog!

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