11 Tips for Planting Shrubs

Shrubs are a wonderful addition to any home. They serve several purposes. If you live in a snowy area, shrubs can provide a great wind-block to protect against drifting snow. In warmer climates, they can help keep your home cool. Shrubs can provide a great backdrop for flowers and can be the flowers themselves. Planting a shrub is easy. Here are some tips to help you plant and grow beautiful shrubs.

Decide Where to Plant

Deciding where to plant your shrub is a very important step to take before choosing your shrub. If you’re planting close to your home you’re not going to want a plant with strong, invasive roots like a lilac that may damage your foundation. Write down information about the area such as what other plants are nearby, how much sun the spot gets if there’s a building or windows nearby.

Choosing Your Shrub

There are a lot of different shrubs to choose from. Some flower. Some produce berries. Some are evergreen, some not. Some change colors in the fall; some change colors in the summer. If you’re planting in front of a window, you may want to plant shrubs that don’t grow very tall. Keep where you are planting in mind when choosing your shrub. Korean boxwoods are a great choice if you would like a slow-growing, bushy plant you can shape. Hydrangeas are wonderful flowering bushes. Japanese willows are beautiful shrubs. In spring and autumn they are green and leafy, in summer the tips turn a beautiful blush color.

Set the Plants in Their Place

Just to be sure you actually like where you’ve decided to plant, set your shrub there and take a look. It may be you think your shrub will look better centered under the window rather than to the side. You may discover your shrub needs to be planted further from the house than you thought. Seeing the plant (still in its pot) in the spot you chose for it really helps you be sure you’re planting in the right place before you go digging things up.

Measure and Dig

You should always measure your shrub’s root-ball then dig a hole as deep as the root-ball and twice as wide. You should loosen the sides and bottom of the hole with a gardening fork. This makes it easier to prepare the soil. If you’re planting more than one shrub or have other plantings nearby you should measure the distance apart to make sure your plants have plenty of room to grow.

Consider Weed Control

It will be hard for your shrub to flourish if it’s choked out by weeds. Consider putting down black plastic or newspaper to keep the weeds away. Black plastic last a long time, but newspaper printed with soy ink biodegrades and is much better for the environment.

Preparing the Soil

When you bought your shrub you should have read the little tag that goes with it. If it didn’t tell you what kind of soil your plant prefers you should have asked. Some plants like loamy soil, others are hardy in sandy soil. Some plants prefer a more alkaline environment and some like it acidic. Prepare the soil based on what your plant likes. For well-drained soil add some small pebbles and avoid clay at all costs. If your shrub needs acidic soil, mix in some coffee grounds.

Plants Need Nutrients

If you’re planting a flowering shrub, toss a few banana peels in a blender with a little water (coffee grounds too if your shrubs like acid) and blend. Mix your magic blend in with a garden trowel when you’re preparing the soil. The tiny pieces break down easily and provide your shrub with nutrients. If you would like to go with a more conventional fertilizer I suggest you use a slow-release fertilizer. You won’t need to feed your plants as often.

Composting Made Easy

Plants love compost. It’s a natural fertilizer that’s great for the environment and cuts down on garbage bags dumped in landfills. Don’t use meat. Use the fruits and vegetables leftover from your table, coffee grounds, and some newspaper. Toss them in your blender with a little bit of water, blend. Put your compost smoothie in a Rubbermaid container you’ve drilled holes in. Add worms. Not just any worms. You want the big, fat red ones. It won’t take the worms long to break down the little pieces and turn them into compost. Layer the compost around your shrubs. They will love you for it.

A Pruning Priority

You should prune your shrubs to keep them growing well. Remove any dead or damaged branches or leaves. You should also prune some of the branches away in the spring to clean up your shrub and keep it growing well. You can choose anvil pruners or bypass pruners. Anvil pruners bring a blade down against a piece of metal to cut the branch. Bypass pruners cut from both sides and potentially do less damage to the branch because they don’t crush the branch.

When the Winter Wind Blows

If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you may want to protect your plants from both the winter winds and the weight of the snow. Snow can weigh down and break branches if precautions aren’t taken. Measure the height and width of your shrub. Get yourself two pieces of plywood a foot or two longer than and at least as wide as your shrub. Attach one or two cheap hinges to the top and put it over your shrub teepee style. You can pick up some cheap clear plastic such as clear drop-cloth plastic at Wal-Mart. Wrap some of this around your wood and shrub. Sunlight can still get in, but it keeps the wind and snow out.

Let’s Talk Mulch

Mulch is a good idea for shrubs. It helps keep the roots cool, helps retain moisture, and helps keep weeds in their place, which is out of your garden. Mulch can also hold your black plastic or newspaper in place. Not all mulches are created equal. Quartz garden stone is great for weighing down plastic and keeping weeds out. It’s low maintenance but doesn’t retain moisture as well as wood mulch. Wood mulch weighs the plastic down, keeps weeds out, retains moisture well, but deteriorates over time. Wood mulch should be dug out and replaced once every year or two as it deteriorates to keep it looking nice. Another option is to simply plant grass around and under your shrub for a very natural look. The downside of just planting grass is that you give weeds the opportunity to grow.


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