Shrubs…Can I still plant?

We often get the question, “Can I still plant?” in regards to trees, shrubs, and perennials. Shrubs can be planted year round if they are in a container or already dug from the field and placed in burlap.  The convenience of these containerized plants allows you to start your landscape project anytime during the growing season, as long as the ground can be worked (meaning it is not frozen or extremely wet).

Now that you know it is okay to plant, let’s go over a few things that you must know about your space in order to have success with any shrub.

Sunlight: The amount of sunlight is one of the most important things to know when picking out a plant.  Some plants can tolerate a lot of sun, while others will burn in full sun.  The same goes for shade, since there are fewer shrubs that thrive in the shade.  Take a look before you plant to determine how many hours of quality sun your location gets.

Hardiness:  Check the zone the plant is recommended in.  In Eastern Iowa, we are technically Zone 5 (-20 to -10°F), however many people that live out in rural areas or have a very unprotected location in town should plant Zone 4.

Soil:  Check your soil consistency.  Is your soil mostly clay, sand, or is it rich beautiful black dirt?  Some plants can tolerate any soil, whereas others may prefer a loose soil or even acidic soil.  When in doubt, you can send a soil sample to the extension office to determine the make-up of your soil.

Once you have a plant suitable for your space, here is what you need to know about planting:

 Step 1:  Remove any sod or weeds in the planting bed to avoid competition with the shrub.
Step 2:  Dig a hole 1.5 to 2x the diameter of the container and just slightly deeper.  Add compost to the hole or good soil.
Step 3:  Remove from the pot and assess the roots.  If the shrub’s roots are circling around the bottom of the pot, loosen them up with your fingers or gently with a tool.’
Step 4: Pick the “face of the plant” (the best side) and face that side outward while placing in the hole.
Step 5:  Making sure the soil level from the pot is the same as in the ground, start filling in with the soil that was removed from the hole, while lightly tamping the soil around the plant so it does not settle once watered.
Step 6:  Water the shrub in well and spread mulch around the base of the plant, avoiding piling it up against the stems of the shrub (this helps prevent disease/insect infestation).

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