How to articles
How-to plant a shrub
The secret of success when planting a shrub is to make sure it’s set at the right depth and the roots are out of the rootball a little. After planting, it’s also a good idea to cover the soil with a mulch to prevent competition from weeds and to help retain moisture around the roots of the plant.
When to plant?
Container-grown shrubs can be planted at any time of the year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged. Autumn, however, is the ideal time for deciduous shrubs because the soil is still warm enough to encourage some root growth before the onset of winter. This helps the shrub establish quickly so that it is more able to withstand any hot, dry spells the following summer.
Container-grown conifers and other evergreens can also be planted in early autumn, but in exposed gardens it’s better if they’re planted in April (May in colder areas). In these areas it's also worth putting up a protective barrier of windbreak netting – to help the evergreens settle in.
Six steps to success
1. Dig a hole at least twice as wide and deep as the shrub's container. Mix the soil you've removed with well-rotted organic matter (compost) and leave to one side.
2. The shrub needs to be planted at the same depth as it was in the pot. Check the hole is the right depth by laying a cane or piece of straight timber across the hole. If the shrub is standing too high or too low you'll need to remove or add some of the soil in the bottom of the hole.
3. Water the shrub thoroughly and allow the pot to drain. The easiest way to get a large plant out of its pot is to gently lay it on its side and, with one hand supporting the shrub, ease the rootball out of its pot.
4. Carefully pull out any roots that are circling around the bottom or sides of the pot, so they grow away from the rootball and into the surrounding soil. Position the shrub in the centre of the hole then stand back to make sure you’re getting the best side at the front (this is known as 'facing-up'). Then fill in the gaps around the sides of the rootball with the soil mixture, firming it down gently in layers as you work your way up to the top.
5. Once the hole has been filled, gently firm the soil once more – to get rid of any air pockets and make sure the plant is secure. Water the shrub again using at least one full watering can.
6. Then cover the soil with a generous layer of mulch, such as chipped bark or manure to help prevent weeds and reduce the amount of water loss from the soil. Finally, retire to a comfortable chair and admire your handy work.