When and how to plant, water, fertilize and prune
The best times to plant are spring and fall when temperatures are mild and soil is generally moist and hospitable. This reduces the amount of stress on new plants and helps them thrive. But you can plant virtually any time the ground is workable, you just want to be sure to adjust your care for the weather (e.g. more water in summer). Buy your trees and shrubs just before you plant them so you don’t have to protect the roots from drying or overheating.
- DIG – Dig a hole that is approximately twice as wide as the width of the root ball or container and deep enough for the root ball to sit flush with the top of the hole.
- MIX – Add Super Phosphate 0-18-0* to the bottom of the hole to stimulate root growth. Then mix organic Plant Magic* to equal amounts of Soil Amendment and backfill soil. For acid-loving plants (e.g. rhododendrons, azaleas, and evergreens), add a product such as Iron Plus* to the backfill.
- Remove your plants from their plastic containers and recycle them at the garden center on your next trip.
- Gently loosen roots with your hand or cut entangled roots down vertically. For balled or burlapped material, cut cords or ropes but leave the material and wire cage around the ball for ultimate protection.
- Back fill hole with enriched soil (see above) and use your foot or hoe to gently tamp down the soil, eliminating air pockets.
- WATER – (see below)
- MULCH – Add approximately 2-3 inches of quality hardwood mulch, being careful not to pack tightly up against the trunk.
* follow package directions
New Plant Care
For proper plant care, water slowly and generously, being sure to wet the soil to the depth of the original container or root ball. All newly planted items should be thoroughly soaked at least once a week from spring until ground freezes in fall (more frequently in very hot weather).
We recommend watering by hose turned to a slow drizzle for 20-30 minutes. Very small plants, such as groundcover, perennials, and flowering annuals have smaller root systems and will require a deep, thorough watering every 3-4 days. We also recommend an application of Fertilome Root Stimulator* just after planting and every two weeks for the first year, especially during warm summer months.
Established Plant Care
Generally, the watering guide for new plants should be followed for 1-2 years after planting to ensure good root development and plant establishment. Beyond that, water plants throughout drier summer months to avoid placing them under unnecessary stress.
You’d never expect your plants to live without water. But skipping regular fertilizing is like forgetting to feed them. For most plants you can check your calendar for spring and fall guidelines. For annuals, fertilize on your weekly trash day or write a reminder on your watering can so you’ll never forget.
Acid-loving plants – For all evergreens apply Iron Plus* once in spring and once in fall.
Deciduous Trees and Shrubs – 10-10-10* fertilizer in April and after leaf drop in fall.
Groundcover – 10-10-10* in April
Perennials – 10-10-10* in mid-March and again 6 weeks later.
Annuals – For best results, use a water-soluble fertilizer like Jack’s [more about our Top 5 Products for ROI] once a week to promote growth and blooms.
* follow package directions
Pruning can be intimidating, but armed with information—and well-maintained tools—you can easily rejuvenate and maintain the natural shape and size of your plants. If you don’t know what type of plant you’re working with, simply send us a photo or snip off a small piece and bring into the garden center.
Spruces and Pines – June or July by cutting the ‘candle’ (new) growth in half.
Broadleaf or Needle Evergreens – Shape in April through July and mid-September through October as needed.
Deciduous Trees – Trees like birches and maples should always be pruned after leaf drop to avoid excessive sap flow. The best time overall is late winter.
Deciduous Shrubs – The key here is bloom time. For shrubs that bloom before May, prune after flowering. For shrubs that bloom after May, prune in March before the shrub begins to leaf out.
All Plants – Trim out dead, diseased or broken branches anytime. Be sure to clean your trimmers with alcohol or soap and water when trimming diseased branches.
See our full Prune Like a Pro guide for more.