Spring or fall is the best time to set new container plants into the ground. Starting from a fence corner or other reference point, measure off the planting distances indicated in your plan. Set each container in position, then adjust placement if it looks ungainly. Use tall stakes to represent plants you’ll be adding later.
Your new plantings may look sparse, but you should resist the urge to move plants closer together. Have patience. They will eventually fill in.
Even drought-tolerant plants need water while they are becoming established and their roots are growing into the surrounding soil. Water them through the first season’s dry spell.
Step by Step: Planting Trees and Shrubs
1. Dig a hole for each plant. Make it twice as wide as the rootball. (If planting trees or shrubs, dig the hole extra wide to help the plant’s roots grow.) To prevent settling later, leave a platform in the middle of the hole that is only as deep as the rootball. Then dig 2 to 3 inches deeper all around the platform to make space for the roots.
2. Tap sharply on the sides and bottom of the container to loosen the rootball. Turn smaller containers upside down and slide the plant out, supporting the top of the rootball with your hand. For a larger container, lay it on its side and slide the plant out. You may need a helper.
3. Gently loosen the roots with your fingers. Cut off roots that are too tightly coiled.
4. Set the plant on the mound and spread out its roots. (For balled and burlapped plants, untie the burlap and spread it out in the hole to decompose. Also spread out the roots.)
5. Backfill the hole with soil, firming around the roots with your hands. Soil around the root crown should be 1 inch above surrounding soil.
For a natural-looking hedge, space shrubs so they will barely touch at maturity. For a hedge that will be clipped, plant them closer together.
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