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Garden Center



Planting Trees and Shrubs

Pick up and carry your plant by grasping the container or root ball. Do not lift by the foliage or branches. Damage from poor handling shows up at a later date. Do not drop, as root damage can occur. Plant as soon as possible from the time of purchase. If you have to delay planting, keep container or root ball well watered to keep the roots from drying out. If possible, keep the plant in some shade until you plant it.


Digging a hole

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Dig a hole the same depth as the root ball and at least 6” wider than the root ball or container at the bottom and widening at the top. If the edges of the hole appear smooth and shiny after digging, roughen them with a shovel. When planting large shade trees or evergreens with heavy root balls do not loosen the soil below the root ball to prevent settling. Plants should be planted at the same depth that they were growing at in the nursery.


Remove the container

If grown in a plastic container, you should be able to gently grasp the plant by the base and pull it out of its container. If the soil or root ball appears to be breaking apart, then it would be better to cut the bottom from the pot and set the bottomless plant and pot into the planting hole. Then cut the side of the pot and remove it. If buying a plant with a paper Mache pot, leave it in the pot, tearing the top off down to the top of the roots and punch holes in the sides to improve water exchange and to speed up the decomposition of the pot. Burlapped root balls should remain intact until positioned in the hole. After positioning, cut all twine and burlap from the top 1/3 of the ball unless roots are already growing through. In this case, cut the twine and burlap that readily pulls away from the root ball. Remove the top of the wire basket to prevent stabilizing roots intertwining with the wire.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Improving the Soil

If the soil removed from the hole is extremely gravely, sandy, or heavy clay, it is recommended to mix in some organic matter. The ratio should be 2-3 parts existing soil to one part organic matter. This will help aid in establishment.



After positioning what you are about to plant, backfill even with the original grade. Create a slight dish effect by leaving a ring of soil at the edge of the planting hole. Water in thoroughly and let settle. Add more backfill as necessary. It is okay to 'knife' the backfill with a shovel to eliminate pockets, but do not tamp or overly compact the soil. It is recommended to also place a slow release starter fertilizer in the back fill near the soil surface. A root stimulator product can be beneficial to reduce transplant shock.


Acid-Loving Plants

Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Hollies, Bayberry, Stephanandra, Blueberries, etc.
Acid-loving plants require additional site preparation. To create a planting bed for acid-loving plants, add 4 - 6" peat moss and 2 -3 lbs. granular sulfur/100 square feet of area. Work the peat and sulfur into the soil, creating a slightly raised bed with increased drainage and a lowered pH.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Mulch the Planting site

Planting Trees and Shrubs

A 2-3" layer of mulch will reduce weed competition and soil compaction, prevent mower injury, and will create the cool moist conditions that plant roots require. Avoid piling mulch up on the tree or shrub stems. Try to taper the mulch to a very thin layer at the trunk or stems.


Tree Staking

Trees establish roots faster if their tops are allowed to move. If the tree leans once planted, then you may need to stake it temporarily. You should be able to remove the stake(s) within one year. Stake in a way that allows tree movement but prevents the tree from tipping. Use a wide, soft, flexible material around the tree to prevent injury or girdling over time.


Do Not Prune

You may remove any broken or injured branches, but otherwise do not prune branches. The tree benefits from all of the leaves to photosynthesize and create the necessary energy to replace all of the roots lost in the transplanting process.


Transplant Shock

The first year is critical for your new plant as it needs to establish its roots into the new environment. Checking the soil moisture by digging down 4-5” is a good method to check on the amount of water a new transplant needs. Please be attentive to the plant's above ground appearances to help you determine water needs. If you see wilting leaves, or if the leaf edges appear scorched, then check the soil for moisture content and respond with more or less water as appropriate. Watering plants with a big root ball is best done with a root feeder, moving the feeder around the plants circumference to thoroughly water each part of the root ball. Water by connecting the root feeder to a hose, and leave the feeder in one spot until water begins to gurgle up thru the hole. When you see this, move the feeder to the next area.

Your plant will likely not show great growth the first 2 to 3 years as it puts its energy into root growth. The leaves may be smaller and sparser than you would expect and it probably won't bloom very strongly, if it all. Please resist the urge to over fertilize. You may get resulting top growth from fertilizing, but it may actually be detrimental to the root system and the plant as a whole. Products that specifically stimulate root growth have been beneficial during this time or root regeneration.

Patience is the best approach as you let your plant adapt to its new home. Always feel free to call either the retail nursery or landscape sales office with your questions or concerns at 608-836-7041.

Plant Encyclopedia
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