Know How

These are only GENERAL planting steps that we recommend. Directions specifically for each plant vary greatly so please do your research prior to planting for best results. *Remember, there are many factors that go into a thriving plant. Proper soil conditions are an absolute must and account for most unsuccessful plantings. Others include but are not limited to appropriate sunlight, conditions related to location, proper pruning and fertilization schedule.

Checking your Soil

Knowing if your plant requires acidic or basic/neutral soil is a must. You can get a basic soil test here at Countryview or research some easy DIY tests. A pH range of between 5 and 6 is ideal for acid-loving plants. If your soil is below 4.5 you may need to add a small quantity of lime to neutralize your soil a bit to make sure enough nutrients are available for acid lovers. If your pH is around 6 and 7 then you are good to go with most plants. Again, please do your research.

Take a look at your soil conditions. Do you have clay? Is there standing water? Is it sandy? Do your plants dry out fast and water drains too quickly? Loose, yet well drained soil is a general rule of thumb.

Sandy soil

Planting shrubs and trees that prefer sandy soil may be your goal. Too much water drainage could be a problem for your new planting if it doesn’t prefer this type of soil. You may be able to amend it by adding garden soil, or peat moss and top soil to help maintain the moisture needed for root systems.


Planting shrubs and trees that prefer heavier soil may be your goal. Too little water drainage could be a problem for your new planting if it doesn’t prefer this type of soil. Heavy soils such as clay have a tendency to remain wet, which can lead to problems with root rot and difficulty with root growth. You can cure the problem by making sure the heavy soil has plenty of compost or well-rotted manure worked into the area, which assists with drainage and creating a mound. Before planting a tree, for example, you can form a mound that is about a foot tall, as this raises the root system out of the wet conditions.

Choosing a Planting Location


Sun requirements should always be considered when choosing a planting location. Full sun refers to at least six hours per day, but some plants such as vegetables really need eight to ten hours per day. “Partial sun” or “partial shade” means that the plant needs 3-6 hours of direct sun per day. These terms sometimes are used interchangeably. Planting in the wrong sun requirement may result in decreased or lack of blooms, variations in size, wilting or burning of foliage and much more.

**It is important to note that the sun requirement for some plants can actually at times be a bit more flexible than the range noted. For example, plants that typically grow in the south may need some shade from the hot sun, so it is labeled as ‘partial sun’ However, it MAY be able to handle full sun in our zone 6 climate. Again, please research plant needs.


If you are planting a screen, remember that if you plant right on your property line your neighbor may have the right to cut back your tree to the property line. So plant well inside your property so that you have control over the growth and pruning of your tree. The same for growing near a fence. Consider whether the plant has a root system that has the ability to uproot your fence posts.

 In addition, you do not want to plant something tall too close to a structure, or under power lines, where falling branches can cause potential damage.

Other environmental factors such as standing water and heavy winds should be considered as well.


A good rule of thumb is to look at the Mature Width of the tree or shrub. If there is a spread given (20-30 feet, for example) take the lower figure. Divide this number by three. This is an average spacing for your trees or shrubs. Generally, smaller hedge shrubs are planted on two, three or four foot centers. Larger trees are further apart.

Preparing the Plant

Water the plant prior to planting, especially if not planted on the day of purchase. Take out of plastic containers. We do not recommend planting in these.

For balled and burlapped plants, we don’t recommend taking off the burlap as this natural material will slowly disintegrate. Most of the types of string used for B&B plants are made from natural materials that will also break down over time. However, although it is quite rare, sometimes you will see plastic string. In those cases, always remove the string as they will not break down in the soil. Over time they will strangle the growing plant.

For larger potted trees, slide the pots gently off the plants. You may need to tap the edge a couple of times to release the root-ball, but it should slide out pretty easily. Usually there will be plenty of roots filling the pot and the root-ball will stay together and not fall apart at all.

If you see that the roots have filled the container and are wrapping around each other you need to alleviate this problem before planting the tree. If the root system is still pliable, you can pull it apart with your hands so the roots spread outward and not in a circle. In addition, you can take a clean knife and cut through the roots that are circling, which forces them to grow outward. Whatever you do, do not plant with wrapping roots or it will most likely suffer growth problems and possible death.

If it looks like the soil is going to fall off the roots, don’t worry, that is easily dealt with. Simply leave it in the pot, take a sharp knife and cut around the bottom of the pot and remove the base. Then get someone to hold the pot together while you cut down the side of the pot. Tie a piece of string around it to hold it together while you place in hole. Then slowly pull away.

Preparing the Planting Site

Good soil preparation is the key to the success of your tree. 

Your goal is to make an area of looser soil larger than the size of the plant pot or ball. You want the hole to be larger so that the young roots can penetrate the amended soil easily, getting food as they go and establishing quickly. You can Amend this Soil taken out by adding some organic material to the soil as you dig. Almost any kind of organic material is good, among the best are well-rotted animal manures, garden compost, garden soil, and any ‘top-soil’.

This is a great time to add a Starter Fertilizer. This type of fertilizer is mixed in with the soil. It is formulated to stimulate root growth while adding proper nutrients to the soil, thus reducing the chance of loss. We recommend Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter or Starter Plus. Do not however use just any fertilizer because the formula may burn the roots.


Now is the time for planting! Place the plant in the center of your hole, checking that the top of the root-ball is level with the soil around it. Replace about three-quarters of the soil in the hole, pressing it down around the roots. Finish firming down the soil – a gentle foot pressure or firm hand pressure is about right.

If you have heavy, clay soil that stays wet for long periods, there is a special trick to planting hedges which will help your plants establish itself better. When you place the plants in the hole, put enough soil under them to raise them one or two inches above the surrounding level. When you put back the soil, make a mound, with the trees now sitting above the general level of your garden. This will help water to drain away around the roots until your tree adapts to the location. You should still use mulch over the roots.

Watering the Plant

It will need regular watering for the first growing season. How often depends on the weather, type of plants you have used, your soil-type and local weather conditions. Watch your plant carefully for the first few weeks as they will often give you signs. Wilting can mean they are thirsty and yellowing can sometimes mean they are over watered or in need of fertilizer.


Research will help you to determine if your plant requires staking. Young trees benefit from stakes until the roots have been established. This is especially beneficial in a windy area, sloping area, etc. as a storm with high winds and heavy rains can cause the plant to fall over.

Depending on your plant, stake by driving a strong pole in at each end of the tree in a slightly slanted position. Run a strong strap or stretchy tape (depending on the caliper of your plant) tightly around the stake, then wrapping around the trunk and them to the other stake. Sometimes only a single stake is needed near the trunk. Either way, use something soft, like strips of cloth to prevent the trunk from being damaged by the strength of the strap. Untie and remove the string material, usually after one full growing season, or several months.

Planting in a Container

Some plants are easy to grow in pots or planter boxes, especially if their root-system is not large. Unfortunately, in our zone, most plants do not survive the winter in containers due to the exposed root systems in the cold. Don’t be too discouraged. There are a few options. You can plant zone 6 friendly shrubs like roses or hydrangeas, in a container for that summer beauty. Just be sure to transplant in the fall. Another option is to choose from the limited selection of not as appealing, but cold hardy, shrubs that usually survive winters in containers, such as boxwood, holly, or alberta spruce. Make sure the container you choose has drainage holes. If it doesn’t, you may use large rocks at the bottom to create air pockets for water to lay in but be careful not to over water.

In general, use a soil for outdoor planters, such as potting mix. Also vital is to make sure your container is large enough for there to be soil beneath and around the root-ball. Water the container thoroughly after planting and then whenever it starts to become a little dry on the top layer.

Follow up Care

Proper pruning will help encourage new growth and appropriate shape. Look into pruning instructions to be sure you get those blooms and strong new growth each year!

When fertilizing, follow a schedule for each plant. There are an assortment of types of fertilizers to choose from-liquid, granular, powder and spikes. Directions vary.

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