How To Plant Potted Trees and Shrubs

KCD Native Plant Nursery Potted Plants and Volunteers

Potted native plants at KCD Native Plant NurseryTrees and shrubs are grown and sold in many different forms, ranging from bareroot to balled in burlap. Plants grown in containers are very common and are a wonderful option for planting projects on most personal property. Trees and shrubs grown in containers often have well-developed roots which increases the chance for success in the ground. Containerized plants can be planted year-round if the ground is not frozen. However, fall planting is ideal because it allows time for plants to put on root growth in the winter and spring before hot summer weather arrives.

For a detailed demonstration, watch this quick How-To video to learn best practices for planting potted trees and shrubs.

A 5-step Guide for Planting Container Trees or Shrubs

Step 1: Dig a hole.

The hole should about twice as wide and the same depth as the container. Loosen the compacted soil and form sloping sides of the hole to allow for root growth in all directions.

Step 2: Carefully remove the plant from the container.

Work hard to keep the soil around the roots intact. The pot may need to be placed on its side.  Apply pressure by rolling the container in a back and forth motion in order to loosen the root ball and coax the plant out of the container.

Step 3: Gently massage the roots in order to loosen the root ball.

Most likely the roots will be growing in a circular direction in the shape of the pot. Separate and straighten roots while trying not to lose too much soil. Remember to work quickly since root tips can die if they are exposed to air too long.

Step 4: Place the plant in the middle of the hole.

Check to see that the depth of the plant is about the same as the height of the pot. The root collar should be about ½ inch below the soil surface. Back fill around the roots with the dirt removed from the hole. Make sure to break up any clumps of clay or dirt and do not back fill with clumps of sod or grass, ensuring that no air pockets are around the roots. Once the hole is filled with dirt, firmly pack down the soil to get rid of excess air pockets.

Step 5: Water the plant thoroughly.

The soil and mulch around the plant should be kept moist but not saturated.

Renee Shapiro, AmeriCorps Education Coordinator

Get bareroot and potted groundcover, shrubs and trees from KCD’s Native Plant Sale and Community Fair.

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