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Planting shrubs in your landscape

Jim Coe Correspondent​    Jan 21, 2021      Updated 17 hrs ago

Since shrubs are a permanent part of the landscape, homeowners need to know the proper planting technique to give shrubs a healthy start.

Shrubs are sold in three basic ways; container-grown, balled and burlapped and bare-rooted. Each has its own purpose, cost and transplant abilities. Choice the best packaging that fits your budget, availabilities and how the plant fits in the landscape plan.

Most nursery shrubs are grown in containers with their roots intact. Container-grown shrubs can be planted at any time of the year. With their roots intact, the shrubs are hardy enough to withstand most temperatures as long as the soil is not frozen. If the soil can be worked the shrub can be planted.

The shrubs will look better and will be easier to maintained if they are in a bed rather than mixed in with the lawngrass. The bed should be prepared at least three or four weeks to get the them ready prior to planting.

The shrub bed should be planned and laid out carefully making sure that each plant is properly spaced according to the plant label. Measure the spacing and place a mark where each plant will go. Stand back from the bed and see if everything is properly space and fitting to the landscape design.

Spray the staked area with roundup or place black plastic down to kill any weeds that might be growing. Allow the roundup two weeks to eliminate the weeds or a month with the black plastic. Then rototill the bed to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Remove any rocks, roots, building debris or weeds.

Oklahoma soils will benefit from a 4 to 5-inch layer of organic matter and rototilled again into the soil. Barnyard manure, potting soil, compost, dry grass clippings and leaves can be used.

Now it’s time to dig the hole. There is an old saying “Dig a million-dollar hole for a $20 plant.” Dig the hole in the newly prepared soil large enough to accommodate the plants’ root ball. Start by titling the container upside down so that the root ball slides out of the container.

Most container grown plants cause the roots to grow around the edge of the container in a circular motion. Take a knife and cut the edge of the roots in up and down cuts to stop the circulation of roots. This causes the roots to grow out away from the root ball giving the shrub more area to spread out.

Set the plant at the same depth at which they were growing originally and cover the ball immediately with soil. Don’t let the root ball dry out.

Place soil over the first one-third depth then tamp the soil around the ball. Add more soil, tamping it around the ball until it covers about 2 to 3 inches above soil level.

Watering the plants right after planting. This is very important because it eliminates any air that is trapped between the soil particles. Watering in Oklahoma is very critical to the survival of all landscape plants. The rule-of-thumb is to apply one inch of moisture per 1000 square feet once a week until plant is established. Then water as needed.

A root-stimulator plant food can be applied to help the plants get established. If the lawn is fertilized, allow some fertilizer to go in the shrub bed. That will cover the needs of the shrubs. If a better fertilizer program is desired apply a high phosphate plant food such as 1-2-1 ratio in late summer or early fall for spring-flowering shrubs and a 3-1-2 ratio lawn-type food for summer-flowering shrub. Evergreen shrubs can be fertilized with a lawn type fertilizer before growth begins in early spring.

Apply a mulch around the shrub to keep the soil from drying out and eliminating weed competition.

Jim Coe lives in Lawton.