Planting Guidelines

For Container Grown Trees and Shrubs and Perennials

A Container- grown plant is quite simply, one that has been grown and offered for sale in some type of container, often a plastic pot.  Generally the plant is grown in a “soilless mix” composed of bark mulch sand and other organic matter.  This type of culture allows the root system to take advantage of the entire container minimizing transplant shock.  The disadvantage of this is that the plant can become ‘pot bound’ which occurs when the roots fill the entire pot. Plants grown in containers can be planted successfully throughout the entire planting season providing you pay attention to proper planting procedures. 

Care Prior to Planting:  Container-grown plants can be maintained for an indefinite period prior to planting but can be severely damaged if the soil mixture is allowed to dry out.  During the growing season the plant should be kept moist but not soaking wet.  

Site Preparation:  Dig a wide hole with sloping sides.  The hole should be the same depth as the dirt in the container it is grown in.  Make sure that the hole has rough sides so that the roots will grow out and not spiral around the smooth sides.  When planted it is important that the plant should be placed no deeper than it was in the container. 

Removing the plant from the pot:  To remove the plant from the container, turn the pot on its side and gently tap the container until the root system along with all of the dirt slides out.  Make sure to handle the plant by lifting the container rather than the plant itself.  Once the plant is removed from the pot make sure to plant it quickly so that it does not have time to dry out. 

Preparing the root system: It is critical that roots begin growing as soon as possible in their new location. To encourage new root growth it is important to loosen up any compacted or tight roots as well as the media along the sides of the root ball.  This enables the roots to come into direct contact with the new backfill soil.  If the roots are severely matted together it may be necessary to use a small hand rake or knife to loosen the roots. 

Planting and backfilling: It is preferable to backfill with soil from the planting hole rather than to use heavily amended soils.  Because container growing mixes tend to dry out more easily, however, we recommend that where the surrounding soil is very sandy or gravelly, reasonable topsoil be mixed with the backfill to aid in water retention and prevent the container mix from drying out.  Again make sure to take care not to place the plant ball too high or low, Container grow plants should be placed at the same height of the surrounding soil level. 

Watering and Mulching: Because of the different soil structures of the root ball, the backfill and the existing soil water will have a difficult time moving into the root system from the surrounding soil during the first growing season.  It’s Critical, therefore, that the container-grown plants be mulched with 2-3” of a good quality aged hardwood bark mulch.  A good watering routine must be implemented as well to insure adequate moisture without overwatering.  Please consult our watering guideline and mulch information for more on this topic.

Fertilization:  It is always advisable to provide supplemental fertilization for all plants especially those just planted.  By providing fertilization you insure that your new plants will get off to a quick and healthy start.  We carry a full line of Espoma Fertilizer products.  These products are a complex blend of natural organics that help in the development of a strong root system and a healthy plant.  Please find Espoma Fertilizers in our garden shop. 

Staking:  It is advisable to stake most containerized trees for the first year.  By staking the tree it helps to stabilized the root ball, keeping it from moving and drying out.  Stakes and lines should be placed high enough on the trunk to keep the wind from blowing the tree and displacing the root ball.  Lines should be covered with fabric, old hose or something to keep the line from digging into and scarring the trunks.  Most agree that the stakes should be removed after one year.  By the time the tree is one year old it has had adequate time to establish roots into the surrounding soil, keeping it from moving around. Please find tree stake kits in our garden shop.