(News article for March 20, 2021)
New growth is appearing all around, and with it comes interest in gardening and landscaping. I thought it would be worthwhile to review a few basics of tree and shrub planting.
Early spring is an acceptable time to plant containerized and balled and burlapped (B&B) plants. (Bareroot plants should only be planted while dormant.) While fall the preferred time to plant most types of tree and shrubs, planting in early spring is better than late spring or summer, since it gives plants more time to establish their root system before hot weather and accompanying high water demand occur.
As always, make sure to match the plant to the site. Take into account the amount of sun/shade the site gets, how wet or dry it is, how much space there is between it and a building or fence, if there’s a powerline overhead, and our USDA Plant Hardiness Zone (8B in most of the area, 9A on the southern end of Tangipahoa Parish).
Dig the planting hole at least twice as wide as the root ball but no deeper than its height. (For B&B plants, make the hole a little shallower than the height of the root ball.) We don’t want the root ball to sink as soil settles. If you accidentally dig the hole deeper than it needs to be, firm the soil in the bottom of the hole so that it won’t settle very much after the plant has been put in place.
If you’re planting a tree, the trunk flare should remain aboveground. Don’t bury the base of the trunk, as this can result in problems down the road.
If you use some kind of soil conditioner, compost, etc., when planting, mix this with the native soil rather than just replacing the native soil in the planting hole. For a plant to grow well in the long run, it will need to be able to grow roots in the native soil, beyond the planting hole. Break up any clods in the soil that is being put back in the hole.
If you’re planting containerized plants, watch for roots that have hit the edge of the container and begun to circle the root ball. Do not allow roots to continue to grow in this manner. If a circling root isn’t flexible enough that you can spread it out, so that it grows directly away from the trunk, cut it.
Remove any stakes (bamboo, metal, etc.) that came attached to the plant so that they won’t wound the plant as it grows. Most plants will not need to be staked, but if a plant is unable to stand on its own under windy conditions, an appropriate post-planting staking system can be used.
Two to four inches of mulch, such as pine bark, is helpful with respect to retaining water around plants and discouraging weed growth. However, don’t place mulch so close to the plant that it comes in contact with the trunk. Avoid “volcano mulching.”
Let me know if you have questions.
Contact Mary Helen Ferguson.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture