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How to Properly Plant a Shrub

One of the most frequent questions we get here at Ashcombe is how to properly plant shrubs to promote health and growth. Brandon, our Nursery Manager, was planting a new hydrangea at Ashcombe the other day and took a moment to talk you through the tips and tricks of planting a shrub. This will help you learn how to properly plant a shrub.

The top three things to be aware of when planting your shrub are proper planting depth, soil amendments, and watering.

Planting Depth:

When digging a hole for your shrub, be sure not to make the hole too big. The best rule of thumb is, twice as wide, no deeper. This is in reference to the pot your shrub comes in. Remove the mulch in the area you’re digging and save it for later. Dig your hole and save the existing soil for later either in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp.

If you dig your hole too deep you run the risk of compacting soil which will cause your shrub to sink into the ground. Be sure to test your depth with the shrub in the container. If you dig too deep, stamp the soil in the hole with a tamper or your foot to compact the soil and eliminate the risk of sinking.

Soil Amendments:

When planting a shrub you want to use a soil amendment. Brandon used Bumper Crop which has peat moss and endo mycorrhizae to promote root growth. With the soil you dug out, do a 50/50 mix of amendment and existing soil. Mix thoroughly with a shovel and prepare your soil for back fill.

Root Starter:

When you’re planting shrubs, it’s a good idea to use a root starter. This product helps prevent transplant shock and will help your plant get off to a good start. Be sure to follow the directions on the packaging. Using either a large tub or wheelbarrow mix the root starter with water and soak your shrub for 10 to 15 minutes.

Special Tip:

If your shrub already has some fertilizer on it, don’t add anymore for at least a year. The fertilizer that comes with it should last that long, adding more may cause burning.

Tease the Roots and Plant:

With a shrub, it’s never a good idea to just place it in the ground. To promote the best growth you need to tease the roots. Using your hands or a small hand cultivator, gently pull apart the roots. Once you’ve teased the roots, place the plant into the hole and be sure it’s not leaning.

After placing the plant securely in the hole, it is time to backfill with the soil amendment mixture. Because we are working with a shrub it is important to lightly tamp down the soil as you backfill to be sure there will be no movement.

Special Tip:

Build a trough with your backfill soil around the plant to help direct water towards the shrub.


Watering is one of the most important parts of gardening. A good rule of thumb is to look at the size of the container your plant came it and double that amount in water per week. The hydrangea in this example came in a three gallon container, so it will require six gallons of water throughout the week. When you first plant, you want to give the soil and the ball a nice deep soaking. In the first month it is a good idea to water every other day. Once you’ve planted and watered, arrange the mulch around the plant being sure to keep it away from the roots of the shrub to prevent root rot.

We hope this tutorial helped you understand how to properly plant a shrub. If you’re not sure what shrub is best for your location, come by Ashcombe and ask our staff to help you choose the perfect plant.

For more tips on gardening, check out our blog, Gardening Guides!

Check out Brandon’s full tutorial on YouTube!

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