Fall 2014 - Caring for Newly Planted Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials

By Bill Reichenbach, ISA Certified Arborist WI-0188A

Planting trees and landscape plants is a gratifying experience, well worth the expense and effort that goes into proper planting. The right care after planting is crucial to protect your investment and to insure that the new plants thrive and provide lasting benefits.

WATERING – Not easily prescribed, as it is dependent upon many factors. Existing soil type, recent weather, plant size and condition all play a role in how often to water. Listed below are guidelines to follow when caring for new plantings:

  • As a rule, provide newly planted trees and shrubs with at least 1” of water per week. Water thoroughly and deeply when you water and understand that roots grow out like spokes on a wheel – water 360 degrees around the base of the plant, soaking the entire root ball.
  • Plants planted in heavy, poorly drained clay soils will not need watering as often as those planted in well-drained loams or sandy soils. Sandy soils are uncommon in our area. Do not over water, if you water new plantings heavily every day you will likely kill your plants. Roots need oxygen to survive, water logged soils are a problem for most plants.
  • Watch the weather carefully; monitor rainfall with a rain gauge. Light showers will not deeply penetrate the soil and adequately water your new plants. If mother- nature provides heavy rains, you need to hold off on watering until the soil begins to dry out. Check soil moisture often by getting down and putting your finger into the soil 2-4” deep. If it feels dry, it is time to water, if it is moist, hold off on watering but check again soon. The goal is nice, even moisture -- never dry, but not soggy wet, either. Hot, sunny, windy weather takes more moisture out of the plants and soil, which will require more frequent watering. Cool cloudy weather reduces moisture loss.
  • Irrigation systems are designed to water turf grass. Do not depend upon irrigation systems to properly water new trees and landscape plantings.
  • Many shrubs, perennials and some trees are grown in containers (as opposed to field grown balled and burlapped). The soil mix in containers is very light and well drained and dries out more quickly. Plants planted from containers typically need more frequent watering initially, until the plants root out into surrounding soils. Small shrubs and perennials planted from containers in a sunny location may need to be watered often.
  • Mature trees and plants also need watering during time of drought.

MULCHING – Provides many benefits to plants, the most important here is moisture retention.

  • Use organic materials 2-3” deep, such as shredded bark, wood chips, or compost. Avoid stone mulches.
  • Keep mulches 2-4” away from the trunks of trees, stems of shrubs and bases of perennials. Mulch the soil and the root systems; do not bury the stems of the plants. 
  • Monitor new trees and plants for signs of insect or disease problems. Transplanting is stressful for plants and stressed plants are more subject to insects and pathogens. Call your Wachtel Certified Arborist if you have questions concerning how to water and care for new plantings, we are here to help you to insure your new plants thrive.

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