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Published on February 15, 2023

Pro Tips

How to Plant Trees, Shrubs, and Other Plants

Taking advantage of the natural beauty of trees and vegetation you’ve planted yourself is possible! Here are a few tips to successfully integrate trees, shrubs, and plants into your garden landscape.

Before You Start

Don’t forget: your trees and shrubs will grow! Refer to the tag on the plants that you purchase, or even better, consult our Garden Centre associates to know how much space is required to allow your trees and plants to be healthy for years to come.Before you dig in, we also recommend that you check out our guide Gardening 101: All You Need to Know About Gardening.

When to Plant

To know when to plant your new tree or shrub, you should first consider the conditioning (root ball, container, or bare roots). Also remember to plant any plant before heavy rains, and never before a drought or heat wave!
Woman planting a tree in a root ball

Plants in containers or in a root ball

  • At all times throughout the season, except if the rootball breaks. In that case, follow the planting method of plants with bare roots.
  • In the spring, plant when the soil is thawed and dry enough to be worked.
Important! Avoid planting less hardy woody plants in the fall. Note that planting small plants or shrubs late in the fall is risky; come next spring, we can sometimes observe the raising of the root balls from the ground because of the icing of the soil.
Man planting a tree with bare roots

Plants with bare roots

  • In the spring, before the budburst.
  • In the fall, during the dormant period. Note that the recovery of bare-rooted plants is a little riskier than that of root-balled or contained plants.
The variety of bare-rooted plants is now quite limited in store. They are less expensive most of the time because there’s no need to pay for the container, the soil, or the time to pot it. Shrubs sold to form hedges are sometimes offered with bare roots.

Where to Plant

It is important to place your plant in an area that is convenient for it, to allow it to grow properly:
  • Plant small trees and shrubs at least 1 m away from building foundations, and large-scale specimens at least 10-15 m from your residence.
  • For hedges and mass planting, respect a certain distance according to the medium spread of mature subjects.
  • Avoid planting large-scale trees next to electrical wires, seeping fields, or other obstacles that would hurt their development.

How to Plant

It is very important to properly prepare the soil before planting trees, shrubs, and plants that will stay on your field for many years to come.
Man watering a freshly planted tree

Standard Planting Method

Here are the steps to take for standing planting.

  • Dig a pit for planting 2 to 3 times larger than the diameter of the pot or the rootball so that the walls aren’t parallel, but more on a slope. Dig a continuous pit for mass planting or hedges.
  • Verify the depth of the hole. It must correspond to the height of the pot or rootball. For soil that isn’t properly drained, you must plant on top of a mound. Depending on the level of the soil, the depth of the whole should be two thirds of the height of the rootball. You must then refill part of the rootball until right above soil level while forming a mound.
  • Remove the plant from its container (plastic and carton), taking care not to break the rootball. If the roots are rolled around the pot, cut them by making 3 to 4 deep incisions with the help of a knife, from top to bottom, without breaking the rootball. This can be done if the plant is not in full growth mode or when the planting is not done during a heatwave. If the rootball is fragile when taken out of the pot, place the plant, with the pot, in the pit. Cut and softly remove the bottom of the pot. Then, make a cut from top to bottom on each side of the pot, then plant the rootball. Softly pull on the sides of the pot to remove the rootball without breaking it. This method is useful when the plant was recently potted and the roots are still young and fragile.
  • Place the rootball in the pit in a way that the stems of the plant are at the same height as they were in their pots.
  • If the plant is in a wire basket, leave it in the ground, but cut the cables that are fixed around the trunk.
  • Modify the existing soil with peat moss or compost to cushion it. We recommend a ratio of 2 parts recuperated soil for 1 part of amended soil (compost). Add bone meal or mycorrhiza.
  • Adjust pH levels as needed with horticultural limestone, depending on the results of the analysis of the soil. Soil testing kits are available in store.
  • Fill the pit with amended soil.
  • Firm the soil and water it abundantly to eliminate air holes.
  • Fill the holes by forming a watering basin once the water has drained.
  • For trees that need it, install a stake facing dominant winds.
  • Cover the surface of the watering basin with a 5-10 cm layer of peat moss or mulch and bark nuggets to prevent the growth of weeds and to conserve the humidity of the soil. The use of a geotextile fabric underneath the mulch will make it even more practical when controlling weeds.
  • Water abundantly. Avoid adding soluble fertilizer if you have incorporated mycorrhiza in the ground.
  • Then, water often and ensure that the water penetrates at least 30 cm deep.
  • Remove plant labels by taking care to note the elements to remember in a gardening journal.

Rose Bushes

Preparing the soil is essential for the cultivation of rose bushes in order to get robust plants and an abundance of bloom.

  • The ideal type of soil is a fertile soil that drains well and stay lightly humid at all times. Clay-like or sandy soil must be amended so that rose bushes develop properly.
  • It is very important not to disturb the root system when planting, or else you risk a much longer recovery period. New rootlets will often develop. If the purchase of plants in bags or boxes take place before the last frost and that buds are blooming, you must plant when the risk of frost has passed, in the nighttime, and lightly prune the extremities of the young stems, especially if they are dwindling (thin and pale)
  • Indoor plants should be placed in a sunlit area.
  • Plant rose bushes in a sunlit area and away from the wind. Good air circulation is essential to reduce potential diseases of the foliage.
  • Plant grafted rose bushes by burying the graft point underneath 2.5 cm of soil with regards to the normal level of the ground. This practice allows the rose bushes to be free – to take root over the grafting point – which makes them less vulnerable to frost.

Climbing Plants

In general, climbing plants require a lightly humid and well-drained soil. Avoid soil that’s too heavy, especially for clematises. Most of these plants develop well in well-lit areas that are away from the wind.

  • The majority of climbing vine plants need a trellis to support them.
  • Boston ivy and climbing hydrangeas are the exception to the rule, because they attach directly to the walls thanks to mini tentacles or aerial roots. For these two species of plants, attach the stem with the help of reinforced tape to the wall, or else they risk growing at the surface of the soil for a certain time.
  • The other species have to be attached to various trellises in the beginning of their development. Once they begin to attach themselves to the trellis, they no longer need the extra plant support from a stake.

Clematis

The secret to planting clematises is to remember this golden rule: roots in the shade, head in the sun.

  • In other words, clematises need to be fully exposed to the sun to have a vigorous growth and abundant flowering.
  • However, their roots prefer a humid and fresh soil. It is recommended to add mulch and plant a perennial plant or a small bush at the base of the plants to hide them from direct sunlight.
  • Clematises grow well in a firmed soil with organic materials.
  • Clematis plants have to be supported and rapidly attached to a trellis to avoid breaking the stems when planting.

The planting technique is the same as other plants, except that you must place the root ball in the pit in a way that it is at an incline, to will allow the natural growth of stems towards the trellis.

It is also preferable to bury one or two buds from the stems underneath the surface of the soil. This technique avoids the death of plants if they are afflicted with brown rot of the clematis.
Person watering a garden

How to Maintain

The general rule is that these 3 tasks should be completed throughout the season:

  • Avoid letting grass grow or weeds at the foot of the planted vegetation.
  • Eliminate water sprouts, those branches and twigs that grow from the trunk but don’t produce anything. They tend to hijack the sap from stems and productive branches.
  • Monitor stakes and their attachments so they don’t harm the trunk or branches.

Watering

Remember: too much water harms your plants just as much as not enough. Watering that’s too superficial encourages your trees and plants to develop their roots at the surface and makes them more fragile.

  • Water generously at least once a week during the first season of growth so that the water penetrates to a depth of at least 1’.
  • Water gradually to avoid any run-off.
  • Water in the morning. 
  • Avoid an excess of water outside of heat waves.
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