Newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials are at risk if they do not receive the care they need in order to become a healthy and beautiful part of your landscape. Adopting a plant into your landscape means you have accepted several simple responsibilities.
It may seem odd to think of it like this, but landscape plants need many of the same things that a new pet or a new baby needs. Enough nutrition to grow and develop, enough fluids to keep metabolic systems functioning well, a safe place to grow and develop, protection from the extremes of heat, cold, harsh winds, and enough space to grow and enough sun, but not sun exposure that is excessive for the plant variety.
New landscape plants need just enough, but not too much water during the first one to two growing seasons when they are establishing a new root system. Too little water and the leaves turn yellow or brown and fall off. Too much water and the root system may rot before it can grow out into the surrounding soil. Most new landscape plants have a root ball 6″ to 24″ deep, and just enough, but not too much water needs to be applied to moisten the entire depth of the root ball, but not waterlog the soil. Too much water drives healthy oxygen out of the soil, which invites root rot. Irrigation systems are usually set to water 2″-3″ deep. Hand watering in measured amounts is the best way to provide just enough and not too much water. We provide a blue watering chart with every purchase. It is an easy to use tool to get watering done right. It does mean that you need to water by hand the first growing season.
Children and pets need good nutrition while they are growing, usually 2-6 times per day! Plants are easy by comparison. They can get by with 2-3 feedings over an entire growing season. If you skip modest fertilizer applications, your plant probably won’t die, but it is likely that the plant won’t thrive and look great like it could with just a bit of extra nutrition available through its first year. Be sure to avoid heavy fertilizer applications that could damage the plant. A little fertilizer is good, a lot is not. Fertilize from April through the end of July and let plants use up the modest amounts provided during August and September so that they will go dormant properly in October and November.
Even shady area plants benefit from a little bit of sunlight. Sunlight is a primary driver of metabolic processes in plants. Some prefer full, all day sun. Most are perfectly happy with part sun and part shade. A few want mostly shade, but they will usually be more beautiful when they receive 1-3 hours of sun. Seek the assistance from one of our staff for more specific guidance on the varieties you are considering.
In a future blog, I’ll try to focus on other important factors for new plants such as soil drainage, soil pH, protection from winter sun, rodents, deer, weed whips and mowers, and other factors that affect the health of new landscape plantings.