It has been a hot summer but Fall is right around the corner. Cooler temperatures and changing colors are a welcomed change in the panhandle of Florida. Fall can be a great time to spruce up your landscape with some new shrubs.
It may be time for your landscape to receive a mini-makeover and to get a new look for fall and years to come. Perhaps some shrubs strategically placed will be what makes your outdoor living space pop. Proper selection and installation is key to health of the shrub moving forward.
There are several factors that need to be taken into account before buying shrubs to add to your landscape. Carefully selecting plants based on the following points will help with long term success of the plant:
- Climate – Be sure that the species will tolerate the climate you live in.
- Environment – Study the light level, acidity, and drainage of the planting site.
- Space – Account for the mature size of the plant before planting. This will keep you from having to remove the plant if the space is not adequate.
- Inspect the plant – Check for mechanical injury (scars and open wounds), cold injury, condition and shape of the canopy, and examine the root system.
Now that the proper plant has been selected it is time to give the shrub the best chance for survival with proper installation techniques. Fall and winter is an ideal time for planting shrubs. The roots can develop before the tops begin to grow in spring. The following are the keys to proper establishment of container shrubs.
- Root ball preparation – Remove the container from the root ball and inspect for circling roots. If there are circling roots than make three or four cuts vertically to cut the roots. Pull some of the roots away so they will take on a new growth direction (massage the roots). Also find the top most roots as sometimes they are covered by extra potting media. Remove the extra potting media so the top most roots are exposed and become the top of the root ball.
- Wider is better – Dig the hole two or three times the diameter of the root ball.
- Proper depth – Make sure to dig the hole 10% less than the height of the root ball. In poorly drained soils dig the hole 25% less than the the height of the root ball. The top most roots should be slightly above the native soils.
- Backfill – Fill the hole with existing soil half way and tamp the soil to settle. Again fill the rest of the hole with the existing soil and tamp again to settle the soil. Do not place any backfill soil or mulch over the root ball as it is crucial that water and air are able to be in contact with the the roots.
- Aftercare – Irrigate daily for the first two weeks, followed by every other day for the next two months, and weekly until the shrub is established (For <2 inch caliper shrubs).
If these key points are followed regarding selection and installation, the shrubs will be well on their way to becoming established in the landscape. If you would like read more in detail about installation please read the following:
Gilman, E.F., (2011, August) Specifications for Planting Trees and Shrubs in the Southeastern U.S.. Retrieved from: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep112
Black, R.J. and Ruppert, K.C., (1998) Your Florida Landscape, A complete guide to planting & maintenance. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.