- Slice off circling or tangled roots before planting shrubs grown in containers. Potted shrubs fill the pot with roots, which then twine around and around. New roots may continue this destructive pattern even when planted if the old circling roots are not removed. Eventually, the crown may be strangled by its own roots.
Use a pair of sharp pruning shears to slice off circling roots and loosen up matted roots. Releasing the healthy roots inside the root ball, planting the shrub in good soil, and keeping the area moist will encourage vigorous new root growth.
Trimming off circling or tangled roots helps to release healthy roots inside the root ball.
- Soak the roots of bare-root shrubs before planting. Bare-root shrubs are dug in fall or spring, washed clean of soil, and shipped directly to mail-order catalog customers. Shrubs commonly sold bare-root include Chinese abelia, bloodtwig dogwood, buttonbushes, viburnums, some forsythias, winterberry holly, and beauty bush, as well as hedge shrubs such as privet.
To ensure good results after planting, don't let the roots go into the soil dehydrated. An hour in a bucket of room-temperature water is all it takes. Plant immediately after soaking and keep moist through the entire first growing season.
- Score the sides of the planting hole to encourage root penetration. In clay soils, slick-sided holes can dry to a glaze that is difficult for young roots to penetrate. Slicing into the hole perimeter with your shovel breaks up the glazing and creates openings where roots can burrow out.
- Thin out a third to half of the branches of bare-root shrubs before planting. Your pruning shears will become one of your best planting tools, helping you put the shrub into a healthy balance before planting.
- When shrubs are dug from the nursery field and processed for shipping, they lose most of their feeding roots, the delicate young roots responsible for absorbing moisture. Until the shrub is replanted and reestablishes new feeding roots, it can't support all the growth it once did. Pruning trims back shoots to balance root loss.
When pruning, begin by removing old, weak, damaged, or crowded branches at their base. But don't indiscriminately shear off the top of the plant. The terminal buds on the branch tips release hormones that encourage root growth and maintain a slow, orderly pattern of growth. These are both desirable qualities worth preserving in your shrubs.
Once your shrubs are in the ground and growing well, they won't need too much maintenance. Keep reading for tips about caring for your shrubs.
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