Planting Trees and Shrubs

Planting Trees and Shrubs

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It is best to plant a tree or shrub when the rootball is moist (not soggy). When possible, water your plants, in their nursery containers, about 12 hours before you plant. (Separate Harlow Helper sheets are available for planting of roses, annuals, perennials, vegetables, cacti and bougainvillea.)

    1. DIG YOUR HOLE 2-3 times as wide as the plant’s rootball (minimum 18”), and equal in depth. Place excavated soil in a pile beside the hole. Loosen, but do not remove, an additional 6”-10” of soil in the bottom of the hole.

For Citrus we recommend a minimum hole size of 3’ x 3’ (no matter what the size of the container).

    1. TEST DRAINAGE Place 6” of water in the hole. If the water does not drain out within three hours, your soil may be either too hard or too clay like. If water does not drain, bring in a one-quart sample of your soil and consult with a Harlow team member.

We do not recommend planting in soil that does not drain adequately. Most desert plants, in particular, require good drainage.

    1. PREPARE SOIL Using ½ of the soil from the hole (the other ½ will be left over), blend in an equal amount (see below) of our Composted Organic Mulch. The approximate amounts that will be needed are:

#1 Container (“1 gallon”) — 0.4 cubic feet (hole size 18” x 6”)
#5 Container (“5 gallon”) — 1.0 cubic feet (hole size 24” x 10”)
#15 Container (“15 gallon”) — 3.0 cubic feet (hole size 36” x 14”)
#24 Container (24” box) — 8.0 cubic feet (hole size 48” x 24”)

    1. CAREFULLY REMOVE THE PLANT from its container. Examine the plant’s roots. If they are very thick, use a sharp knife to cut a 1” deep x in the bottom of the rootball, and three equally spaced 1” deep vertical cuts up the sides.
    2. SPRINKLE OSMOCOTE Slow Release Plant Food 15-9-12 in the bottom of the hole in the following quantities:

#1 Container (“1 gallon”) – 2 teaspoons
#2/3 Container (“2/3 gallon”) – 1 tablespoon
#5 Container (“5 gallon”) – 2 tablespoons
#15 Container (“15 gallon”) – 4 tablespoons
#24 Container (24” box) – 8 tablespoons


  • PLACE YOUR PLANT in the center of the hole so that it is level with, or slightly above ground level. (When planting citrus always place plant slightly above ground level so water will drain away from the trunk).



  • BACKFILL the hole with your blended soil, tamping lightly every 6”.


  1. WATER THOROUGHLY. If soil settles, add blended soil up to the top of the rootball. DO NOT PLACE ANY SOIL ON TOP OF THE ROOTBALL AS THIS MAY INHIBIT WATER PENETRATION. (Decomposed granite, rock, or gravel is ok.)
  2. If you will be watering with a hose, build a 3” watering basin around the perimeter of the rootball. After six weeks, enlarge watering basin out to the edges of the hole. Continue to enlarge watering basin as the plant grows.
  3. If you will be using drip irrigation, place the emitters on top of the rootball with at least one dripper next to the main stem of the plant. As the plant grows, drippers can be extended outwards.

WATERING TIPS (Note: 99% of early plant deaths are due to poor watering techniques):

Check your new plantings daily for the first 2-4 weeks.

Keep the ROOTBALL of your new planting moist (not soggy) for 10 to14 days. To be sure you wet the rootball and not just the soil surrounding the rootball, being sure to place your hose or emitter directly over the rootball. Using a hose, water with a slow trickle so water penetrates the rootball and does not run off into the soil surrounding the rootball. If the plant is wilting in the morning, water is probably not penetrating the rootball.

A general rule of thumb is to water when the top 1” of the rootball is dry. On new plantings, this may mean watering every 5-7 days during cold weather and 2 – 4 days in hot weather. Plants with smaller rootballs will initially require more frequent watering than plants with larger rootballs.

When it comes to watering, there are no hard and fast rules. Different plants in different locations in different yards in different parts of town being watered by different people make each situation unique.

Be attentive to your plants and they will “tell” you when they need water. When you do water, do it thoroughly. Plants lose more water on hot, windy days than on cool, wet days.