Proper Planting


Mother Nature throws the gardener all types of curve balls each year--from temperature extremes to unpredictable rainfall--and tests the hardiness of your plants. While you can't always control the weather, one thing you can control is the type of start your give your plants. A flower or shrub that has been placed in the ground the right way has a greater chance of surviving all those environmental challenges and making a beautiful contribution to your landscape.

Timing and Placement

The time of year you choose to put a new plant in the ground is important. For instance, trees and shrubs are best planted in the late fall, after they've become dormant, or in the early spring before new growth appears. For warm season annuals, make sure you've gotten past the last hard freeze before attempting spring planting. Also, read up on the sun and moisture requirements of your intended plant. You can usually learn this information from the little tabs in the containers at the nursery. Choose a location that is suitable for the particular plant you desire.


It's helpful to assemble the necessary supplies before you attempt to plant. Make sure you have on hand the needed shovels or other tools, and that you have ample compost, fertilizer, or other soil amendments. Also consider what type of irrigation will be available to your plant. While it be served by a current sprinkler system, or will hand watering be necessary? If so, locate the needed hoses and sprinkler attachments so that you can water thoroughly immediately after planting.

Soil Amendments

The importance of soil quality to the health of your plant can't be overstated. If your soil is firmly packed, as many clay soils are, add some organic matter like mushroom compost or peat moss. This improves the aeration, drainage, and nutrient quality of the soil around your plant's roots. A plant that makes its home in rich nutrient-dense soil will thank you. If you're planting a flower or shrub that has specific needs with regard to soil pH, you can assess the pH level of your planting site with a soil testing kit from your local agricultural extension office. They'll send you a report detailing the acidity of the soil, and instructions for adjusting it to meet your needs.

Hole Size

One of the single greatest temptations when planting is to skimp on the hole that you dig for the new plant. Most experts agree that your hole should be 2 to 3 times wider that the root ball or container of your plant, and the same depth. Make sure the plant isn't set too deep. If you are planting a large number of shrubs or plants in a bed, it might be easier to cultivate and prepare the whole bed, rather than digging and amending a large number of individual holes in a small space. Place the plant in the hole, check for proper depth, then backfill with the soil you removed from the hole initially.


After backfilling the hole and securing your plant in the soil, add a 3-nch layer of mulch around the base of the plant. This will help with moisture retention, moderate soil temperatures, and provide a more stable transition for your plant. Water in thoroughly, and keep a close eye on the moisture needs of the plant for that first critical season. After the plant is thoroughly established, its moisture needs will be more stable and predictable.

Keywords: planting techniques, proper planting, how to plant

About this Author

Dana Hall McCain is a freelance writer based in Dothan, Ala., and is a a regular contributor to numerous regional publications. She writes features and columns on a variety of topics, including the outdoors, faith and health/wellness. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University in public relations/communication in 1995.