How to Set Landscape Plants


Landscape plants include shrubs, trees and flowers used as decorative accents. Plants need time to transition from the potted environment from the nursery into the garden. Setting landscape plants refers to the adjustment process each plant goes through to acclimate to a new location and new environment with exposure to temperature fluctuations. Learning how to set landscape plants requires good gardening practices to ensure proper location and cultivation. Setting a plant properly ensures a long life for an ornamental plant.

Step 1

Place purchased landscaped plants in a sheltered area outside for 2 to 3 days after the last frost has passed in the spring. Store-bought plants live exclusively in the controlled environment of a greenhouse. Allowing the plant to adjust to temperature differences slowly increases the chance of a successful transplant.

Step 2

Check soil temperature by digging a 6-inch deep hole in the garden bed and checking for deep cold in the soil. Most landscape plants transition easily when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees F or above. Soils reach this temperatures in mid to late spring each year, provided heavy rain and cold weather doesn't restrict temperatures. Check the soil consistency by grabbing a handful of soil. Squeeze it between your fingers. Workable soil compacts into a ball when held in your hand and loses shape when you release pressure. Avoid setting landscape plants into soggy, mushy soil.

Step 3

Prepare the garden planting area by turning over the soil in the garden. Cultivate an area three times the size of the plant. Dig deeply into the soil to an 8-inch depth for annual plants and 12 or more inches for perennials. Cultivation aerates the soil and loosens compaction to allow plant roots to spread easily. Break up dirt clods and remove weeds to create a soil bed that sifts easily through your hands.

Step 4

Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost to the top of the planting area. Work this medium into the soil layers using a shovel. Organic materials increase drainage and improve the health of future plants.

Step 5

Read and follow instructions for application of granular fertilizer to the planting site. Spread fertilizer over the planting site and mix into the soil layers.

Step 6

Dig a planting hole exactly as deep as the transplant container that currently houses the plant. Proper hole depth places the top of the root ball at the garden surface level.

Step 7

Press around the outside of the transplant pot to loosen roots and soil. Tip the plant onto the side and gently grip the main plant stem. Tip the pot further and pull gently to remove the plant from the transplant pot. Hold the root mass in your hands and gently work your fingers into the soil to loosen bound roots.

Step 8

Set the landscape plant into the hole to measure planting depth. If correct, fill in around the roots with soil and press to firm the dirt. Water at the soil level to allow moisture to seep slowly around the roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Trowel
  • Compost
  • All-purpose plant fertilizer
  • Garden hose


  • Washington State University: Planting Landscape Plants
  • Cornell University: Planting Options
Keywords: setting landscape plants, acclimating landscape plants, hardening off plants

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.