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How to Grow Shrubs

By Dale Devries ; Updated September 21, 2017
Pink flowering shrub

Shrubs come in a myriad of varieties. Most are planted in the same general manner; however, each has different watering and soil needs. Many fast-growing shrubs can spruce up a new landscape quickly, and flowering shrubs add color and attract wildlife. Some are evergreen to ensure color throughout the winter. Flowering shrubs may bloom early in the spring or late in the summer. To grow your shrub to its full potential, know the type you are growing and follow the care instructions carefully.

Choose a location that is right for the type of shrub you are planting. For example, plant azalea and red twig dogwood in the fall for spring blooms and plant rhododendron and holly in the spring. Some do well in full sunlight while others need partial shade. In all cases, choose an area that drains well. Plan planting for early spring or early fall, depending on the variety of shrub.

Dig a hole twice the diameter of the container or root ball. Clean out the soil from all grass, weeds and stones. Amend the soil with one part compost, one part peat moss and one part original soil. If the soil is very heavy clay, it may be necessary to also add some coarse sand.

Carefully remove the shrub from the container or burlap and gently knock off most of the soil. Spread the roots out on the bottom of the planting hole. Fill halfway with amended soil and water to settle the soil around the roots. Continue to fill until the soil is level with the surrounding ground.

Water generously, soaking the roots immediately after planting. Water to keep the soil moist throughout the first growing season. To encourage deep root growth, water for longer periods of time. Cut back watering the second year to when the soil is dry one inch down. From the third year on, water only when the weather has been dry and hot.

Fertilize shrubs at the beginning of each growing season and again when buds start to set, if it is a flowering shrub. Apply a time-release fertilizer specific to the type of shrub. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the amount to apply.

Mulch the soil under the spread of the shrub. This will keep weeds down and moisture in. Keep the mulch a few inches from the main trunk of the shrub. Add to the mulch each fall to keep the roots warm in colder areas.

Prune off dead and diseased branches as soon as they are noticed. Prune to shape in the fall or just after flowering. Never take more than one-third of a branch off at one time unless it is diseased.


Things You Will Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Coarse sand
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Pruning shears