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Plant Care
Planting Trees and Shrubs
tree planting
Trees are one of the most important plantings in a garden. They are also expensive, so apart from the heartache of losing a new tree, take care when planting and protect your investment.

A tree that is planted well will grow away faster and make a stronger, better-looking addition to your garden. So take care, buy and plant well.

The sooner you plant your trees or shrubs the better, especially with bareroot trees trees. If they must wait, protect your trees by keeping them in a cool shady place away from drying winds and ensure that the roots stay moist by heeling them in.

Soak the tree in a bucket of water or water well before planting. A tree that is well watered will get away to a better start in the ground.

Bare-root or Container Grown
Many larger grade trees are sold as bare root specimens. Container grown trees can be successfully planted for more of the year, bare root trees must be planted while dormant. With both make sure they don't dry out while waiting by the planting hole. Especially take care to cover the roots of bare root trees with a damp sack, newspaper or straw.

Get It Right
Select your position. Take your time and stand back and look at the tree, imagine how it will develop and the spread/height when fully grown. Moving a partially grown tree is no easy job, make sure you take time now, before you plant, to get the position right!

Dig a Big Hole
'Penny for the plant, Pound for the hole' is the old saying. Tree roots need to be able to easily penetrate the surrounding soil if they are to grow. So make a generous planting hole. Using your shovel, mark out the dimensions of the hole in the border or turf.

Tree roots spread sideways, often beyond the 'drip-line', and need a good friable soil to do this. The planting hole should wider than the root area of your tree, whether container grown or bare rooted.

Don't make the planting hole too deep. Holes that are very deep can become a sump hole, a collection place for all the water falling nearby. Do not make the hole too deep, but rather wide.

Do not remove heavy subsoil and mix this into the topsoil. This will damage the natural drainage and may 'drown' the tree. Work the base of the hole to encourage root growth downwards. Add some horticultural grit, especially if your soil is heavy or clay-based.

Spreading a tarp on the grass or border next to the planting hole makes it easy to work and to deal with excess soil afterwards.

Place your tree stake in the hole before you plant. Make sure it is really firm.

Ideally the stake should be no more than one third of the height of the tree stem.

The stake is placed on the windward side of the tree to take the strain of prevailing winds. With a properly sized stake the tree will bend and flex in the ground, developing a good strong root system. If is staked to tightly and too high, there will be less movement and roots won't develop, stabilising the tree in the soil.

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Pohutukawa, Metrosideros excelsus

Bare rooted trees are grown in open ground and lifted in winter when they are not in growth. The soil is removed from the root and the roots are pruned to encourage new root growth and to facilitate shipping. Do not allow the roots to dry out before planting and always plant bare rooted tree immediately.

Container grown plants are grown and sold in plastic planter bags or large pots. While the shock of being planted is less for a container grown plant, there is also the risk that the plant has not been potted-on (moved into a larger pot) when required or that it has been too long in the nursery and the roots will strangle in the container. Remove the planter bag by slitting it with a knife or ease the plant from its pot. Check the roots carefully before planting, and tease out any that circle the pot.

Mark out the Dimensions of the planting hole
Mark out the Dimensions of the planting hole

Make the planting hole wider than deep
Make the planting hole wider than deep

Root Bound
Root bound trees have been left in a too-small container too long. Plants should be potted on at least annually to ensure that they have room within the planter bag for root growth.

Often you can spot these trees in the nursery because large roots emerge from the base of the planting bag or pot. Small feeder roots are usually not a problem; larger roots are a sure sign of trouble.

Another sign is a tightly packed planting bag with no 'give'. The roots have totally filled the planting bag taking up any slack within the container.

A root bound tree will never flourish. The roots circle endlessly instead of spreading out into the soil in search of nutrients and moisture.

A root-bound tree will never flourish

A root-bound tree will never flourish

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Last revised 24 May 02