How to Plant Your New Arrivals

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Spring and fall, the most colorful seasons. That’s when mail-order plants often arrive. It’s an ideal time for planting. This can be done anytime the soil is dry enough. You may receive either container plants or bare-root ones with no soil around the roots. Each has its own planting style. And the sooner you get started, the better.

Container plants

The mail-order container plants shipped in the spring probably came from a cozy greenhouse. They aren’t prepared for full sun yet. So harden them off first. Set them in a shady, protected spot outdoors. During the next several days, gradually move them to brighter conditions. Do this by moving them from full shade to partial shade, and finally to full sun. Then they’ll be tough enough for your garden.

Overcast or cloudy days are best for planting. What size hole is needed? Make it the same depth as the root ball, but slightly wider.

Removing the plant from the pot can be tricky. Watering it first helps. Holding one hand over the plant, turn the pot upside down. Knock the container against a hard surface. The plant should pop out. If not, run a dull knife around the inside rim of the container.

Look at the root ball. If it is seriously matted, tease out some of the roots so they don’t encircle the root ball. Use your hands for this.

Place the plant in the center of the hole. Firmly pack garden soil around the roots. Should you be mixing peat moss or compost with the soil? Not really. The same goes for fertilizer. Prune off any damaged leaves or stems. Spread a two-inch-thick layer of mulch around the plant, and water thoroughly. Stand back, and admire your work.

Bare-root plants

Bare-root plants may look dead, but they’re taking a winter rest. They’re usually shipped and planted when they’re dormant. Remove all packing material from the plant. Prune any damaged or broken roots and stems.

You’re so eager to get it planted, but the roots need a good soaking. Place the plant in a bucket. Add just enough water to cover the roots. Five to ten minutes is enough for perennials, but let woody plants soak for six to twelve hours.

Dig the hole while the plant soaks. For size, use the roots as your guide. A dark stain on the trunks of woody plants indicates where the root begins. This will be the proper depth. Dig it wide enough so the roots won’t be jammed together.

Place the plant in the middle of the hole, and spread the roots out. Hold the plant in place with one hand. Use the other to cover the roots with the soil you removed when digging the hole. Press the soil firmly around the roots. Add a two-inch layer of mulch, and water carefully. Wasn’t that easy?

Post-planting care

Water the mail-order plants as needed over the next six weeks or so until they’re well established. They’ll thrive, and you’ll feel so rewarded.

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