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As an Arborist and as someone who truly appreciates the natural flora that I’m privileged to work with on a daily basis, there are few things as exciting and gratifying as seeing a new addition to the landscape. Whether tree, shrub, groundcover, or herbaceous plants, each new addition to a yard adds interest, intrigue, and beauty. On the flip side, new plantings present a very specific set of challenges to ensure survival and vigor.

Too often, what should be a beautiful installation is put at a disadvantage right from the start. Before, during, and after planting trees, there are several key points to remember. Though they seem minor, taking a few extra steps (or in some cases, skipping a few steps) can greatly improve a plant’s health and appearance from the onset and give that desired, instant gratification we are seeking.

In this three part series, we will take a look at some things to keep in mind when preparing for a new plant, how to plant trees and shrubs, and caring for it post planting.

Planning and Preparation

One of those most vital parts to planting trees and shrubs properly is in the planning. The key is to select the right plant for the location. Some things to remember when selecting plant material are;

  1. Sunlight – How much sunlight does the location get on a daily basis? Plants are generally classified by their tolerance to shade. The three most common categories are “full sun” “partial sun” and “shade tolerant”. Each plant species will have different requirements. Proper sunlight will not only allow the plant to thrive, but will encourage things like flowering and fruiting, should that be the desired effect.
  2. Water – What are the water requirements or limitations for the site? Will the new plant or plants be irrigated regularly? Plants, like people, need water to survive. In a lot of cases, water is the most limiting factor in determining a plant’s chance of survival after transplant. As they are with sunlight, plants are categorized by their general tolerance to drought conditions. Plants like Hydrangea and some Viburnums are generally regarded as drought tolerant while River Birch and Red Maple are generally regarded as tolerating wet soils (known as “wet feet”) It’s important to consider that regardless of species, all newly installed plants will require regular water to help them adjust to their new sites.
  3. Desired effect– What is your goal with the new plant? Is it to help create privacy and screen off a portion of your yard? Do you want big beautiful flowers? Maybe you want beautiful fall color and interest in the winter. These are all characteristics that need to be considered when selecting a new member of your yard. Not to be overlooked is the mature size of the plants trees and shrubs. How big will the plant get in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? While that young birch in front of the window looks great when it’s young, you have to consider the fact that if all goes according to plan, that tree will grow to be 40-50 feet tall!

Written by: James Connors, Massachusetts Certified Arborist



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