What Is the Best Time to Plant Shrubs? Tips for Every Gardener

When it comes to shrubs, timing isn't everything.

Published May 15, 2023
woman planting a tree

Shrubs often get overlooked in favor of bright-colored flowers and towering trees, but they can become one of the most versatile parts of your backyard ecosystem. Encourage birds to perch and other plants to grow by adding a few shrubs. New to planting anything that doesn't come in a teeny pot? Fall is the best time to plant your shrubs, although you can plant them other times as well. Learn more about the great wide world of growing shrubbery.

What Time Should You Plant Shrubs?

While climate is a huge determining factor for planting of all kinds, generally, the fall is the best time to put your new shrubs in the ground. While you can plant in the spring, the fall is better suited since their roots won't be competing for nutrients, and they won't be susceptible to wild heat changes. Just make sure you get the shrubs in the ground before any major frosts as the root systems need about a month to secure themselves before a cold snap.

Does It Matter Which Type of Shrub You Have?

Both deciduous and evergreen shrubs can be planted at the same time of the year. The only major differences between the two are that deciduous leaves change and fall, while evergreens stay green the entire year.

How to Plant New Shrubs Properly

Shrubs aren't too difficult to plant, so long as you follow the proper steps.

Inspect the Roots Before Planting

Focused man gardener examines roots of Monstera

Not every shrub comes potted, but the ones that do can become root-bound where the roots grow knotted into each other. Root-bound shrubs aren't the easiest to plant if you're not experienced with untangling and pruning the woven roots. So, an easy way to avoid root-bound shrubs is to thoroughly investigate the roots first. Rinse the potting soil off and inspect them for coiling. If they descend without difficulty, they're ready to plant.

Dig a Hole in Your Soil

The standard rule for planting shrubs is to dig a hole that's about 2-3x as wide as the root ball. Don't exceed the root ball's depth though, because shrub roots prefer to extend outwards rather than down as they grow.

Quick Tip

Shrubs can be just as fickle as flowering plants, so you should monitor how much sunlight different parts of your yard get so you can plant the appropriate species in the right spots.

Set the Shrub in the Hole

Planting Cypress

If you've inspected your roots, you won't have to break up the root ball as you'll have already done it. Set the roots into the hole, making sure that the roots aren't buried in the ground.

Cover With New Soil and Other Additives

Planting a shrub

Cover the exposed root system with soil and other materials like mulch or compost to give them nutrients. If you really want to encourage growth, you can base whatever other materials you use on soil test results. The nutrients your natural soil lacks can be supplemented to match whatever the specific shrub species you've chosen needs.

Water New Shrubs to Finish Them Off

New shrubs do need to be watered once a week for the first few weeks after being planted, but they don't need to be over-watered. Make sure you're watering them slowly so that it penetrates down into the root systems to about 10 inches deep.

Timing Isn't Everything With Shrubs

Maintaining outdoor plants can be one of the most daunting hobbies to take on. Every plant has its own needs, and each environment comes with its own challenges. Yet, shrubs are a universally loved flora because they thrive in a ton of different areas. Yet, timing isn't everything when it comes to shrubs. The perfect time to plant may be in the fall, but getting them in the ground during October won't guarantee that they thrive in the spring. Planting them properly does.

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What Is the Best Time to Plant Shrubs? Tips for Every Gardener