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How to Plant and Care For Trees and Shrubs

It is important not to plant your new tree or shrub too deeply. Be sure to keep the root ball slightly above ground level and do not cover the top with soil or more than 2” of mulch. This will lead to root rot. When backfilling your hole, be sure to pull soil around the edges but not over the top of the root ball. Be sure to fertilize in spring the first few years with a slow or timed release fertilizer as they need it to thrive. If it is a three month fertilizer, fertilize an additional time the first 2 years. Liquid fertilizer is made for flowers, vegetables, or houseplants that you water more frequently.

 You may be wondering where to place your new plants and how to maintain them, and the Arbor Day Foundation as well as Green Gold Landscaping have been kind enough to provide tips and tricks on maintaining your trees and shrubs so that they can flourish for years to come! Check out and for more information!
Arbor Day Foundation Tree Care
These comprehensive tree care tips will guide you through the process of selecting, planting, and caring for the right tree for your space. It’s important to remember that proper tree care starts when you select a tree. What you do to your tree in its first few years of life will affect its shape, strength, and even its lifespan. Following these steps will make sure your tree gets a good start for a healthy life.
Choosing the Right Type of Tree

Proper tree care begins with selecting the right tree and planting it in the right place. Make sure your tree will thrive — especially once fully grown — where you want to plant it. Things to consider include:

The tree’s purpose. Are you planting it for aesthetics, privacy, shade/energy reduction, windbreak, or as a street tree? Your end goal will determine the suitability of different trees.
Planting site limitations. What is your hardiness zone? What is the maximum height and spread for a tree in the space? What are the sun exposure and soil conditions? This information is available for more than 200 trees and woody shrubs in our Tree Guide.
Learn more about planting the Right Tree in the Right Place. You can also find a tree with the Tree Wizard — a free online tool to help you narrow down your choices and select the right tree for the right place.

Right Tree, Right Place

Short, flowering trees don’t clash with overhead utility lines. Large deciduous trees on the southeast, southwest, and west provide cooling shade in the summer but don’t obstruct the warming winter sunlight. An evergreen windbreak to the north blocks cold winds in winter.

Selecting a Healthy Tree

Good tree care starts with a healthy tree. Here’s what to look for to ensure your tree can provide a lifetime of benefits.

Bare-Root Seedlings : Roots should be moist and fibrous.
Deciduous seedlings should have roots about equal to stem length.

Balled and Burlapped Trees: Root ball should be firm to the touch, especially near the trunk.
Root ball should be adequate for the tree’s size.

Container-Grown Trees :Container should not contain large, circling roots.
Pruned roots should be cut cleanly, none wider than a finger.
Soil and roots should be joined tightly.

Additional considerations when purchasing a mature tree include:

A strong, well-developed leader (or leaders in a multi-leader tree).
Bright, healthy bark.
Trunk and limbs free of insect or mechanical injury.
Branches well-distributed around trunk, considerably smaller caliper than trunk.
Ideal spacing between branches, at least 8–12″ for most species.
Good trunk taper.
Wide-angle crotches for strength.
Low branches — they are temporary but help develop taper, promote trunk caliper growth, and prevent sun damage.

Planting a Tree

How To Videos: 

How to Plant Bare-Root Trees

How to Plant Balled and Burlapped Trees

How to Plant Containerized Trees

Proper Mulching

Mulch is a newly planted tree’s best friend because it:

Insulates the soil, helping to provide a buffer from heat and cold.
Retains water to help the roots stay moist.
Keeps weeds out to avoid root competition.
Prevents soil compaction.
Reduces lawn mower damage.

Steps to Adding Mulch Around Your Tree

Remove any grass within a 3-foot area (up to 10 feet for larger tree).
Pour natural mulch such as wood chips or bark pieces 2 to 4 inches deep within the circle.
Keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the tree.

Tree Watering

Tree watering is a key part of tree care, but it is difficult to recommend an exact amount due to the variety of climates. A few guidelines will help you to water your trees properly.

Watering Newly Planted Trees

For new trees, water immediately after you plant a tree. Saturate the root ball. A good way to achieve full saturation is to turn the hose on a trickle for several hours.

Watering Trees During First Two Years

During the first couple of growing seasons, your newly planted tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established in the soil. Especially during the first few summers of your new tree’s life, it will have a difficult time dealing with heat and drought. You can make the tree’s life easier by providing water and covering the soil with bark mulch, pine straw, or wood chip mulch. Deep watering can help speed the root establishment. Deep water consists of keeping the soil moist to a depth that includes all the roots.


How Much Water and When


Not enough water is harmful for the tree, but too much water is bad as well.

In the spring and summer we recommend soaking a newly planted tree three times a week for the first 3 weeks, then twice a week for the next 4-6 weeks, and then once a week until October.

In the fall and winter we recommend soaking a newly planted tree twice a week the first week and once a week for the next 2-4 depending on how dry the ground is. Through the winter there isn’t much watering required.


What about if we get rain? We recommend keeping a rain gauge to measure rain at your planting. I have seen as much as ½” difference in rain fall over 1000’. If you get ½” or more rain that comes down over 1 hour or more (soaking rain) you can skip a watering. 


When to Prune

This depends to a large extent on why you prune. Light pruning and the removal of dead wood can be done anytime. Otherwise, below are some guidelines for the different seasons.


Pruning during dormancy is the most common practice. It results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring and should be used if that is the desired effect. Prune before the sap starts to rise in early spring.


To direct the growth by slowing the branches you don’t want, or to “dwarf” the development of a tree or branch, pruning should be done soon after seasonal growth. Another reason to prune in the summer is for corrective purposes. Defective limbs can be seen more easily.


Because decay fungi spread their spores profusely in the fall and wounds seem to heal more slowly on fall on cuts, this is a good time to leave your pruning tools in storage.

Shrubs are an essential and beautiful part of any landscape. Shrubs are small to medium-sized woody plants. These plants are bigger than a flower but small compared to a tree. Some of the shrubs are evergreen and some shed leaves in the winter season. Consider adding some shrubs to your lawn while designing your lawn. They make a great addition and attraction at places like fountains, walkways, and other hardscapes. Shrubs can also be used as background for the garden beds in your lawn. Include evergreen shrubs around your foundation so it won’t be bare in winter.

Shrubs add beauty, texture, and structure to your lawn. You can choose them based on your interest. In our area the most popular are hollies, distyliums, hydrangeas, loropetalums, azaleas, and gardenias. 

How to Take Care of Shrubs?

Shrub maintenance involves a careful choice of the desired shrub and taking care of it after planting to get the best blossoms in the year.

1. Plant the Shrubs at the Right Time

The shrubs that are selected for planting should be able to cope up with the soil and climatic conditions in your specific area. 

2. Schedule the Watering Process

Water is essential for the plants or shrubs to thrive.Water newly planted shrubs on the same schedule as we recommend for trees.

3. Follow Proper Feeding Habits

Newly planted shrubs should not be fed with fertilizer in the fall, but fed well in the spring. If it is a spring blooming plant, wait until after it blooms. Mulch the soil with compost to make the soil enriched with micronutrients. For the shrubs that are planted and established, timed release fertilizers can be added according to the need of the plants from spring through July . 

4. Prune at the Right Times

To maintain the size and shape of the shrubs, pruning is to be done on a regular basis. Make use of different tools for pruning the plants or shrubs. Late winter to spring is the best time to prune your summer flowering shrubs. For spring flowering shrubs, prune after they bloom.

5. Stake or Tie the Branches

You may need to stake the new plants on the lawn, especially when the trees are bare root and you have a hard time to keep them straight. The support to the plants should be given until they have developed a strong trunk. The stake used should be about the height of the tree. Using a heavy wrapped wire the stake is tied to the branches of the tree. Ensure that the cable is covered with a hose to protect the tree bark from rubbing. You may also need to stake tall trees until the roots are established. Use shorter stakes spaced 1/3 around the tree anchored by a cable to the tree and wrapped with rubber to protect the tree.

6. Look out for Pests in the Lawn

Pests are a big problem for the shrubs. If you find any pests on the shrubs or plants, contact the NC Cooperative Extension Service to suggest the right method to remove the pests from the lawn.

7. Retain the Moisture by Mulching

Mulching is the process that helps to retain the moisture and warmth of the soil. In the winter season, the mulch helps the shrubs to retain water. Organic mulching materials such as pine bark and pine needles can be used for mulching the shrubs.


Implementing proper gardening and shrub maintenance is always the key to keep the shrubs in your lawn green and healthy. So, pick your favorite shrubs that suit your neighborhood. Make sure that the pruning, watering, fertilization and other tasks, which are essential for healthy growth of this special plants, are done properly.