8 Tips For Growing Healthy Shrubs & Trees
By David Salman, High Country Gardens Chief Horticulturists
Trees and shrubs are long-lived and permanent parts of our landscapes, and they benefit greatly from good care when youngsters.
Essential Steps For Successful Transplanting, Care, and Maintenance of Small Trees & Shrubs
1. Dig a Generous Planting Hole and Amend the Soil
- Our woody plants are from 24 to 36 months old (depending on the variety) and are excellent starter plants.
- They should not be up-potted into larger containers for future planting, but put directly out into the garden where they can begin putting down deep roots into their new home soil.
- Make sure the planting hole is generously sized. A 1 ft. deep x 15”-18” wide hole enriched with Yum Yum Mix® and high quality (non-manure) based compost.
- Inoculating the roots with Plant Success® Mycorrhizal fungi is essential, as most all woody plants grow best with these symbiotic fungi attached to their roots.
2. Water Regularly
- Whether watering by hand or with drip irrigation, be sure to apply enough water so the soil is damp to at least a foot down.
- Be generous but not wasteful (don’t overwater) when irrigating young trees and shrubs. They’ll respond with vigorous growth.
3. Fertilize In The Fall
- Regular use of Yum Yum Mix (or similar natural soil food formulation) applied to the soil in mid- to late fall is essential for long-term soil health and consequently, the long-term health of the trees and shrubs growing in it.
4. Mulch Well
- Make a wide saucer around the plants to hold irrigation water and fill it with at least a 1” deep layer of composted bark, shredded wood, and bark or composted leaves.
- Apply as needed in late spring and again in fall to keep it an inch deep. Mulch conserves soil moisture, moderate soil temperatures, and provides long-term enrichment to the soil.
5. Protect From Browsing Animals
- Most trees and shrubs can withstand some browsing damage from animals when they reach their mature size, but young plants can be eaten to the ground and killed.
- Where browsing animals are a hazard, an inconspicuous cylinder of wire or netting should be used for a few years until the plant are significantly larger.
- A rotating mix of different brands of deer and rabbit repellents are helpful, but must be used regularly, especially over the winter and early spring months.
6. Weed Out Grass In A Generous Circle Around Trees & Shrubs
- When planting into a field or meadow or wilder edges of your property, keep all grasses weeded in a generous circle around them. Grasses are very competitive and will take water and nutrients from trees and shrubs, stunting their growth.
7. Don’t Shear Shrubs
- A minimum of pruning is needed on young shrubs.
- You can winter prune out crossed branching or a shoot that has become too long in relation to the rest of the plant.
- But big or small, don’t shear native shrubs. It ruins the beauty of their natural form and branching, can remove flowering/ fruiting wood and becomes a “forever job”.
8. Protect Young Trees From Winter Injury
- In the sunny Western US, the winter sun can sunburn the bark of young shade, flowering, and fruiting trees. This is called Southwest Winter Injury and happens when the soil is frozen and the sun heats up the southwest side of the tree's trunk, causing sunburn of the thin, immature bark.
- This is easily prevented by wrapping the trunks of your young trees with a trunk diameter (caliper) of less than 3 to 4 inches. Using tree wrap, cover the bottom 4 to 5 feet of the trunk in late November and remove it in April.
High Country Gardens Shrubs & Trees
Our selection of flowering shrubs and small trees offers great visual beauty with colorful flowers, fruit and showy fall foliage. Native shrubs are especially valuable to wild birds, and many of them offer nectar-rich flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum ‚Kannah Creek‚ (Buckwheat) hails from western Colorado. With a showy display of yellow flowers in late spring, the flowers age to shades of...Learn MoreKannah Creek Sulphur Buckwheat Kannah Creek Sulphur Buckwheat Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum 'Kannah Creek'As low as $13.99Per Plant - 5" Deep PotEriogonum umbellatum v. aureum 'Kannah Creek' (Buckwheat) hails from western Colorado. With a showy display of yellow flowers in late spring, the flowers age to shades of orange and rust by late summer, providing months of low care color. A 2007 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Caryopteris clandonensis ‚Dark Knight‚ (Bluebeard) blooms with a profusion of dark blue flowers in late summer when few other shrubs are flowering. Its modest size makes ...Learn MoreDark Knight Caryopteris Dark Knight Caryopteris Caryopteris clandonensis 'Dark Knight'As low as $12.99Per Plant - 5" Deep PotCaryopteris clandonensis 'Dark Knight' (Bluebeard) blooms with a profusion of dark blue flowers in late summer when few other shrubs are flowering. Its modest size makes it very useful in smaller yards. A fantastic nectar source for bees and butterflies. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Chamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed...Learn MoreFernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Chamaebatiaria millefoliumAs low as $14.99Per Plant - 5" Deep PotChamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed heads and olive-green foliage. Drought resistant perennial plant (xeric).
First Choice is a newer selection with particularly deep blue flowers and a more compact mature size than other Blue Mist spirea. Blooming late summer it is an invaluable nectar sour...Learn MoreFirst Choice Caryopteris First Choice Blue Mist Spirea, Bluebeard Caryopteris clandonensis First Choice$13.99Per Plant - 5" Deep PotFirst Choice is a newer selection with particularly deep blue flowers and a more compact mature size than other Blue Mist spirea. Blooming late summer it is an invaluable nectar source for bees and butterflies. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).