Skip to main content

How to plant shrubs for a gorgeous new gardenscape

Shrubs add an extra dimension and visual interest to your garden space. They break up space, and there are a wide variety available. Whether you’re looking for something small and cute, or big and bold, here are some general tips for making sure your shrubs are happy and healthy!

How do you prepare soil for planting shrubs?

The first thing to do to prepare for planting your shrub is to select the spot and clear the surface of any leaves, weeds, or other things. Selecting the spot to plant your shrub depends on the type of shrub you have, so be sure to find out the light requirements first. Check to see if your shrub has any other particular preferences for soil type or if it has difficulty with a particular type of pest, as well.

If your shrub came in a pot, be careful removing it. Don’t remove it by grabbing the plant, as pulling on it can damage or stress it. Loosen the sides and tip the shrub out gently to avoid harming your new shrub. 

Avoid planting your shrub using both your regular garden soil and another type of soil. The contrast in soil types can cause problems with drainage. Shrubs need to be watered thoroughly throughout their first season, so uneven drainage leads to parts of the roots being overwatered and others being underwatered. Another problem that can arise from using a mix of soils is that the shrub may become accustomed to the mix and refuse to spread its roots outside of the area it was planted in.

Once you’ve planted your shrubs, you’ll want to cover the ground with bark mulch to help insulate the ground. A few inches is all it takes, but you should prepare it beforehand by either making it yourself or buying it from your local garden supply store.

How deep should you plant shrubs?

Shrubs should be planted so that the top of their roots is even with the surface of the garden. Typically this is about a foot but will vary depending on the size, age, and type of shrub. Additionally, the hole you dig for your shrub should be twice the width of the root ball. This makes it easier to refill the hole after digging and helps loosen the soil around the shrub, encouraging root growth.

Be sure to loosen the root ball gently before placing the shrub into the hole. This will help prevent your shrub becoming rootbound and encourage your shrub to grow deep, healthy roots.

What is the best time of year to plant shrubs?

The best time to plant your shrub is before the first frost of the year so that it’s still warm and you’ll avoid the potential of water freezing after watering. This also allows the shrub to get plenty of light and adjust to its new habitat without the risk of burning or freezing. Plants can become sunburned if they are suddenly transitioned from a shady or indoor environment to full sun, so planting in fall can give them time to adjust. It also gives your shrub time to grow thick, strong roots before the ground freezes.

What is the best soil for shrubs?

The majority of shrubs will do just fine in any type of soil, as long as it drains relatively well. If your garden soil has poor drainage, fear not! There are some types of shrubs that do well in that kind of soil, too. Button bush, dogwood, chokeberry, and summersweet, to name a few, enjoy wetter soil. 

You can test how well your soil drains by digging a hole and pouring a few inches of water into it. Based on how quickly it drains, you can select your variety of shrub. Check the consistency of your soil as you dig. Is it sandy, crumbly, or cake-like? If it’s sandy or crumbly, most shrubs will do all right in your yard. If your soil is cake-like, thick, and moldable, you’ll need a variety of water-tolerant shrubs.

Shrubs are a lot of fun to have in your yard or garden. Anyone can have a lovely little bush, as long as they know the answers to these questions. And even if you have very little time for gardening duties, there are low-maintenance shrubs you can plant that will nevertheless spruce up your landscape. With the wide variety of shrubs available, any garden can be a shrub garden!

Editors' Recommendations

Does vinegar kill weeds? How to use your favorite household cleaning product in your garden
Everything you need to know about using vinegar to tackle unwanted weeds
Glass bottle labeled vinegar on table

Whether you're a seasoned or novice gardener, there's a good chance that you've heard about using vinegar as a weed killer. Since many gardeners are interested in using natural alternatives to harsh commercial herbicides, vinegar has become a go-to for removing pesky weeds. But does vinegar kill weeds effectively? Is it really the miracle weed killer that DIY enthusiasts make it out to be? Vinegar can, in fact, help with weed management, but it has both pros and cons as a natural herbicide. Here's what you need to know about using vinegar in the garden.
What makes vinegar an effective weed killer?

Vinegar is essentially a solution of acetic acid with water — the vinegar that you buy at the grocery store is typically 5% acetic acid and 95% water. Acetic acid kills plants by damaging their cells. Upon contact with acetic acid, cell walls break down, which leaks plant fluid and dries out plants. You want to be careful about applying vinegar to your landscape, since it will likely kill any plant tissue upon contact, including foliage that you're actively growing.
How do you create a DIY vinegar weed killer?

Read more
How to grow yarrow, one of pollinators’ favorite blooms
Add yarrow to your pollinator garden with these tips
An orange and black butterfly on white yarrow flowers

When planning an herb and pollinator garden, your mind might jump to rosemary, lavender, thyme, butterfly bushes, and milkweed, but there’s another option you might have missed. Yarrow is a hardy, easy-to-grow flower that pollinators love. With clusters of tiny flowers that can be white, pink, and yellow, these flowers have a simplistic beauty that makes them a great choice for practically any garden aesthetic. If you want to get started growing yarrow plants for yourself, this guide will tell you how.
When and how to plant yarrow

You can start planting yarrow anytime after the last frost of the year, but before the weather gets too hot. Established yarrow plants can withstand heat, but it can put extra stress on a plant that is young or has just been planted. Choose a planting site with well-draining soil and avoid low-lying areas in your garden where water tends to pool. Yarrow plants don't tolerate standing water. Yarrow flowers can tolerate shade, but they thrive in full sun. If you plant them in shade, be aware that you may need to stake them for extra support, as they tend to get leggy.

Read more
What herbs can be planted together? How to plan your herb garden
Keep these tips in mind for arranging your plants when planning your garden space
A crate full of harvested herbs

There are so many useful and delicious herbs you can grow in your garden, but figuring out how to arrange them can be tricky. Companion planting charts can help you choose companion plants if you already have a few herbs picked out, but what if you aren’t sure where to start? This guide will help you decide what herbs can be planted together in your garden. The best companion plants have similar care requirements, so find the section that best matches your garden and get ready to plant.
Herbs for dry gardens

If the area you have set aside for your herb garden is in full or majority sun with dry or well-draining soil, then you’ll likely need some drought-tolerant herbs. Rosemary and lavender are two of the most commonly planted herbs for this type of garden, and luckily, they pair well with many other herbs. Oregano, sage, and thyme make excellent companion plants for each other, as well as both rosemary and lavender.

Read more