The Q&A Archives: Planting Potted and Balled Conifers

Question: Proper planting of potted and balled conifers?

Answer: First off, make sure you are planting in a spot suited to the growing conditions and ultimate size of the plant. Next, you might wish to follow any instructions provided by the seller if that is required per their guarantee. Although you can plant at any time the ground is not frozen, early spring is preferable for most evergreens.

Generally, dig a very generous hole stretching at least three times wider than the root ball but not deeper. Loosen the soil around the outer edge and at the bottom of the hole. Plant the plant at the same depth or slightly higher than it grew before, loosening any encircling roots. In my experience it is best to remove all packing on balled shrubs/trees (much of the "burlap" and most string is synthetic and can cause problems later). Backfill halfway and water in carefully to settle air pockets, add remainder of soil and repeat. Mulch well, keep weeded and provide regular water (about an inch a week applied in one slow deep watering rather than frequent sprinklings) for at least a year or until the plant is well established. Container plants may need more frequent light watering at first until their roots expand beyond the potting soil.

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