The Q&A Archives: Shrubs

Question: I purchased a model home last fall that came with newly planted shrubs. During the winter one of the evergreen bushes became uprooted and the bottom of it is now dying. If it can be replanted can you provide a layman's step by step guide as to how it can be restored to normalcy?

Answer: If branches on the top of the plant are exhibiting symptoms of stress, you may be able to restore its health by doing a little creative pruning. Completely dig up the shrub and prune off any dead roots (probably only those that were exposed to the elements have suffered damage). Healthy roots will be creamy colored inside; dead roots will be brown or reddish brown. After pruning away the dead material, replant the shrub by digging a hole large enough to accommodate the root mass, plus a little extra space. Then place a small mound of soil on the bottom of the hole and drape the roots over it in a natural fashion. Check the depth, making sure that when the hole is filled the shrub will be at the soil level as it was growing originally. Then fill in around the roots, tamping lightly as you go, to exclude any pockets of air. Finish filling in the hole, tamp the soil down, then build a basin around the root mass to hold water. Water well, and plan to supply one-inch of water to the roots each week, especially during the summer season. Use your thumbnail to scrape the bark on the lower branches to see if they're alive. You'll see green tissue directly under the bark if the branch is alive. If you find green tissue, leave the branch or stem alone. If it's dead, cut back until you find live tissue. If the branch or stem is dead all the way back to the main stem, prune it off. The combination of root pruning, and removing the dead material from the top of the shrub should make the plant produce new leaves and stems over the spring and summer months.

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