The Q&A Archives: Underplanting

Question: Hi.

About two years ago, I planted a small Kousa dogwood tree, surrounded by hostas and 2-3 small flowering shrubs within 3-5 feet of the tree's trunk. Now, I would like to replace the small flowering shrubs with new plants, but am afraid I may hurt the dogwood tree.

How fast / slowly do the roots of the dogwood grow, and are there steps I should follow to minimize any damage I may cause to the tree's roots?


Answer: Careful digging is the best way to avoid root damage to your dogwood. Since your shrubs have only been in the ground for two years, their root systems probably have not ventured too far. Start digging at the dripline of the shrubs (the outermost branch tips). You'll find the majority of roots in a mass directly beneath the shrub. Just dig slowly all around each shrub and then put the blade of your shovel under the shrub and it should pop right out of the ground with the root mass all attached. Be sure to fill in the holes as soon as possible so the dogwood roots are not exposed to air and sunlight for any length of time. Best wishes with your landscape!

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