The Q&A Archives: Dying Trees and Shrubs

Question: I buy my shrubs and trees at Reno HD stores. Over 50% of them die no matter what I do. Nurseryman on weekends told us that HD buys items that have been forced to grow fast by high levels of food. And to keep our trees/shrubs from dying we should slowly wean them off this high octane feeding. I am trying and still have to return over $400 of dead items. I hate the waste in plants. Help me. I am in Beckwourth, CA - high desert. Leslie (Bought Grandson a Home Depot car, from Santa to Mike. He was ecstatic that Santa brought it for him)

Answer: I'm afraid I don't agree with what you've heard. Home Depot offers the widest selection of beautiful, top-quality plant and landscape materials, and they guarantee the quality. You shouldn't have any problems returning your plants or getting replacements.

Transplanting trees and shrubs can sometimes be a bit stressful on them so if you take a few simple steps to ensure their success, I think you'll have a higher success rate. First, make sure that the exposure to sunshine (or shade) that the plant will be getting is what it requires. If you plant a shade loving plant in the sun, it won't survive very long. Likewise with a sun loving plant in the shade.

Next, dig a planting hole slightly deeper and wider than the nursery container and roughen up the sides and the bottom of the hole. Your goal is to have the plant growing at the same soil level as it was growing in the pot. To double check the depth of the hole you can set the potted plant in it. Once you're satisfied with the planting hole lay the plant on its side and gently slid it out of the pot. Loosen the roots slightly and set the plant in the hole. Backfill with the soil you removed from the hole and gently tamp it down. Immediately water the newly planted tree or shrub to help settle the soil.

The next step is to make sure each plant gets a thorough soaking once each week (twice if the weather is hot). The easiest method is to build a watering well or water basin around each plant by mounding a few inches of soil up in a circle around the plant about 12" from the trunk or main stem. Fill this basin with water, allow to drain, then fill it a second time. This concentrates the water over the root mass and allows it to trickle down and wet the entire root system. Do this once a week and the root system will establish quickly.

Don't fertilize and don't prune the first year. By the end of the season your plants should be well established.

Hope this information helps you plant and grow a healthy landscape!

By the way, I'm really happy to hear your grandson loved his Home Depot car!

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