Remember Goldilocks

So you’ve done your research, chosen the right plant for the right spot and you’ve made your purchases. Now you’re ready to get your plants in the ground. Seems simple enough, and it is. But, plants do have a bit of a Goldilocks complex.

Not only should you plant sun-loving plants in the sun and shade-loving plants in the shade, you should not plant it too deep or too shallow, but just right. Too deep and you effectively suffocate it, too shallow (the most common planting mistake) and the roots will surely dry out, killing the plant. Just right is where the soil the plant came with in the pot is level with the surface of the ground you’re planting it in.

To get started, clear the area of any vegetation present on the site. You can use weed block — a cloth layered over the ground to help retain moisture and keep weeds to a minimum.

Remember Goldilocks. If you have sandy soil or clay soil, particularly if your plant is not native, you need to think about amending it. Sandy soil has great drainage but little nutrients and clay soil is just the opposite. Adding a little compost to both sandy and clay soils can only help.

Once you’ve dug the hole, remove your plant from the pot by squeezing the pot a bit and turning out the plant carefully. If the roots are dense or root bound you’ll want to score them with a knife or clippers. Then place the plant in the hole, adjust the depth if needed, back-fill the hole and tap down. Pull the weed cloth back in place if using, and mulch. Water the plant well with a handheld hose.

Depending what time of year you plant and if it’s a sun plant or shade plant will determine how often you’ll need to water to establish it. Hand-watering is best to ensure the root ball is thoroughly soaked. Check out Mark’s 3-2-1 rule for watering new plants for the details.

Picture of Dana Nichols
Dana Nichols
As conservation manager at SAWS, Dana spent her days promoting beautiful San Antonio landscapes that need little to no water while benefiting Texas wildlife. While she’s no longer whipping up new landscape programs, she’s still cooking up delicious dinners made with fresh herbs from her low-water-use garden or planning the next trip with her husband, Rick -- preferably to some exotic place that requires a passport.
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