Planting in Summer? Rough Up Those Roots!

While most gardeners like to plant in spring or fall, you can find lots of deals on perennials, shrubs and even trees during the time from mid-June to September. But planting in summer works, too. As long as you are careful to water, most plants will do just fine if planted in mid-summer.

But here’s the catch with both summer and fall plantings: Whatever plant you buy, it has been sitting in its pot a long, long time and the roots are probably wrapping around the inside of the pot. Now is a time when a gardener needs to get rough.

These roots are tight in the pot and need some roughing up.

Here’s a Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea plant, that looked terrific when it was purchased, with healthy foliage and lots of blooms. But the roots of the plant are crowded into the pot and a few of them are starting to move around the edge of the pot. For them to latch on to the soil where they will be planted, the roots need to be loosened.

One technique is to slash the root ball with a knife or other sharp tool (I sometimes use an old pruner) about every inch or two around the root ball. Then slash the bottom of the roots, too. Finally, go in and gently pull those roots out so they are loose and ready to grab onto the soil around them.

The after picture: roots are loose and ready to move into the soil


When planting, add a little slow-release fertilizer or compost to the hole and gently tamp the soil around the roots so there is contact. Water the plant in well. It’s a good idea to water new plantings every day for the first couple of weeks, then every other day for another few weeks to make sure they are well established.

If you have questions about proper planting for new shrubs, check the tag, which often has good instructions, or talk with the nursery professionals who sold you the plant.

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