Early spring is a great time to plant new shrubs and perennials, and if you check your local nursery, you may even find some bargains. Shrubs that have been in their pots all winter are ready to go in the ground, but they need a little slashing before you plant them.
Why? Most plants that have been held in containers for a year or even two may be significantly root bound. That means that rather than reaching out into the soil, the roots are wrapping around themselves. The plants are still perfectly fine for planting, but you need to do a little preparation before putting them in the soil.
Gently remove the plant from it’s pot and check the roots. The viburnum in the photo above is a good-looking specimen and has a significant root mass, but it’s all heading the wrong direction. To break it up, take a utility knife or other sharp tool and slash the roots from top to bottom at 1 inch intervals, about 1 inch deep. Then, check the bottom of the plant and slash that as well. Once you are done cutting, use your fingers to tease out the roots and fluff up the soil around them to encourage the roots to grow outward.
Dig a hole that is bigger than the width of the root ball but equally deep. Set the plant in the hole and gently firm the soil around it. The plant should be planted at the same height it is in the pot. Give it regular water — daily at first, then every other day — for several weeks to give it a good start. Before you know it, your bargain bush will be a star of the garden.