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Selecting, Planting and Caring For Shrubs

Selecting, Planting and Caring For Shrubs

AUBURN, Ala. – Shrubs are great additions to any landscape. There are a variety of colors, shapes, textures and mature heights to accommodate any design need. Planting a variety of shrubs that bloom at different times of the year add year-round color to a landscape. Extension professionals provide information on selecting, planting and caring for shrubs.

Choosing a Shrub

Hayes Jackson, an Alabama Extension regional agent for home grounds, gardens and home pests, said to choose a shrub that will grow to its full potential in a particular area’s soil and light conditions.

“Always choose shrubs that are suitable in the area they will be planted,” Jackson said. “Make sure the plant has a suitable mature height and the correct soil and light requirements for the area you want to plant it.”

Underestimating mature plant size is an all too common mistake. Planting shrubs too close to a house or other plants can cause unneeded maintenance issues.

To narrow down shrub options, decide whether the shrubs needs to be an evergreen or deciduous shrub. Also make sure the shrub is suitable to the USDA climate zone it will be planted.

 Jackson also said to avoid insect and disease prone shrubs.

“Always select plants that have fewer insect and disease problems to make your landscape maintenance easier,” he said. “Choosing the right plant is the best way to start.”

Planting Shrubs 

Fall and winter are the best seasons for planting shrubs. According to Jackson, once soil moisture increases, typically in mid-November, people can plant shrubs through February. Planting shrubs in fall and winter allows root systems to become established before the hot, dry summer.

Mallory Kelley, also an Alabama Extension regional agent of home grounds, gardens and home pests, said there are a few tips for planting shrubs.

“When planting, space the plants to their mature size to allow for maximum growth,” Kelley said. “When digging a hole, a good rule of thumb is dig the hole twice as wide and no deeper that the pot the plant is in. If you cover up the main trunk you will kill the plant.”

Kelley said that mulching the plant is always a good idea to conserve moisture and suppress weeds and people might need to stake the plant to prevent it from blowing over.

Caring for Shrubs

There are some shrubs options that are low maintenance. Jackson said many of our native plants are really tough and underutilized.

“Some great native shrubs to plant are yaupon holly, wax myrtle and the rare fothergilla, which have interesting flowers,” Jackson said. “Camellias are great for winter bloom. In Alabama, they can bloom from September through April.”

Kelley stressed that every person’s environment is different. Just because a plant is easy to care for doesn’t mean that it can grow in your area. This is why knowing the suitable conditions for the plant is important.

“Reduce stress on plants by planting the right plant in the right place. Also, mulching and keeping the plant watered will reduce stress,” Kelley said. “A healthy plant is less susceptible to pests. I always recommend taking a soil sample to know what nutrients are lacking or in surplus and also if pH needs to be adjusted.”

More Information

The Alabama Extension website has many publications on care and maintenance for a variety of shrubs. For more information contact your county Extension office. Visit Alabama Extension to see which home grounds agent, as well as the other agents and specialists, is assigned to your county.


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