Before selecting a plant for a particular spot in the garden, you need to evaluate the conditions of the area. Assess the functions, growing season, light, wind, soil type, and any physical limitations such as eaves, overhangs, or a tree canopy. When assessing the soil type, it is a good idea to dig a test hole and confirm the draining capability of the soil. This is done by digging a hole 12 inches deep and filling it with water and observing how long it takes to drain. If the hole does not drain in 6-8 hours, drainage is extremely poor and extra care should be taken in selecting a plant for that area.
*Please note alternate instructions in this sheet for Japanese Maples, Rhododendron, Azaleas, Camellias, Roses, Proteas, Leucadendrons, vines, and other similar plants.
- Dig the hole at least twice the diameter of the container that the plant is in, but no deeper than the height of the root ball. It is important that the top of the rootball of plant be 1-2 inches, (1/2 inch for a #1 or 4 inch plant) above the level of the surrounding soil when you are finished.
- Carefully remove the plant from the container and loosen the root ball by gently pulling, tearing, or cutting the outer roots in 3-4 spots around the root ball.* Place the plant in the hole. Be sure that the top of the root ball is above the level of the soil in your garden as illustrated above.
- Use a planting amendment such as Master Nursery’s ‘Gold Rush’ to add needed organic matter to your soil. Blend the amendment at the rate of 25% amendment to 75% native soil.* Add the recommended amounts of either Master Nursery’s ‘Master Start’ fertilizer or E.B.Stone’s Organic ‘Sure Start’ to the blended soil.
- Backfill with the amended soil, tamping as you go. Build a water dam around the edge or drip line of the plant. Fill the dam slowly allowing the water to soak in deeply. Some settling may occur. If so, bring the soil level back up to the top of the root ball. Do not allow water to stand around the base of the stem or trunk.
Alternate Planting Instructions
Acid-Loving Plants - Japanese Maples, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Pieris, Camellias
As these plants typically do best in well-drained, acidic soils, rich in organic matter, increase the percentage of amendment to native soil to a 50-50 mix. Add roughly a 1/2 to 1 cup ‘F.S.T.’ and the recommended amount of starter fertilizer to the blended soil before backfilling. These plants become susceptible to diseases in heavy soils that do not drain or breathe well; proper site selection is of upmost importance. Creating and planting into a mound or berm will improve the drainage and ultimately the health of the plant. Consider the mature size of the plant when building your mound and scale it accordingly.
Plants with Sensitive Roots - Bougainvillea, Cercis, Most Vines
Plants with sensitive roots should be handled with extreme caution. DO NOT remove these plants from their containers by pulling them by the trunk or stake. It is best to gently tip the plant and let it slide from its container. You can also cut the plant from its container by making 2-3 vertical slits through the container and then lifting the plant out. DO NOT loosen or disturb the root ball even when you encounter root bound plants.
Dry Climate and Some CA Native Plants - Protea, Leucadrendron, Native Chaparral Plants, Cactus and Succulents
Plants that natively grow in areas with very poor soil conditions need/prefer little to no organic matter and fertilizer to grow successfully. Many of our amendments are rich in manures and compost, just what these plants dislike. As an alternative, use ‘Pumice’ in place of the other amendments. Pumice will loosen the soil without providing a surge of nutrients to the plants. This will give these plants the best chance for survival.