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You have just had a beautiful landscape installation in your yard by a landscape company or you have installed some plant material yourself. Now you are wondering what steps you have to take to keep all of your trees, shrubs and perennials happy and healthy.

The initial care of plant material will vary depending on current weather conditions and location of plants. Do they get full blasting sun all day or are they planted in a shadier and cooler location. Another consideration is the size of plants installed. A larger tree will require a much heavier watering than a smaller perennial which may require less water but watering more frequently.

A common mistake made by many people is over watering which can be as detrimental to the plant as not watering at all. An over watered plant can show the same characteristics of stress as an under watered plant, such as wilting.

Over watering a plant will cause the root ball to reach a 100% saturation level when it can no longer absorb the water. The root ball will then have excess water around it and the roots will begin to rot causing enough damage that the roots will no longer absorb any water at all (even if the plant is at the point when it requires water). The plant will decline and eventually (sometimes very quickly) die.

A good rule of thumb that will work in most situations is to take a small garden trowel and dig 2 inches down into the soil around the same location of the plant (being careful not to damage the roots).

Although the surface of the soil may look quite dry the soil a few inches down may still be quite moist. If this is the situation than either water sparingly or wait awhile before watering again.

To help you out here are a few general rules you can follow to care for your newly installed plants.



As soon as perennials have been planted they require a fairly heavy watering, soaking the soil to a minimum 2 inch depth. After this they should be watered as required checking by using the 2 inch rule. Since perennials generally have a very small root ball they can dry out and be lost very quickly in the first few weeks. It is best to water early in the morning but if this is not possible water in the evening.

Deciduous Shrubs:

Deciduous shrubs will require a deep watering to ensure that the root ball is damp. The amount of water used will depend on the size of the root ball. This deep watering should be repeated 2-3 times per week depending on weather conditions. A 10-52-10 fertilizer may be used for the first year to encourage root growth and then change over to a 20-20-20 fertilizer or compost in late fall and spring.

Coniferous (Evergreen) Shrubs:

Water coniferous shrubs in the same manner as deciduous shrubs. Coniferous shrubs tend to suffer from over watering a lot more quickly than a deciduous shrub will so keep a close eye on them, use the 2 inch rule and if necessary cut back on the number of times you water them per week. A low nitrogen fertilizer, 10-20-30, may be used for the first 2 years and then switch over to a general evergreen fertilizer such as cedar feeder. Apply late fall and spring.


Deep watering is very important for newly installed trees. Transplanting shock is quite common in trees, so great care must be taken. For the first three weeks, deep watering should be done 2 times per week. Set end of hose at the base of the tree and turn hose on so that a very slow stream of water trickles out. Leave the hose at the tree base in this manner for 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat deep root watering at least once a week for the remainder of the season. If the weather is extremely dry increase the number of times per week and if extremely wet decrease the number of times. Trees may be fertilized with a general tree fertilizer in granular form or by deep root feeding.

After the first 1-2 years your plants will establish a strong root system and require less and less watering. You can then congratulate yourself on your diligent care and sit back and enjoy your healthy garden.

Lezlie Fry

Landscape Designer/Consultant

Birk’s Landscaping Inc.

(905) 404-0602

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