Newly Planted Trees, Shrubs, Perennials – Aftercare

You’ve installed some new trees, shrubs and perennials…now what?  In order to keep them looking great, there are a few simple care steps that should follow planting, especially in June.


  1. A thorough soaking of water, followed by moisture monitoring. Nothing special here; use a sprinkler can to place water evenly throughout the entire root mass to settle the soil.  The commonly overlooked part of this step is the monitoring.  On average, in our part of the country, a thorough soaking of the soil around the roots once a week is a good target to shoot for.  (More plants are killed by overwatering than underwatering).  However, your eyes are 5-6 feet above ground, and the roots are 3-24 inches underground – how do you know how often to add or withhold additional water in the weeks following planting?  Again, simple.  Use a screwdriver to check for moisture.  We want moist, not soggy or dry.  Look at the tip end of the screwdriver after you pull it out of the ground.  If it’s muddy, then wait a few weeks.  If it’s powdery dry, then soak the roots.

screwdriver moist not soggy

  1. Apply mulch. Your favorite former plant part mulch is best, such as wood chips, pine straw, stump grindings, cocoa bean hulls, cottonseed hulls or even grass clippings if the budget is tight. Two inches of an organic, wood chip mulch will suppress weeds, keep soil cool and retain soil moisture without excluding soil oxygen.

9 pine mulch

  1. Watch, watch, watch. Strong winds can uproot new plantings, so keep an eye on them and reset if necessary.  Also, since there aren’t too many leaves on new plants, they’re especially susceptible to insect pest damage.  Pulling and hand picking serves these new plants well.


  1. Finally, avoid fertilization until next year. In the vast majority of cases, the plants were fertilized in the production nursery, and have a sufficient amount of nutrition.  Applying a fertilizer product after planting usually encourages shoot growth at the expense of root growth, and we want all the roots we can get at this point.
John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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