How To Plant Container Grown Trees and Shrubs

Make sure the root ball isn’t too deep.

Step 6: Fill Holes Around Trees and Shrubs

  • Add Dirt to Holes: Backfill the dirt around the plants in stages, taking time to tamp down each layer.
  • Add Soil Amendments: Incorporate a few shovelfuls of soil conditioner and a sprinkling of bone meal in with the soil. Don’t overdo it, as plants grow best when the surrounding soil is similar to the landscape soil.
  • Fill Holes: When backfilling the holes, don’t pile dirt on top of the root ball. Instead, keep it the same depth, or slightly shallower, than it was in the pot.
  • Mound Soil: Use extra soil to make a small donut-shaped mound around your plant, to help hold water. If your plants are on a slope, you can also use excess soil to make a small barrier to slow runoff.

Planting Tip

Most gardeners like to overdo it to make sure plants have the richest growing environment. But if you dig a hole in poor or compacted earth and plant your tree or shrub in a small pocket of rich potting soil, it will behave as though it’s growing in a pot and won’t spread out or thrive. If your soil is in really bad condition, you’re better off tilling and improving the whole area before planting.


  1. Pat, in the demonstration photos, I am planting ‘Otto Luyken’ English laurels. They are gorgeous evergreen shrubs, one of my favorite choices for foundation plantings! In Step 1 there is an azalea (the lighter green shrub) to the left of the Otto Luykens. The photo in Step 9 features a blooming crape myrtle.

  2. Hi, looking for perfect unity planting tree for my daughter to plant at her wedding, possibly tree will live in a container for a couple of years and then be planted in the couples yard later. Tree is a symbol of longlasting love with proper nourishment for longetivity and will be memorable of beginning their life together. They will live in Atlanta Ga. for a while.
    Please help!

  3. I have just been given an Azalea. I have clay soil & a with a south facing garden. As I understand they like acid soil was wondering whether to grow it in a tub. So was looking for some advice!

  4. Was wondering if it is to late to plant shrubs in Denver Colorado, we are supposed to have a good 3 weeks left of 70 degree weather. If so what are good shrubs for a clay type soil in the fall?

  5. we would like shrubs 3-5 ft tall and 2-3 feet wide anyone got any specific names? for low maintenance fall planting clay soil?

  6. I have a azalea small tree in pot can I plant outside & leave it outside during winter months so it will bloom again in spring plants flowers all gone


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