Woman carrying shrub to plant outdoors

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to enhance the appearance of your yard is by adding plants, shrubs and trees. So, if you're looking to add some color or a little shade, here are some great, simple landscaping and gardening ideas, as well as planting tips to help you get started.

Planting Tips for Container-Grown Plants

Planting container-grown plants is a popular and convenient way to landscape. These plants are sold throughout the growing season and are easy to transport and plant.

Helpful Tip

Look for healthy, insect-free foliage and strong shoots when selecting your plants.

  • Step 1: Dig a Hole

    With a spade, dig a hole that is a little wider than the container but not quite as deep. Check by setting the container into the hole — the top of the soil in the container should be slightly higher than the surrounding soil. Dig several holes at a time, at the positions that you've already marked out.

    Helpful Tip

    Before you start digging, make sure the gardening site you are planting has the correct amount of sunlight that the plant requires.

  • Step 2: Remove the Container

    With one hand, grip the plant at the base of its stems while you tug on the pot with the other hand. If the pot doesn't slide off easily, don't pull harder on the stems. Try hitting the pot against a hard surface; if it still doesn't slide off, use a knife or scissors to cut or pry it off. Once you've taken a plant out of its container, get it in the ground as soon as possible.

  • Step 3: Unwind the Roots

    Examine the plant's roots. If there are any thick, coiled roots, unwind them and cut them off with a utility knife close to the root ball, leaving short stubs. If the root ball is a mass of fine, hairlike roots, cut three or four slits from top to bottom, about 1" deep. Pry the slits apart and tease the cut roots to loosen them. This cutting or slitting may seem drastic, but it's actually good for the plant because it forces new roots to grow out into the surrounding soil. If you want to prepare several plants at a time, cover them with an old sheet or tarp to keep the roots from drying out.

  • Step 4: Position Plant

    Set the root ball into the hole making sure it is level with or slightly higher than the surface of the bed. Then add enough top soil to fill in the hole, and pat it down firmly.

Planting Tips for Shrubs and Trees

Local nurseries often grow shrubs and trees in fields, then dig them with a ball of root-filled soil and wrap a layer of burlap snuggly around the root ball to keep it intact. The main drawback with this process is that even a small ball of soil is very heavy. If the ball is more than a foot wide, moving the plant is usually a two-person job. If you're buying a tree with a ball bigger than that, ask the nursery to deliver and plant it. Here's how to proceed with plants that are small enough for you to handle:

  • Step 1: Dig a Hole

    With a shovel, dig a hole that is several inches wider than the root ball but not quite as deep as the root ball is high.

    Helpful Tip

    Before you start digging, make sure gardening site you are planting has the correct amount of sunlight that the shrub or tree requires.

  • Step 2: Firm the Soil

    Step in the bottom of the hole to firm the soil so the plant won't sink.

  • Step 3: Position Shrub or Tree

    Place the root ball into the hole. Lay a stick across the top of it to make sure it's at or a little higher than ground level. Be sure to cut or untie any twine that wraps around the trunk with a utility knife. Fold the burlap down around the sides of the root ball. Don't try to pull the burlap out altogether since roots can grow out through it and the bag will eventually decompose.

  • Step 4: Surround with Soil

    Fill top soil around the sides of the root ball and pat it down firmly. At ground level, form a mound of soil at the bottom of the tree or shrub, forming a berm that will catch water like a basin. This will help keep the roots well watered, until it becomes established. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to combat weeds.

  • Step 5: Water, Water, Water

    Until new roots grow out of the root ball and into the soil, make sure you water the root ball as you water the area around it. To ensure the newly transported shrub or tree survives, check the moisture in this area frequently for the first month or two after planting. Provide at least one inch of water per week during the growing season.

    Congratulations! We hope these planting tips will make your green thumb even greener!

Plant Container-Grown Plants: Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

Plant a Shrub or Tree: Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.