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Mastering the Art of Delayed Planting: Ensuring Healthy Growth for Trees and Plants


In cultivating my orchard, a compelling sense of urgency arises whenever I acquire new trees. This urgency is particularly true when I acquire bare-root trees; however, container-grown trees present a different scenario altogether.

Although it may appear that a potted tree would thrive if planted immediately, this is not always the most suitable course of action. The appropriateness of immediate planting depends largely on the time of purchase.

If it happens to be early spring, it is highly recommended to swiftly plant the tree before the scorching summer heat takes its toll!

Similarly, if the purchase is made in early fall and there is sufficient time for the tree to establish itself before winter arrives, it is advisable to proceed with planting. The cooler temperatures during the fall season create an ideal environment for tree planning.

On the other hand, if the purchase is made in late spring or early summer, and the weather conditions are characterized by dryness and temperatures soaring into the 80s and 90s, it might be wise to postpone planting container-grown trees.

This cautious approach is entirely acceptable and can yield better results in the long run.

Expert Guide to Planting Potted Trees and Container Plants

When planting potted trees and container plants, there are essential instructions to ensure successful growth. Let’s dive into the expert tips and techniques for planting these green beauties.

Maintaining Potted Plants in the Container

You have the flexibility to delay planting your container plant immediately. Leaving it in the pot is perfectly fine as long as you provide adequate watering and sufficient sunlight.

However, keep an eye out for signs of root binding. If you notice the plant becoming root bound, you can repot it in a larger container or transfer it to the ground.

Take note that potted plants situated on concrete porches require more frequent watering. Concrete absorbs heat, causing the plants to require additional water.

In such conditions, water the plants daily, and during hotter periods, they may even need watering twice a day.

With proper watering and ample sunshine, your potted plant can achieve its full growth potential within two months of planting.

Read More about Container Gardening 101: How to Grow Carrots in a Grow Bag

Expert Guide to Planting Potted Trees and Container Plants
Credit: Empress of Dirt

Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Container Trees

Follow these steps to ensure a successful planting process for your container trees:

Step 1: Preparing the Hole

Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and slightly shallower. This technique allows the aerated backfill soil to accommodate the new roots, while the firm base provides stability and prevents settling when watered.

Pro Tip: Avoid the clay-pot syndrome by roughening the sides and bottom of the hole. This helps the root tips penetrate the native soil more effectively, as smooth walls act as barriers.

Step 2: Removing the Container

Gently but firmly remove the container, taking care to protect the foliage. Lay the tree on its side, with the container end near the planting hole. Tap the bottom and sides of the container until the root ball loosens. For metal containers, use cutters to snip it from top to bottom.

Pro Tip:

  1. Check the root ball for circling roots. If left unaddressed, these roots will continue to grow in a circular pattern, potentially affecting the tree’s future growth.
  2. Separate the circling roots gently, trim excessively long ones, and guide them downward or outward. Consider choosing another plant if the roots near the trunk are severely circled or kinked.
  3. Remember, root tips are sensitive to light and air exposure, so minimize their exposure time.

Step 3: Filling the Hole

Avoid covering the root crown with soil, as this can lead to rot at the base of the trunk.

To determine the appropriate height, place a straight piece of wood across the top of the hole and adjust the soil level by lifting the tree out of the hole (holding it by the root ball, not the trunk).

Step 4: Orienting the Tree

If your tree has a preferred side, position it towards a prominent viewpoint, such as your kitchen window. In the case of a crooked tree, turn the side with more foliage towards the prevailing wind, allowing the other side to catch up.

In sunny and arid climates, orient the tree so that the shaded side of the trunk faces southwest to protect against sunburn, which can weaken the tree and cause trunk and bark damage. When turning the tree, lift it from the base of the root ball, avoiding lifting from the trunk.

Step 5: Ensuring Upright Alignment

Once the tree is in the hole, step back and ensure it stands upright. Adjust the root ball’s tilt until the tree is straight, then backfill firmly around and under the root ball.

Pro Tip: As you backfill, tamp the soil using the heel of your foot to eliminate any large air pockets.

This helps stabilize the tree in the hole. Remember to practice moderation and avoid excessive pressure, especially in clay soils, as it can reduce soil porosity necessary for healthy root growth.

Step 6: Boosting the Soil

While the current trend is to avoid adding amendments to the backfill soil, there are instances when it can be beneficial. Suppose your native soil is challenging to work with, such as heavy clay or sandy soil with poor water retention.

In that case, organic amendments can help retain moisture and enhance air circulation around the root ball during the critical early years.

When adding soil amendments, always mix them with soil from the planting site, aiming for a ratio of approximately one part amendment to three parts native soil.

Step 7: Adequate Watering

Create a temporary watering basin around the root ball to encourage water penetration. A dry root ball can prevent water absorption, even if the backfill soil is moist. Therefore, water thoroughly after planting.

Step 8: Proper Staking

Remove the square wooden nursery stake once the tree is planted. If necessary, stake the tree loosely for protection or support.

If the stem cannot stand upright, stake it to ensure it remains upright. Plan to remove the stakes within six to twelve months, as soon as the tree gains enough strength to support itself.

Step 9: Mulching for Success

Cover the entire planting area, excluding a small circle around the base of the trunk, with a layer of mulch measuring 2 to 4 inches in depth. Options for mulch include bark, wood chips, sawdust, pine needles, leaves, or gravel.

Mulching provides several benefits, such as regulating soil temperature, reducing water evaporation, supplying nutrients to the tree, and suppressing weed and grass growth around the tree’s base.

By following these expert instructions, you’ll ensure the proper planting of potted trees and container plants, setting the stage for their healthy growth and vibrant presence in your garden or landscape.

Related post: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Carrots in Containers

Keeping Your Plants Thriving: Tips for Delayed Planting and Care

Unforeseen circumstances often arise when planting your newly acquired trees and plants. Fear not, as we’ve got you covered with some insightful tips on how to delay the planting process without compromising the health and well-being of your green companions.

Picture this: you venture into the garden center for a quick purchase, only to be captivated by the allure of blooming shrubs, vibrant annuals, or young saplings.

We’ve all been there! But what happens when you bring your newfound treasures home and realize you’re not quite ready to plant them?

Several scenarios might prevent immediate planting. Perhaps the weather has been relentless, leaving the garden unworkable due to excessive rain or frozen ground.

Maybe time constraints have hindered your progress, and you haven’t had a chance to prepare the perfect spot or construct a garden bed. Or it could simply be a matter of limited space, and finding room for the plant is challenging.

Regardless of the reason, even if you can’t plant right away, opening the package containing your order and inspect your plants upon arrival is essential.

For bare-root plants and trees, you’ll notice strips of damp paper surrounding their roots. It’s crucial to keep the paper moist but not overly saturated.

To maintain dormancy and safely delay planting for up to a week, carefully wrap the bare-root plants or trees in the shipping plastic and store them in a cool, dark location such as an unheated basement, cellar, garage, or shed.

Aim for a temperature of around 40ºF if possible, although anything below 60ºF should suffice for a short period.

When a delay of more than 10 days is expected, you can “heel in” your trees outdoors. Dig a sloping trench wide and long enough to accommodate the roots.

Place the tree in the trench with the roots against the steep side, cover them with soil, and water thoroughly. As soon as you can, plant the trees in their permanent location following the usual procedure.

Small bare-root berries and other plants can be stored in the lower section of your refrigerator or the “crisper” drawer. Ensure they are not stored with produce unless securely sealed in plastic bags.

Read more about Wild Strawberries: Discovering the Delightful Treat in Your Backyard

For added precaution, consider double-bagging the plants to prevent exposure to gases emitted by the produce, which can be detrimental to living plants.

In the case of potted plants and trees, such as those in temporary pots, treat them as houseplants until the outdoor soil warms up. Water them sporadically when the soil appears dry, and keep them in a cool, dark area to encourage dormancy, especially during the fall.

When planting arrives, gradually acclimate these potted trees and plants to outdoor temperatures before transferring them into the ground. This step helps avoid shock and increases the likelihood of successful transplanting.

If you anticipate not being able to plant your purchase within a couple of weeks, it’s advisable to repot the plant into a larger container.

Leaving trees or shrubs in their original pots for too long can lead to root binding, hindering growth and potentially causing plant demise. Remember to untangle and spread the roots, which might have already started intertwining within the original container.

Finding a suitable place to store your plant is paramount if you anticipate planting it within a few weeks. Keep it in its new, roomier pot in a sheltered location near where it will eventually be planted.

Be mindful that potted plants tend to dry out faster than those in the soil, so water them adequately.

Timing is crucial when it comes to planting, and often the reason for a delay is that it’s too early in the season.

Impulsive purchases of warm-weather vegetables, tender annuals, or other seasonal plants might need to be repotted and kept in a warm room or under suitable lighting until the outdoor soil warms up.

For fall purchases that you cannot plant immediately due to unprepared space, consider digging a temporary hole and placing the potted plant in it. Cover the pot with soil and add a layer of high-quality mulch.

After the period of dormancy in spring, you can dig up the plant and move it to its intended location.

Keeping Your Plants Thriving: Tips for Delayed Planting and Care
Credit: Mother Earth News

It’s crucial to avoid exposing potted plants to freezing temperatures above ground. The soil in pots gets colder than the underground soil, and most plant roots cannot survive freezing conditions.

If your impulsive purchase isn’t destined to be part of your garden, there are alternative options. Consider gifting the plant to a friend with a larger garden or donating it to a local school, shelter, or nursing home that may have active gardening programs.

Alternatively, you can repurpose it as a houseplant and keep it indoors. Many tender annuals, like begonias, geraniums, and coleus, can thrive year-round indoors.

Don’t fret if your garden dreams are momentarily delayed. Following these tips ensures your plants remain healthy and alive, even if planting is postponed. Embrace the excitement of keeping them as part of your life until the perfect planting opportunity arises.

The Art of Delayed Planting and Proper Care for Trees and Plants

As an avid gardener, I recently found myself in a delightful predicament. What started as a plan to purchase a few fruit trees quickly escalated, and I acquired half a dozen stunning specimens from a local nursery.

However, with their arrival scheduled for July, amid scorching summer heat, I faced a problem.

These potted trees have received meticulous care and regular watering at the nursery. Subjecting them to the shock of summer planting didn’t seem like the best course of action.

Besides, my farm is bustling this season, leaving me with limited time to ensure proper watering for freshly planted trees in my orchard, which is not conveniently located near a water source.

Fortunately, I’ve encountered similar situations before, where I’ve received trees in July. In such cases, I opt to delay planting until the end of summer.

By then, the temperatures have cooled down, and the hectic pace of summer life has subsided, granting me ample time to attend to each tree’s water needs.

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Throughout summer, I keep the trees in their pots, securely placed inside a tall fence to protect them from deer, and positioned near a water source for convenient daily watering.

Effectively, I treat these potted trees as if they were still at the nursery. They thrive under the consistent care they receive, allowing their roots to establish and grow until winter arrives.

When spring emerges, they awaken with vigor, requiring less water than immediately after planting.

Of course, it’s essential to consider the unique circumstances of each gardening endeavor. Reside in an area with cooler or rainy summer weather. Planting potted trees during this season might be suitable or advantageous, providing ample time to settle in before winter.

The Art of Delayed Planting and Proper Care for Trees and Plants
Credit: Tree Canada

However, suppose summers tend to be bustling and you’re concerned about providing freshly planted trees the attention they need in hot and dry conditions. In that case, keeping them in containers until late summer or fall is advisable.

This approach benefits both you and the trees, allowing for greater control over their environment and care until planting conditions become more favorable. It’s a win-win situation.

Now, suppose your order arrives amidst snowfall or freezing temperatures. In that case, there’s no need to panic. Follow these simple suggestions:

  • Clear the planting site of snow to assess if the ground remains unfrozen.
  • Remember that snow is an excellent insulator, providing beneficial moisture for plants.
  • Be cautious not to let frozen topsoil fall into the planting hole, potentially harming the root system.
  • Avoid exposing the roots to below-freezing temperatures during the planting process.

Read more about Harnessing the Power of Cold Frames in Your Garden

If your order arrives in spring, you may encounter frozen or unworkable soil. In such cases, keeping your tree or plant in its packaging is best until the daily temperatures consistently rise above freezing and the ground thaws.

Please note that you can proceed with planting even if low temperatures hover in the high teens, as long as the daytime temperatures exceed 40ºF. You can delay planting for a few weeks while ensuring the roots remain moist.

However, if the delay extends beyond a week, consider adding damp paper around the bare-root tree roots to maintain sufficient moisture for longer storage.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your order, our dedicated Customer Support Team (800.325.4180) is ready to assist you.

Now armed with the knowledge of effectively delaying planting, you can bid farewell to worries if you’re not immediately ready to put your plants in the ground.

Whether you face adverse weather conditions or unforeseen challenges, rest assured that you possess the expertise to safely store your trees and plants for a short duration until the perfect moment arises to commence outdoor planting.



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