Watering Newly Planted Trees & Shrubs

Once your landscape planting has been completed, proper watering becomes the most important part of plant survival and appearance. Transplanting causes a certain amount of shock to a plant, due to the loss of roots, transportation and handling, and a change in growing conditions.

To help plants through their critical first year, it is important to understand a little about the soil in this area. While some regions contain sandy soils that drain very quickly, other areas in MN soil are made up of a high percentage of clay (finer soil particles). Clay soil tends to drain very slowly, and this is especially true in new developments where bulldozers and heavy equipment have compacted the soil. When you consider the combination of clay soil and the amount of rainfall we normally get, it seems as though watering shouldn't be necessary. While this is usually true of well-established plants, transplants are very dependent on regular watering. Plants grown in plastic containers have a fast-draining soil mix and are put under additional stress when circling roots are sliced at planting time. Also, balled and burlapped (B&B) trees lose a large portion of their roots when they are dug at the nursery.

So what is the best rule of thumb for watering new plants?

Water plants thoroughly when natural rainfall is less than one inch per week. To check the weekly amount of rainfall, you can buy a rain gauge or use something as basic as a coffee can. Also, weather apps like National Weather Service, but keep in mind that rainfall can vary greatly 10 or 20 miles to the north or south of your location. When watering becomes necessary; plants should be thoroughly soaked once a week. Apply water slowly and repeatedly to allow time for it to soak into the ground. (If the weather has been dry, and you are watering once a week, it is difficult to give plants too much water) Occasionally we’ll plant shrubs or trees in very hard compacted clay, usually in newer neighborhood developments. In this case, we recommend that watering intervals be extended to once every two weeks for large trees, since these planting holes can act like "bathtubs" the way they hold water for long periods of time.

Shrub watering summary

  • Water all plants three times per week for the first two weeks after they have been planted. After the first two weeks if there has been less than one inch of rainfall per week, water plants thoroughly once a week.
  • Apply water slowly and repeatedly to allow it to soak in.
  • Morning is the best time of day to water plants. When plant foliage remains wet overnight, it provides an ideal environment for fungus diseases.
  • Watch plants for wilting and other signs of waterless stress such as brittle yellowing or browning leaf’s and dry soil under the mulch, these conditions tend to be more common with south facing plants or plants planted on slopes or areas where the water sheds quickly (Misting the foliage with a fine spray helps revive wilted plants).
  • Signs of overwatering will appear similar with yellowing, wilting leaves but the leaves will feel soft or rubbery to the touch and the soil will be very damp under the mulch or a few inches into the ground.
  • Remember: Plants need more water when they are actively growing (spring and summer), than when they are dormant (fall and winter). However, watering before the ground freezes (usually just before Thanksgiving) is also advised, especially with evergreens since they don’t go dormant like deciduous shrubs.

Tree/Shrub Maintenance (PDF)


Pruning Shrubs

The best time to prune flowering shrubs depends on when they produce flower buds. Some plants, including azaleas, spirea, ninebark, hydrangeas (Pee Gee, Limelight, Little Lamb) produce their flower buds during the previous growing season. They “bloom on old wood.” Other plants, such as weigela, produce their flower buds on the current season’s growth. They “bloom on new wood.” Shrubs that bloom on old wood begin to produce next year’s flower buds soon after they finish blooming. They should be pruned as soon as they are finished flowering so that you do not remove too many of next year’s flowers. Those that bloom on new wood should be pruned in winter or early spring before new growth starts. Burning bush is really grown for its colorful fall foliage rather than its inconspicuous flowers, so you can prune it whenever it is most convenient for you. Red twig dogwoods bloom, but they are grown more for their colorful winter stems than their flowers. Since they produce the best red stem color on young stems, they are usually pruned in the spring. You can cut all of the stems down to within a few inches of the ground. This will force new stems to sucker up from the roots. Not only does this treatment produce the most colorful stems, it is also a great way to keep these vigorous plants in bounds. If any of these plants are very large and overgrown, consider sacrificing the flowers and pruning them when they are dormant.

Pruning Trees

To minimize stress on many trees, pruning during winter months is critical. When dormant months are here it’s the best time of year to prune many ornamental trees that would normally be susceptible to bacteria and disease. Trees are being pruned throughout their lives, beginning in the nursery, until the time we installed them at your home.Pruning creates an esthetically pleasing growth habit while maintaining the tree’s health and creating a strong foundation for growth. This shouldn’t stop once planted at your home.

First, it ensures healthy growth and discourages overgrowth into home or sidewalks and patios environments. Secondly, it encourages fruiting and flowering and controls plant size. Pruning opens the canopy to let light and air filter in to reduce risk of disease.

Our trained team at Signature Patio & Landscape Co. will be happy to guide you in ensuring your trees are happy and healthy for many years. Click below to learn more:

Tree Pruning

Hardscape Maintenance & Longevity

Water Feature Maintenance: Winterize Your Water Feature

Unfortunately, it's the time of the year to winterize your outdoor living spaces. If you hired us to install your water feature here are a few simple steps this fall that will save you time and money next spring. First, if you have any water plants in your feature, now is the time to think about what you are going to do with them. Are you going to "winter them over" or are you going to throw them away? In my opinion, it may cost you more to set up a space to save the tropical plants than to start over next season but many avid gardeners find it satisfying to cultivate their tropical plants year after year. They grow quickly and it’s best to buy full, healthy plants each spring opposed to storing them in water in your home or heated garage. Native plants such as lily pads can stay in the pond. Simply cut the plant down to its base leaving 3” to 4” of the plant stem. Decaying plant matter can wreak havoc on the ecology of your pond. Use of bacterial additives for ecosystem health will be a great benefit in the spring after start-up.

Clean Thoroughly

With the plants out of the way, the next step is cleaning. This part can be a little messy. You need to remove any large debris from the bottom of the pond or the bottom of the pump vault. If there is algae present, you will want to use Green Clean (or any like product). Green Clean is a granular contact algaecide that is water activated -- follow the directions printed on the bottle. If you decide to drain the feature and scrub it, be sure to refill the feature with water before winter sets in. By keeping water in the feature, you get an even freeze that helps prevent ground heaving. Also, when the surface freezes it prevents any leaves and other debris from getting in your nice clean water feature.

Final steps

When winterizing your water feature, the most important thing to remember is: REMOVE THE PUMP! Water pumps must not be allowed to freeze! Water freezing around a pump exerts pressure on the outside casing which creates cracks. These cracks allow water to enter the inside workings and corrode the electrical parts and crack seals which ruins the pump.

These few simple steps will save you time and money in the spring when you want to start up your water feature. With proper winter preparation and seasonal maintenance your water feature should give you years of enjoyment.