Summertime Tips for Planting Trees, Shrubs & Perennials

Jul 3, 2019

It’s finally summertime. During this season, people avoid planting because they assume that their plants will dry out and not survive long without constant attention. This isn't necessarily the case. It’s no surprise that the perception of summertime planting is not as easy as planting in spring or fall, but for many gardeners planting in the summer is the only option due to busy schedules. .

It’s true that  in warmer weather, the plant's root system stays at a higher temperature and the summer winds tend to dry out the foliage. Each season has its own set of rules when it comes to planting; summer’s is just a little more intensive. Don’t worry, Woodie’s got you covered. Here are some planting tips for summer to help beat the heat and successfully plant wonderful additions to the landscape!

Tip 1: Start with a well-hydrated plant

When planting trees, shrubs or perennials in the summer, the first step is to start with a properly hydrated plant. Make sure to water the root ball a few hours before planting to ensure it is well hydrated before adjusting to its new home. It also helps to soak the surrounding soil before planting your plants. This process has two benefits. First, it is much easier to dig the hole in moist soil. Secondly, when you begin the initial watering process after planting, the water will be able to reach the bottom of the root ball rather than just absorbing into the top few inches. It is also easier to remove the air pockets when backfilling the newly planted plant in moist soil.

A good rule of thumb is to count to five for every one gallon of pot size. For example a one gallon pot would be watered until you count to five, a three gallon pot would be 15 and so on. You should check the plant daily for the first week or so and then every other day there after. It is recommended to water using the counting method for the first few weeks your plant is established in its new home.

Tip 2: Choose the right fertilizer

Plants, like children, will only thrive when they are properly taken care of, which includes the right nutrition. A healthy hydrated plant will have better odds surviving the warmer seasons than one that was stressed during the planting process. It’s important that you fertilize the plant at the time of planting. However, it’s more important to start with the correct type of fertilizer. During the initial planting is a good time to add fertilizer in the planting hole so that the plant has immediate access to nutrients. Summer planting fertilizer should be chosen carefully. 

On newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials you do not want the plant to put on new growth that the root ball can't sustain. So be careful to select a low nitrogen fertilizer. We recommend Bio-Tone fertilizer by Espoma. Bio-tone is organic which means it won't burn the roots. Just place the required amount in the hole prior to backfilling and sprinkle some on top of the root ball prior to placing 2 to 3 inches of mulch and you can rest easy that you've given your new plant a good start. 

 Tip 3: Get on a watering schedule

How do you know when your plants need watering? Summer planted trees, shrubs and perennials will generally require a good deep soaking every two days for the first few weeks. After the second week, you can go to every three days and further apart as needed. This will begin to force the plant to grow roots in an effort to find deeper water sources. The soil should be damp, but should NOT be soggy. If it’s not damp, water it. If it is damp, you’re good to go!

One of the most helpful planting tips for summer to ensure that your plants don’t dry out in the heat is to get on a watering schedule. Watch which day(s) you’re watering and whether or not your plant needs watering often. This way you’ll learn how your plant behaves, which will help you take care of it better. Remember different growing zones will require different schedules. If the plant is in the shade it may not require as frequent watering as a plant in the full sun. 

 Tip 4: Use the best tools for the job

There are so many tools available at your fingertips to aid in the overall well-being of your plants. Our two favorites are soaker hoses and gator bags. 

Soaker Hoses are a great tool when planting either hedges or large landscape beds. Soaker hoses can be buried under the mulch so they cannot be seen. Soaker hoses are made of porous rubber which allows water to seep through and slowly soak into the ground. An added time saver is to add an automatic timer to the hose which will allow the water to come on and run for a predetermined amount of time. 

In addition to Soaker Hoses, Gator bags are one of the best tools when planting either single shade trees or shorter low branching evergreens or Japanese Maples. Gator bags come in two sizes The Original Gator Bag and the Gator Bag Jr. Both allow water to slowly seep into the ground which allows for a deeper soaking of the soil surrounding the root balls. 

The bottom line here is that a slow soaking is better than just quickly watering the plant with a hose. 70% of the water applied with a hose runs off and does not soak into the soil. We include proper watering techniques in all of our plant descriptions on our website. 

Don't be afraid to plant in the summer!

Planting in summer may seem intimidating at first but as long as you know the best practices for it, you’re sure to succeed. Much of your plant's success depends on how often you monitor and care for it during the first 30 days. Professional Landscapers plant through the summer and so should you!

A word of advice on watering with the hose: 

When watering in the evening try not to get water on the leaves if possible. When plants go into the night with wet foliage the possibility of bacterial infections of the leaves rises. These infections will not typically kill the plant but they will cause unsightly spots on the leaves. 

Watering is best when done in the evening. The angle of the sun will have less effect on the soil drying quickly and the water will have a better chance of soaking deeper into the soil.