How To Plant Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs and hedges keep your yard looking alive and vibrant all year long. With a bit of planning, you’ll have a fantastic landscape, and your neighbors will be green with envy.

Planting evergreen shrubs in your yard or along the property line can give your home better curb appeal, potentially raising its overall market value. The visual and financial payoff these shrubs can provide does indeed justify planting them.

Shrubs in front yard landscape and driveway

The gardening and landscaping team compiled the following information and tips to guide you through the process of planting evergreen shrubs around your home and yard.

What Is the Best Time to Plant Shrubs?

According to, for optimal root development, fall is the best time to plant shrubs.

While the trunk, branches, stems, and foliage on evergreens slow down for the winter, the roots are silently growing below ground. Planting in the fall allows the roots to use stored carbohydrates from the previous growing season for their growth.

Shrub planting in landscape and yard curb appeal

Naturally, as warmer months approach, a better-established root system is more capable of absorbing sufficient water and nutrients to support the shrub’s growing season.

Planting container-grown or balled-and-burlapped shrubs in the landscape industry happens year-round. Often, after a spring planting, there are not enough roots to supply and satisfy the demand of new growth, wilting is a common symptom (stressing the shrub) until the roots can catch up.

For regions that experience long and cold winters with excessive winds, avoid fall planting. In these areas, planting in early spring (after the ground thaws) will spare the plant from winter burn and other potentially fatal stressors.

How to Plant Shrubs

Choosing the Location – There are many reasons to plant shrubs or hedges. Whether it’s to create a division along property lines, to accent sloping features in your yard, or to serve as a windbreak for your trees or home, choose your planting location wisely.

Some of the factors you should consider are:

  • Location on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map
  • Sun/Shade exposure
  • Soil drainage
  • Soil type
  • Soil pH level
  • Space for growth

Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to decide on what is going there.

Deciding on the Species – If you haven’t already chosen the species of evergreen shrub, here are a few pointers to keep you from making a bad judgment call.

Blooming shrubs in landscaped yard

Refer back to the hardiness zone map and select a species that will thrive in your particular zone.

  • Know the plant’s mature size (how big will it get).
  • Choose a species that will accomplish the goal you are planting it for.
  • Familiarize yourself with the needs of the species, e.g., water, fertilizer, pruning, etc.

Ask the following questions:

1 – Is this an invasive species?
2 – Are there any pest/insect issues with this species?
3 – Does my selected location meet the growing needs of the species?
4 – What is the average lifespan of the species?
5 – Is this a blooming species and when will it bloom?

Best Soil for Planting Shrubs – Needled evergreens like pines, spruce, and fir tolerate a slightly acidic soil pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.0, whereas broadleaved evergreens and acid-tolerant plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurel, heath, and blueberry prefer a pH ranging from 4.5 to 6.0.

Soil pH – Having tested the soil in the location selection process, determine if you need to raise or lower the pH level. You can achieve the right pH for your evergreen by mixing one of the following into the soil dug from the hole,

To Raise the Soil’s pH Level – Use compounds containing powdered limestone or lime. You will find lime in pulverized, pellets, granules, and hydrated types. Each type will raise the pH level at a different pace.

Shrub planting granular lime soil pH

To Lower the Soil’s pH Level – The addition of sulfur, pine needles, compost or composted manure, will work to reduce the pH level slowly. For more immediate results, consider the addition of aluminum sulfate.

Planting evergreen shrubs compost for soil pH

Fertilizer – It is not recommended to fertilize newly planted evergreens until their second growing season. The first year focuses on root growth and establishment, fertilizing will encourage growth top-side which the roots may not be able to keep up with. Read here for more info on fertilizing your evergreens.

Preparing the Planting Location – Now that you are ready to plant, there are a few measurements that you will need to know:

Depth – Measure the root ball from just below the root flare (where the first roots grow from the trunk) to the bottom of the root ball. That measurement is how deep you will dig your hole.

Digging hole before planting shrubs

The bottom of the hole should be undisturbed land to avoid settling. A common mistake when planting shrubs is to plant them too deep or too shallow. Either scenario will hinder the shrubs ability to reach maturity.

Diameter – The diameter of the hole should be 3 to 5 times that of the root ball. In compacted or clay soil, the hole should be dug 6 to 7 times the diameter of the root ball to provide optimum root development and growth.

Planting Your Evergreen Shrub – Now that you have the right size hole and pH adjusted backfill (the soil dug from the hole), it’s time to plant.

1. Remove the root ball from the container or burlap and trim any circling roots.
2. Keeping the root ball intact, place it in the hole and make sure that the root flare is just above ground level (for compacted or clay soil environments, the top of the root ball should remain about 1 inch above ground level).
3. Evenly distribute and gently pack the backfill around the root ball, removing any clumps or large stones.
4. Fill the hole up to the top of the root ball without burying the root flare.

Watering Newly Planted Shrubs

For shrubs to establish themselves in a new location, they need water. Immediately after planting, water the entire area that was dug and backfilled, as well as a deep watering (2 to 3 gallons per inch of trunk diameter) for the root ball.

Watering shrubs planted in yard

After the initial watering, water your newly planted shrubs or hedges to keep the soil moist – not soaked. Continue to water in this manner until winter time, providing one last deep watering before the ground freezes or temperatures reach constant freezing points (32 degrees Fahrenheit ).

It is essential to understand that intermittent rainfall may not provide enough moisture for root development, especially for well-drained soil. Water as needed.

Advantages of Mulching Shrubs

Mulching provides two types of protection for a growing root system. First, mulch helps the soil retain moisture. Second, as winter sets in, mulch helps the soil retain warmth. Both aspects serve to create an optimal growth environment for the shrub’s roots.

After planting and watering, apply a 3-inch layer of organic mulch to the planting area. Keep mulch 3 inches away from the trunk and root flare to avoid root rot and decay.

People Also Ask

Q: How Do You Know How Far Apart to Plant Shrubs
A: When determining which shrubs or hedges to plant, knowing the size at maturity will give you the measurements for spacing between them.

Q: How Do You Prune an evergreen Shrub?
A: After the first growing season, remove diseased, dead, infested, or branches that rub together. Since pruning encourages growth, do not prune after mid-summer, as the new plant material won’t have time to harden before winter.

Q: Shrubs for Windbreaks?
A: Yes. Shrubs are very effective at diverting wind. Often, they are used alongside a home to deflect winter wind, or along landscapes to minimize prevailing winds on trees. Shrubs are also very effective at protecting gardens.

Your Landscape and Evergreen Shrubs

Shrubs have become the go-to feature for adding detail and beauty to otherwise bland landscapes and yards. When done right, the addition of shrubs and hedges can increase your home’s curb appeal, potentially raising the value of your home.

Shrubs and hedges behind bench landscape

Following the above guidelines and tips will help you make informed decisions and successfully plant evergreen shrubs and hedges. Remember to choose the location and species that will have the best chance of reaching maturity and get them planted by mid-fall.

The benefits of these shrubs cannot be overstated. Besides adding diversity to the surrounding ecosystem, shrubs divert wind, protect other plants, and when they flower, will attract both insects and animal life beneficial to the surroundings.


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