How to Plant

A 5 minute read by Peter Worsp

Trees, Shrubs and Roses

Success with plants is assured and relatively easy provided a few basic steps are followed especially at planting time. This article sets out step-by-step how to plant for best results. A little extra time and money at planting time pays off. This page assumes that you have already selected plants or varieties suitable for your purpose, climate, soil and position. If you need guidance in selection of plants please ask one of our garden advisers.

At a Glance

You need:

  • Selected plants
  • Planting mix
  • Controlled release fertiliser such as Novatec, iCan Slow Food or Tui Slow Release Fertiliser
  • Stakes (for tall trees and shrubs)

Where to Plant

Refer to the information sheet for the particular plants you have selected or check the label.

When to Plant

Most plants are supplied growing in pots with their own soil. This enables them to be planted at any time of the year. Provided these plants have good light and are watered daily they can be held for 2 - 3 weeks before planting.

If there is a best time to plant it is autumn because this allows plants the longest time to establish before their first summer which is usually the hardest period for them.

A few plants, in particular roses, deciduous trees and some fruit trees are supplied in the winter months as bare rooted ie. they are not in a pot, but usually have the roots wrapped in plastic or hessian, sometimes with a small amount of damp straw or sawdust.

These plants must be planted in July or August before spring growth commences. These plants can also be held for 2 - 3 weeks before planting providing the roots are kept damp. This is best done by covering the roots with soil in a corner of the garden.


The key to success with plants is a thriving root system. Hence a little extra time and money at planting time pays off.

  • Dig a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball or spread of roots
  • Break up subsoil, but in heavy clay soils do not dig down into the clay base
  • It is better and advisable to build the soil level up by using extra soil or planting mix
  • An application of gypsum can be beneficial in clay soils
  • Make sure the plant is well watered before planting



  • The plant should be placed in the hole so that the soil level after planting is the same as the level in the pot (or in the case of bare rooted plants the soil level on the stem)
  • Some plants may appear a little root bound ie. they have a mass of roots especially around the base. This is not normally a problem, but it is a good idea to gently tease out the roots around the base
  • Backfill around the roots with planting mix or compost, mixed with soil from the hole
  • Incorporate with this a handful or two of iCan Slow Food or Novatec controlled release fertiliser. They are safe, will not burn roots, and give your plants a perfect start in life
  • No other feeding is required in the first year
  • Firm the soil around the roots to ensure a good contact and to keep the plant stable




Trees and tall shrubs require staking to aid establishment and to keep the plant erect. For best results use 2 or 3 stakes and ties as shown. 



After Planting Care


  • It will be some weeks or even months before your new plants have roots penetrating well out into the soil. Until this happens they are dependant on the initial root ball for their water
  • This is not a big reserve and therefore plants will need watering regularly through the first summer
  • From September through to April your new plants should be watered 3 times a week
  • Longer and deeper watering is better than little bits more often


  • This involves covering the soil surface around your plants with a layer of compost or straw 20-40mm deep preferably laid prior to summer
  • This reduces water loss from the soil and keeps roots cool in the hot weather. Mulching also prevents weeds


  • If you have used Osmocote or Acticote at planting time there will be no need to feed your plants for a year
  • Thereafter you should give them annual topdressing of Tui General Garden Fertiliser
  • A light annual dressing of lime or gypsum is also desirable
  • For more detailed information on the requirements of the different plant groups refer to the specific information sheet or ask one of our garden advisers

For more detailed information on Gardening we recommend the Yates Garden Guide.

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