Planting Guide

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Wondering how to properly take care of your plants now that they’ve arrived? While we include a copy of our planting guide in every order, we’re also adding the information online for easy reference. These are general planting and care instructions, so if you have questions about something specific we’d be happy to help. All of us at Great Garden Plants are committed to ensuring that your plants successfully acclimate, and get a good start in your garden. If you have questions that are not addressed here, contact us at

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When Your Plants Arrive:

Now that your plants have arrived…The plants in your box have just spent a lot of time being jostled around in the dark and must be unboxed right away. Unpack the entire box, removing packaging material and plants. Remove any plastic covering the pot and/or soil surface and check if the soil is dry. Water anything that is dry or looks wilted. Any plants that have come unpotted during shipping can be replaced in their pots and their roots covered with soil. You may want to unpack on a garage floor or outside in a shaded spot as unboxing can get a little messy.

Place plants in a cool, shaded spot out of direct sunlight for 24-48 hours after unpacking them. This allows them a recovery and acclimation period before planting. If you must hold them longer, place them out of direct sunlight, wind, heat, and cold. Check daily for watering.

How Do I Plant?

Once you’ve found a spot with your plant’s preferred light exposure and soil conditions as described on our website, dig a hole as deep as the pot and about twice as wide. You can use the handle of your trowel or shovel as a measuring stick to compare the pot size to the hole size. Remove the plant from its pot, gently untangling any roots to encourage them to grow into their new home, and place it in the hole. If you wish, incorporate some Bio-Tone fertilizer into the hole (one 5oz packet treats 4 one-quart plants). Position the plant so that its soil surface is about even or slightly higher than the surrounding ground; backfill using the soil you removed and tamp down around the plant.

Choosing Your Site

Select a location based on the plant’s soil type, sunlight needs, and moisture requirements. Newly placed plants (even drought-tolerant ones) need consistent moisture and nutrients the first year in the ground. Remember the rule: right plant, right place!

Soil Preparation

Good soil grows good plants, and that means good drainage, adequate nutrients, and regular watering. If you’ve chosen the right plants for the conditions in your yard, you shouldn’t need to do anything to the soil to get it ready. If you wish to add organic matter such as peat moss, compost, or aged manure, be sure to thoroughly incorporate it with your natural soil.

If you must delay planting, keep pot grown plants in a shaded location, check daily, and water as needed. In hot, windy weather, you might need to water plants twice a day. Gradually move sun-loving plants to a sunnier spot if you are holding them for more than a week.

Spacing & Watering

Watering rose plants in the garden

Planting in Containers

Container plants offer versatility, allowing you to personalize your space easily with vibrant plants and add new dimension to any home or commercial space. Use a good fresh potting mix designed for container growing. View our blog below to learn more and get inspiration on container planting combinations:


Water thoroughly after planting. Even if rain is in the forecast, even if your sprinkler system is due to run, it is crucial that you completely water in new plants immediately after they are planted. It’s a good idea to always have 2-3” of mulch around the plant to keep roots cool and growing vigorously. However, do not heap mulch around the base of the plant; mulch should become thinner as it approaches the main stem(s) of the plant.

Monitor your new plants’ water needs closely. If the plant becomes stressed from too little, or too much, water, it can severely limit root growth. Soil should be nicely moist but never wet or soggy nor powdery and dry. All newly planted shrubs, trees, and perennials need regular watering for their first season. Pay particular attention during hot, dry weather.

How to Space Your Plants

As a general rule, plants should be spaced generously so air can freely circulate around them.


With shrubs, take the width of the mature shrub and space accordingly. In other words, if Knock Out® roses grow 36 inches wide, plant it so that it is 36 inches away from the next rose. Each rose will spread 18 inches on each side. Space further apart to have an area to walk between plants.


Again, take into account the mature width of the plant. This might seem too generous, but perennials will fill in quickly. Proper spacing will minimize mildew & fungus problems while allowing you room to walk through your beds.


Low-growing groundcovers (under 12″) can be spaced closer (8-12″) for a quicker fill. If you are patient and on a budget, you can space them further apart.


Plant thuja Green Giant 4-5 feet apart in a straight line or zig-zag fashion in full sun or partial shade. Keep adequately moist during their first 1-2 years of establishment. Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer in spring.

If you are creating a hedge and the width of boxwood is 3 feet wide, you may want to plant 2 feet apart to create a continuous look and barrier.

Care After Planting


1-2 weeks after planting, sprinkle a slow-release fertilizer (we like Espoma Rose Tone for flowering shrubs and evergreens and Espoma Plant Tone or Garden Tone for perennials) according to label instructions. Roses will particularly benefit from this.


Mulching helps retain moisture and reduce weeding. Apply 2-4 inches of mulch around plants. Mulch should taper down to ground level beside each plant. Be extra careful not to mulch directly over the top of the plant crowns. Certain plants such as lavender and delosperma are sensitive to mulch, so for moisture-sensitive plants, or if you live in an area where the growing season is humid, you can mulch with a thin layer of pea gravel which provides rapid drainage of surface water.

Low growing groundcovers such as ajuga or sedum Angelina provide an alternative to mulch, by shading the soil, and helping to retain even moisture.

Summer Planting

Try to select a cloudy day for planting. Plants require more frequent watering to establish themselves in their new environment.

Fall Planting

Plants begin to slow down their top growth in the fall, so they may have little growth when they arrive. Fall is an ideal time to plant since soil temperature and moisture levels are usually at a level that promotes root growth. With roots already established in the fall, plants are bigger the following spring.

Plant at least 6 weeks before the first hard frost so roots can establish themselves before winter. Wait until spring to fertilize.

Basic Perennial Care

Perennials can benefit from “deadheading,” which is the removal of dead flower heads. This is done to encourage the production of new flowers. Often not a requirement, this process can lengthen and intensify a perennial’s bloom season. Reblooming daylilies benefit from removing spent blooms & seed pods.

“Shearing” is cutting back of a plant. Shearing stimulates new growth. Shearing back 1/3 at mid-season keeps plants dense and encourages strong late-season bloom.

Basic Shrub Care

Shrubs such as buddleia & caryopteris need to be pruned back in the spring.

The pruning of Hydrangeas depends on which type of Hydrangea you have. Those that bloom on new wood can be pruned at any time (Endless Summer) and those that bloom on old wood (macrophylla, paniculata), are pruned after flowering. Look on our plant’s specific pages to see the planting and care instructions for that particular plant.

Basic Ornamental Grass Care

Grasses can be cut down in fall, or early spring. Cut back foliage to about 6-8 inches.

For more detailed care about your individual plants, head to their product page and click “How to Care” for specific care instructions for your new plant.

Sleep, Creep, Leap

There is a handy saying about shrubs & perennials. Sleep, creep, leap refers to the growth habit for the first 3 years.

In sleep mode, the first year, plants concentrate on putting down roots, ignoring growing more leaves & stems. Don’t be disappointed that your plants are not putting on new growth, because the important action is happening underground.

In creep mode, you’ll notice more outward and upward growth action in the second year.

The third-year is a leap year. The root systems are stable, and most perennials and shrubs are now at their fullest potential.

Commonly Asked Questions

We keep our plants trimmed to encourage branching and a nice, full plant with a good root system. Your plant will grow out of any recent haircuts after a few weeks of TLC in your garden.

The color of hydrangea flowers depends on the pH of your soil. To raise acidity, and lower the pH, add aluminum sulfate; or if you are willing to be patient, amending the soil with pine needles or coffee grounds will acidify the soil over time. The best blue color comes from acidic soil that ranges from 5.5-6.0. The pink color comes from the soil where pH ranges around 6.0-6.2. To change hydrangea blooms from blue to pink, you need to remove the aluminum from the soil. The only way to do this is to add garden lime to the soil to help raise the pH.

More more specific and detailed care instructions for your new plants head to each plant’s product page. From there you’ll find details about your plant and detailed care instructions for that specific plant. We want you to be happy and successful with the plants that you purchase from us. Please don’t hesitate to contact us any time with questions or comments. Reach out to us

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.