QUESTION: I have a hydrangea that I bought at a nursery last spring, and it’s still in the pot it came in. Is it too late to plant it?
I’m sure every gardener has, at some point, bought sturdy plants in the spring, but somehow never got around to putting them in the ground (I know I have!). You can be sure that your hydrangea will be happier in the ground than it will be if it has to struggle through the winter in a plastic pot.
In fact, fall and winter are good times to plant woody ornamentals, when they are dormant and have fewer energy requirements. They still need water, but require less than they would in spring going into the hot summer. In fall, new trees and shrubs can begin to establish a strong root system and be ready to begin new growth next spring.
Here are general guidelines from UT/TSU Extension for planting container-grown trees and shrubs:
-Choose your location and begin by digging a wide hole, two or three times the width, but no deeper than the height of the root ball in the container.
-Water the plant before you take it out of the pot. After you remove the plant, cut any roots that circle the ball of soil (if the roots and soil don’t come out easily, cut the plastic away from the root ball. Don’t pull the plant out by its trunk). Use a sharp knife to make two or three vertical cuts, and gently loosen the ball to expose more roots to the soil.
-Place the plant in the hole to that the top of the root ball is even with the soil line or an inch or two above it, and backfill the hole with soil and water again. Rake over the soil to even it out with the ground, and cover the area with 2 or 3 inches of mulch (keeping the mulch away from the shrub’s trunk.
-Don’t forget to provide water to newly planted shrubs and trees if the weather is dry.