How To Dig a Hole For Your Plants Professionally

My mission in writing this blog is solely educational and, in the end, to have all the plants that are going to be purchased and planted this fall to all be planted properly. Last week I mentioned how we in Central Virginia deal with clay heavy soil. This clay soil is the driving force in needing to dig a $100 hole and to amend our soil with compost when planting. This is true for not only shrubs and trees but also when planting perennials, annuals, vegetables, etc.

So – What does a professional hole look like?

1. Dig your hole 2 – 4 times as WIDE as the plants’ root system, but no deeper than the root ball to be planted. Roots of plants tend to grow shallow and outward, and the amended soil will support their growth.


3. Dig your hole NO DEEPER THAN the actual root system of the plant. In fact, I recommend planting having some of the roots slightly HIGHER out of the hole. Remember “Plant it high, it won’t die. Plant it low, it won’t grow.” Without doubt with all my years in the nursery business, the most common cause of plant failure or death is that the plants are being planted TOO DEEP. The soil was mounded up onto the trunk or stem of the plant. Remember ROOTS ARE ROOTS and STEMS ARE STEMS. Stems or trunks of plants are meant to stay above ground and cannot be buried under soil or mulch. Stems of plants planted too deeply will eventually rot leading to a slow, lingering death.

4. Pre-water the plant thoroughly. By pre-watering, you are making sure that the root system of the plant is well watered before the actual planting.

5. If the plant is container-grown, carefully take the plant out of the container and examine the root system. In many cases, the roots are matted and growing in a circle. I highly recommend loosening the root system to get them to stop growing in a circle and start growing outward. Sometimes you need to be aggressive to accomplish this feat and actually “score” the sides of the root system with a knife and loosen this tangled mess of roots. Loosening the root system will allow water and nutrients to easily flow throughout the entire root structure. Plants grown with a burlap ball should not be disturbed. You want to water the root ball, remove any twine that may be tied around the trunk, and fold back the burlap away from the trunk to expose the actual top of the root ball. For trees, the root flare should be level with the edge of the planting hole.

6. Now set the plants’ root system in place. Once again, make sure that the top of the root system is slightly higher than the hole. Now you are ready to backfill the hole with the loose, amended soil. I always like to recommend water as you plant. The weight of the water will help compress the soil around the root system and get rid of any dry air pockets.

7. Most new plantings require about an inch of watering 2 to 3 times per week for the first couple of months. Water in the early morning or in the evening to minimize evaporation. Watering is best done as one deep soaking to wet the entire soil area. You may need to add more watering once you get to know your soil. Stick your finger in the soil near the root system. If it feels damp like a sponge then hold off on watering for another day or so and check again.

8. Mulch the new plants. Mulch only 2 or 3 inches. Be sure not to mound the mulch against the stem of the plant. Mulch helps to hold in soil moisture, moderate the soil temperature, and reduce weeds. Mulch can be anything from pine tags (straw), shredded pine bark, or shredded hardwood. Sell your house Coconut Creek Fl

Flowers That Attract Butterflies

I get so many questions about what flowers to plant for a “butterfly” garden. Well, if we don’t start planting things for the caterpillars to eat, we won’t have to worry about butterfly gardens because there won’t be any butterflies.

Here Are Some Recommended Host Plants

Passiflora, aka Passion Flower. Passiflora is a host plant for fritillary butterflies and Zebra Longwings.

Alcea, aka Hollyhocks. Host plants for Painted Lady Butterflies

Oaks, willows, maples, hawthorns, hickory, elms– (yes, some of our best host plants are trees). According to Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (by Douglas Tallamy, Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware), oaks are a host plant for 534 Lepidoptera (butterfly/moths) species alone; willows 455 species; maples 285 species.

Dill, fennel, parsley, rue, Queen Anne’s Lace—These are host plants for Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. I love dill, but when I plant it, I always plant a couple of extra plants that are my “sacrifice” plants for the caterpillars and I transfer all the caterpillars to those plants.

Snapdragons are host plants for Buckeye butterfly caterpillars.

Violas, including our little wild violet, are host plants for certain Fritillaries.

Of course, Milkweed (asclepias) is the host plant for Monarch butterflies. Asclepias incarnata and Asclepias syriaca are both native to the northeastern U.S.
Here Are A Few Other Suggested Host Plants

Other good host plants are Rudbeckias (Black-Eyed Susans), Goldenrod (Solidago), Coneflowers (Echinacea), Rue, Shasta Daisies, Verbena, Baptisia, Spicebush, Sweet Bay Magnolias, Dogwoods, sunflowers, Artemisias, sunflowers, phlox, asters, even azaleas, and morning glories. This is by no means a complete list–there are many many more plants out there. Whenever possible, plants that are native to our area are always good to plant because these are the plants that the butterflies expect to be here.

Remember that caterpillars are VERY specific about what they will eat. If you want to protect your Black-Eyed Susans and move the caterpillars elsewhere, they will die. Maybe next year, plant an extra Black-Eyed-Susan specifically for the caterpillars.
Research, Research, Research

Maybe, in the future, I should be a bit more cautious before running to the pesticide aisle and picking up an insecticide. Maybe I should do a bit of research first, and see if I can identify the insect—especially if it’s a caterpillar. And if it is a caterpillar maybe I should just wait it out. After all, most caterpillars are out munching for such a short period of time—usually a week or two. You can always apply a product later, if necessary, but once you apply it, you can’t un-apply it.