Choosing, Planting and Maintaining Shrubs

Shrubs make beautiful additions to your yard and garden, and fall is the perfect time to plant them. However, choosing the right shrubs and knowing how to properly care for them takes some preparation.

There are three typical types of shrubs: bare root, balled and burlapped (B&B), and potted or container grown.

1. Bare root plants are sold in their dormant stage with exposed roots. These include rosebushes and apple, birch and maple trees.

2. B&B shrubs are plants, such as evergreen trees, that are dug up with soil still covering the roots and wrapped in burlap for transplant and protection purposes.

3. A potted or container-grown plant is typically a smaller plant housed in a pot that holds soil, has drainage holes and offers the appropriate amount of space for the plant to grow. Some common potted or container-grown plants are magnolia, fruit and dogwood trees.


Fall is a great time to plant B&B plants because it gives roots enough time to recover from transplanting and build a strong support system. A B&B tree should be planted in a hole that's 12 inches wider and the same depth as the root system. For a bare root or container-grown plant, dig a hole 12 inches wider and 6 inches deeper than the root system or container. This allows roots to spread and expand.

Protecting and Watering

Water generously after planting your tree and spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the new soil. This protects young bark, helps control weeds and temperatures, and assists soil in retaining moisture.


One of the easiest ways to help support a young tree or shrub is by staking. Drive a stake the same height as the tree about 18 inches into the ground and 6 inches away from the edge of the planting hole. Wrap a strong wire in plastic to prevent bark damage, and then tie the wire around the stake and the trunk of the tree. Loosen the wire to allow the tree to sway slightly. If pulled too tightly, the wire can damage the tree, preventing growth and development.


Pruning is considered the best preventive maintenance, especially in the fall and late dormant season. More often than not, pruning is easier in the fall because there are less leaves, giving you a clearer view to properly prune and care for trees and shrubs. It's always wise to prune diseased or dying branches and any branches that grow back toward the center of the tree or cross and rub against each other. The friction may cause bark to rub off and make the tree more prone to disease.

Using a pruner - like the Troy-Bilt® Comfort Max Bypass Pruner or the TrimmerPlus® pole saw trimmer attachment or hedge trimmer attachment - is a comfortable and safe option for projects like this. Do not remove unreasonably large branches. This leaves exposed stubs that can potentially cause health problems. Also, for your safety and the health of your plant, pruning large trees should be left to professionals.