Plant Care


ROOTBALLS & WIRE ROOTBALLS – Cover Root balls with plastic or hessian to reduce the risk of drying out and to keep the wind and frost from the roots.  Root balls should be kept moist.  They will require watering daily before planting.

POTGROWN – keep them watered daily if hot or dry.


When there is a very cold wind – or at least make sure the plants are out of the pots or bags for the minimum time. Do not plant when there is a heavy frost or snow lying on the ground.

Dig a hole or trench to accommodate the root ball.  Put the soil to one side ready for backfilling later.  The hole or trench should be ideally twice the diameter of the root ball and just slightly deeper.

Loosen the soil at the base of the planting hole breaking it up with a garden fork, but do not turn it over.  Do the same for the side of the hole, so new roots can spread more easily into the soil.  It is important in clay soils to avoid any smearing of the soil which can stop the water draining away.    If you should have shallow top soil, with poor subsoil, it is well worth replacing the subsoil with a better quality ‘imported’ top soil.

Take the plant out of the trough or pot and place centrally in the planting hole.  If the plant is dry give it a good watering before planting.  If the branches are tied up with string, remove this before planting.   If planting a root ball or wire root ball do not remove any of the materials or wire as they will rot away over time.  Once the plant is placed in the hole, cut any hessian (and wire) that might be tight around the collar (stem) of the plant and peel it back slightly.  Lay a bamboo cane or stake across the hole to check the plant is at the same level as it was before.  On the stem you will normally see a darker/lighter mark to show its original depth.  If you need to adjust the depth of the hole add or remove soil as necessary to get the correct height.  This is very important as a few centimetres too deep or to shallow can be fatal to a plant.


It is beneficial when back filling to add well rotted compost or a tree planting compost at a rate of one third compost to two thirds normal soil.  If you are lucky enough to have a rich fertile soil there is probably no need.  However, if you have a heavy clay soil, it would be worth increasing the ratio to 50% or looking to use a good quality top soil.  Adding too much manure or compost can cause sinking at a later date when it rots away.  Also use well rotted manure as fresh manure can cause root burn.  If using mushroom compost, use sparingly as it can be very high in potassium & can also burn the new roots as they start to grow.

Bone meal can be added at 100 grams per 1 square metre or 100 grams per linear metre of hedging.

Pots & Rootballs:  Avoid any air pockets between the base of the rootball or pot.  Add the soil in stages, firming it gently in with the heel of your boot, this will avoid the plant rocking about.  Do not ram it in as it will expel all the air.

Check the plant is upright.   When planted the soil level around the tree or shrub should be the same height as it was before planting.   No foliage should be buried or covered by soil.

After planting give your plant a good watering to settle it in and remove any large air pockets.  Water gently to avoid splashing water onto the foliage and washing the soil away.

Any pots or troughs could be re-used in the garden.  Large pots make good weed buckets and troughs can make very nice herb gardens or flower troughs.  It is kinder to the environment and better than throwing them away.

Mulching means using a layer of suitable compost or bark chippings to cut down on evaporation and suppress weeds.  With trees and large shrubs cover over with compost or mulch to about 7cm deep and at least as wide as the planting hole.  Clear the mulch away from the stem to prevent rotting of the bark.  A mulch free ring of 10cm is advisable on large trees.  This also helps when checking the plants water requirements at a later date.  Avoid using plastic as it interferes with the exchange of gases between soil and air, which inhibits root growth.  Mulch can be applied for a minimum of 2 years or until the plant is well established

Troughs should have a covering of 5 cm of soil or mulch, with the exception of Buxus, which should not be mulched.  The troughs may come with a Coir mat which can be left on at planting.  This will help cut down on weeds & reduces evaporation.

It is normal to stake tall trees and large evergreens, especially if the tree is in a windy area.  It is best to drive the stake in to the planting pit before planting the tree.  Do not drive the stake through the root ball as it damages the roots.

Normally 2 to 3 seasons is enough for staking.  Once the tree is thicker than the stake, there is little or no use for the stake.  Check tree ties yearly to see if they have become loose, or if they need to be slackened.  Short stakes can be used which might only be a third of the height of the tree.  This will encourage the tree to bend a little in the wind, which actually causes the tree stem to thicken.

On a windy site after a period of high winds it is sensible to check your newly planted hedge to make sure that it has not come lose in the soil.  If it has firming the plants in as soon as possible must be done.

On High Panels / Pleached trees check any tight ties on branches & loosen or re-tie as necessary.

The most common reasons for the failure of trees and shrubs is lack of water, or drowning.
Water newly planted stock regularly during their first year of growth, especially during dry or windy conditions, especially evergreens.  The key is to keep the plant moist.  Do not let it dry out and do not over water.  Think of it as pot plant which will need care.

It is very easy to under estimate how much water plants actually use.  A short sharp shower of rain does not sink in and is not enough to replace a proper watering which gets down to the roots.  A little time spent checking is well worth it and will ensure the plant gets established more quickly, avoiding any setbacks.  Use your fingers to check the moistness of the soil around the root and water accordingly.  It is worth checking about one hour after watering, the soil should be moist, but not wringing wet.

In hot dry conditions and also windy conditions plants will need daily watering.  Even in winter evergreen plants are continuously growing and losing water so beware on winter planting of these to ensure adequate water or protection. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter so will use hardly any water, however the roots still need to be kept moist during prolonged spells of drought.

It is critical that both evergreens and deciduous plants get adequate water in the period March to May as this is when they are breaking dormancy and growing at their fastest.

When using a hose pipe, it is better to give the plants a good ‘soaking’ with the hose directed towards the base of the stem so the water goes down to the roots.  Spraying the foliage with a fine high pressure jet of water, as if spraying the foliage with an aerosol or flicking the water over the plants is not the way to water.  In the summer months, timing of watering can make a huge difference to how much the plant actually gets.  By watering in the middle of the day, most of the water can be lost to evaporation and spraying water onto foliage can result in scorch.  It is advisable to water in the late evening when the heat has gone out of the day or very early in the morning.

Our guide for watering in dry weather is to water every day during the first season making sure that the water gets down into the roots.    

To give you an idea on water requirements on the nursery at, we apply water on average as below-

  • 20 litre pot uses 3-4 litres per day (Equivalent size to a trough)
  • 45 litre pot uses 5-7 litres per day
  • 80 litre pot uses 10-12 litres per day (Equivalent size to a Bag)

However, this does vary on the time of year, the type of plant and the weather conditions.

Sandy soils leak like a sieve so may need more regular watering.

Peaty soils act like a sponge, so can soak up a lot of water.  If they dry out they are difficult to re-wet.

Clay soils will hold water in the planting hole, but are very difficult to re-wet should they be allowed to dry out.

On a windy site it would be beneficial to apply extra water during windy spells.

In their second season, plants will still need watering if the weather conditions are very hot and dry or windy for long periods.

We recommend that leaky pipe is used to evenly get water across the whole hedge while not requiring a person to stand holding a hosepipe. Manual watering often leads to uneven watering & not enough water being applied. (Leaky pipe is available from

All freshly planted hedges need space to themselves so that they can obtain moisture, nutrients and light.  To help this keep weeds and grass away from them for the first 2 to 3 years to help establish the hedge.

In the first year after planting, plants often come into leaf or flower much later than established plants, or lose their leaves much earlier than established plants.  Evergreen plants (or semi-evergreens) often defoliate or the leaves turn yellow when transplanted.  Evergreens also have a tendency to defoliate when they first experience warm, dry weather.  If your plants experience  any of these just increase the frequency of watering (but don’t make them waterlogged) and new leaves will appear.

After planting trees, pruning of side shoots and of dead or diseased or broken branches is beneficial and will help the tree to establish.

When planting Instant hedging troughs, it looks even better to lightly trim along the top after planting.  When trimming Buxus, it is good practice to clean up and burn all trimmings, reducing the chances of Box Blight.

Trees, hedges and shrubs will benefit from having a top dressing of a high Nitrogen fertiliser e.g. ‘Growmore’ applied in spring which will give a 4 week boost.  Application rate: 55 grams per square metre as top dressing which is the equivalent of a small handful.

It is worth while raking this into the top few inches of soil to incorporate it and get it to where the plants can benefit from it.  It is important not to overfeed as it will result in the plants putting on too much top growth at the expense of roots.  In autumn, an application of a fertiliser with a higher potash rate is advisable as it will help the rooting system.  Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations or ask at a local Garden Centre.