Step Six: Install Plants
1Purchasing and Preparation
Although native and desert-adapted plants can be planted any time of year, plants installed during the summer will need more attention. Try to purchase plants just prior to installation.
Plants dry out much quicker when left in their containers, which may result in plant loss. Water containerized plants daily and, in hot weather, find shade for those plants that need protection from the sun.
Before installation, set plants on the marks made earlier in the installation process. This will help ensure that they are installed in the correct location. It also will give you a picture of what your yard will look like when the installation is complete. Make any last-minute modifications at this time.
Installing low-water use plants is a simple process.
- Dig a hole for each plant that is three to five times wider but no deeper than the plant's root ball. This will help to encourage outward root growth and to prevent the plant from sinking below the surrounding soil surface.
- Tap the side of the container with a hammer or trowel to loosen it from the root ball. (Place larger plants on their sides.) Remove the plant from its container taking care not to damage the roots. Handle plants by the root ball rather than the branches or foliage.
- If the roots are compact or circling the container, score the root ball or loosen the roots around the circumference of the plant. This helps the roots to spread to the adjacent soil after planting.
- Place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is even with or just a bit above the soil surface. Fill in the hole with soil, pressing firmly around the root ball to minimize soil settling.
- Remove nursery stakes (from trees) and trim off any dead or broken branches. No other pruning is necessary at this time.
- If you don't have a drip irrigation system, make an irrigation well around the plant, forming the well at the outer edge of the plant's canopy. Although they are not necessary, shallow irrigation wells are suggested for plants on drip systems also. Water each plant thoroughly, wetting the soil to the bottom of the root ball.
- Make any necessary irrigation system adjustments to ensure that water is going to the root ball of each plant.
- It is a good idea to spread a thin layer of organic mulch around new plantings.
- Do not fertilize new plants. Although organic mulch is helpful to new plants, fertilizing immediately can damage them
Under normal conditions, it is not necessary to stake trees after planting if they can stay upright on their own after the nursery stakes are removed. In very windy areas it may be helpful to stake trees for a while even if they are able to stand on their own. This will give new trees a little extra stability while they are getting anchored in the soil. In any case, staking should be temporary. Staking trees improperly or for too long can weaken or damage them.
Guidelines for staking newly planted trees
- Use two wooden stakes, preferably two inches round or square. Place stakes outside of the root ball, inserting them at least six inches into undisturbed soil (go at least six inches below soil that has been tilled in preparation for planting).
- Ties should be made of smooth, flexible material such as horticultural tape, nylon tree ties, or wire securely wrapped in rubber tubing. Grasping the trunk with one hand, find the point on the tree trunk where the tree will stand upright. Place the ties six inches above this point.
- Loop the ties around the trunk and secure them to the stake. Ties should support the trunk but should not inhibit movement (trunk and ties should move as a unit). This is important for proper trunk development.
- To minimize damage to tree limbs, cut the stakes four to six inches above the tie, at a height that is below tree limbs (if possible) to minimize interference.
- Check staked trees periodically, preferably once a month, and loosen the ties as needed. Ties that dig into the trunk can damage the tree.
- Remove the stakes as soon as a tree can stand on its own; almost always within one year of installation.