Planting is Easy…. When You Know How

What do these activities have in common: Riding a bicycle. Playing a guitar. Roasting a turkey. The answer: They are all activities that are easy to do once you know how, but are very intimidating when you’re a beginner.

The same is true when it comes to planting trees and shrubs. To an experienced gardener, it’s second nature. He or she probably doesn’t actively think about the various steps involved; it just… well, it justt happens.

For a novice, however, it’s a different story, and perhaps it’s one that has happened to you. You would love to have a lush, beautiful landscape so you go online and see photos of plants that would be perfect for you. Perhaps you even visit a garden center and look at the rows of plants, each with a name tag and a price sticker.

But then your nerve fails you. “I don’t have a green thumb,” you say to yourself. “I have no idea how to plant that thing properly. I’ll probably kill it and waste my money.”

Of course, most plants do come with some kind of written planting instructions, but even they can seem a bit daunting. Cheryl and I have received hundreds of e-mails over the years from readers asking for guidance on successful planting, or wondering where they went wrong when a plant didn’t make it. We always try to respond with some helpful hints and sometimes include those questions and answers in this column.

But the easiest way to learn any procedure is to watch someone else doing it the right way. You can see exactly how it should be done and suddenly the task doesn’t seem so daunting after all. Now, I know that might not be true when it comes to brain surgery, but it definitely is when it comes to planting trees and shrubs.

After all those years of answering questions about planting, we decided that it was time for some “show and tell” . As a result, we put together a video showing Cheryl planting a shrub and explaining each step as she does it.

We decided to use a typical plant that you would buy in a disposable container, and then show how to prepare the soil and get the plant mulched, watered and situated for the best results.

We posted the video – where else? – on YouTouTube so you can find it easily and watch it as often as you wish. Here’s the link:

When you watch the video you’ll see that it really is not difficult, but following a few simple steps can mean the difference between healthy, thriving plants and dry, dead twigs. We plan to make some more “how to” videos which we will also post on YouTube and we’d love to hear from you about any topics you would like us to address. You can drop us a line at this email

So what would be a good plant on which to practice your new-found skills? Try this one…/p>

Echinacea Purpurea White Swan

Its pure white silky flowers could give this Echinacea pride of place in your garden and it is not difficult to transplant from its pot. Cheryl and I have several of the Echinacea White Swans in the garden that contrast with the purple Echinacea that are planted around our raised garden berms.

We have seen White Swans planted as border plants sporting 3 to 4 inch glowing white flower petals surrounding their dark brown/bronze cone centers. Not only do the flowers act as a butterfly magnet, the pronounced seed heads provide a food source for small birds as they mature. It is long-lasting as a cut-flower that begins blooming in early summer and continues until frost.

So if you need to build a little confidence before you plant this spring, take a look at our YouTube video. Go on! You can do it!

The Plant Man, , is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit

Steve Jones

Steve Jones, The Plantman, is a professional gardener and landscaper. His advice is based on the concept that our goal should be to leave the land better than the way we found it. Or at the very least, to do it no harm.

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