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In this video, This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook shows us how to prepare the ground for planting shrubs and how to plant one in front of a house.

How Do You Prepare the Ground for Planting Shrubs?

To prepare the ground for planting a shrub, create a hole that is two and a half times that width of the shrub’s root ball. When you get past the top soil, you’ll reach the gravel. Remove the stones so that you can create a hole deep enough, at least 6 to 12 inches, to plant the shrub in.

In this video, we have a root ball that is 20 inches wide, so we ended up with a 50-inch wide hole, and the root ball is 15 inches deep. We set the hole at 12 inches so that root ball would be 2 to 3 inches above the existing grade, so that it will acclimate better once planted.

How Much Space Should Be Between Shrubs?

The distance between a shrub and any boundary should be at least half the width of the shrub at maturity (some shrubs grow as wide or wider than they are tall). For example, space a shrub that grows to 4 feet wide at least 2 feet from a walkway.

Fill in open ground between young shrubs with fast-growing annuals and perennials, space holders that provide temporary color and cover ground until the shrubs fill out.

The low-maintenance option is to spread organic mulch, such as shredded bark. It requires little upkeep while helping to smother weeds and keep soil moist.

How to Plant Shrubs in 11 Steps

  1. Dig a hole for the shrub that's two-and-half times wider than the root ball, and 2 to 3 inches shallower than the root ball height.
  2. Place the topsoil onto a tarp and save it for backfilling later.
  3. Dig out and discard any rocky soil from the hole.
  4. Set the shrub in the hole; cut away any twine binding the branches.
  5. Rotate the shrub so that its best side is facing out.
  6. Use bolt cutter to remove the wire basket from the root ball.
  7. Cut away the burlap from the root ball.
  8. Mix compost and slow-release fertilizer with the topsoil.
  9. Backfill around shrub with the amended soil.
  10. Water the root ball for 30 minutes once a day for a week.
  11. Place soaker hose around base of tree and water for 2 hours once a week.