First Year Care for Newly-Planted Shrubs in Chicago | Platt Hill Nursery | Chicago | Blog & Advice

New shrubs hold the promise of future berries, flowers, and beautiful leaves, but before any of those things can happen, you need to properly plant and care for it, especially during that crucial first year. From digging the hole to watering, following the proper practices ensures you set your shrub up for a long and healthy life. Here are the essential care steps to follow to give your new shrubs a head start to success! 


assorted shrubs in nursery-Platt Hill Nursery-Chicago

Choosing a Good Site for Your Shrub 

A good planting spot is key to ensuring your shrub‘s long-term health and happiness, as it’s essential for getting your plant the amount of sunlight it needs. While sunlight requirements are indicated on the plants’ labels, they can sometimes be hard to decipher. Here’s a quick guide to help you remember their meanings:  

  • Full Sun: at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. 
  • Partial Sun: 4-6 hours of sunlight. 
  • Partial Shade: 2-4 hours of sunlight.
  • Full Shade: no sunlight or a maximum of 2 hours of direct sunlight per day. 

You also want to ensure that your site meets your shrub’s unique soil and drainage requirements. Most shrubs require well-draining soil and tolerate a variety of soil types. If in doubt, check the plant label or ask a member of our team. If your soil at home is too sandy or clay-based, you can amend it as needed with organic matter.  


planting shrub in garden -Platt Hill Nursery-Chicago

7 Steps for Successful Shrub Planting in Chicago 

After you’ve chosen the right spot, the next step is to put your new shrub in the ground. Following proper planting techniques will save you tons of time and energy further down the road—here’s what you need to know!  

1. Dig a Hole: Make your hole twice as wide as the root ball, and about the same depth.

2. Ensure the Shrub is Level: Adjust your hole depth so the top of the root ball is flush with the surrounding ground. Lay the shaft of your spade across the hole to verify. Planting a little higher is better than too low, as the freshly dug soil will settle in the coming year. 

3. Break Up the Root Ball: Gently tease apart some of the root ball to encourage the new roots to expand into new territory.

4. Add Compost and Backfill Soil Around the Shrub: As you’re backfilling, mix in about 1/3 compost to 2/3 of your existing soil. We recommend adding a compost such as One Step, which has mycorrhizae in it, and has several benefits. The organic matter helps break up the clay, the mycorrhizae promotes strong root growth, and the pine bark fibers acidify the soil. Remember to keep the shrub level and straight as you backfill. When finished, gently tamp around the stem with your foot to eliminate air pockets and secure it in place.


adding mulch to shrub -Platt Hill Nursery-Chicago

5. Add Mulch: Add mulch around the shrub to help it retain moisture and protect the roots. Remember to keep the mulch 2 inches away from the stem to prevent fungi and insects from attacking the young bark.        

6. Water it Thoroughly: Set your hose to a slow, steady flow and let it soak the newly planted shrub for at least 15 minutes. 

7. Finishing Touches: As you wait for the water, put away your tools and marvel at the wonder of your newly planted friend, who will soon grace your yard with flowers and berries. 


Do Shrubs Need A Lot of Water? 

In the first few days and weeks, water is essential for your shrub’s success. Immediately after planting, set the hose to a soaker setting and let the water penetrate to a depth of 8-10 inches. Deep waterings encourage deep, healthy rooting-–just what a young shrub needs.

As with any plant, it’s important not to overwater and drown your new shrub sapling, so probe the soil with a screwdriver before you water it.  


How to Care for Your Chicagoan Shrubs During Their First Year

Besides watering, it’s important to give your shrub extra attention in the first year after planting:

  • Protect it From Animals: Deer, rabbits, and rodents love to nibble at the bark of new trees and shrubs, especially during the winter when other food sources are scarce, so keep them away by installing a chicken wire cage around the base. After all, you don’t want to wake up one morning to find the tender bark girdled from rabbits or the tips munched down by deer. 



For more shrub care tips, tricks, and advice, or to shop our great selection of plants and gardening supplies, please stop by and visit us at our garden centers in Bloomingdale and Carpentersville! 


Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.