A shrub is defined as a rather low woody plant having several stems. Shrubs are often grown as ornamentals due to their small size and thick foliage. Some species require special shrub care, especially during their first years. Shrubs are available to purchase in three forms; bare root, balled, and burlapped, or potted.
Bare root shrubs come with the roots exposed. Be sure to choose shrubs with strong root systems and stout stems. Balled and burlapped shrubs have their roots encased in a ball of soil, that is then wrapped in a burlap bag. The root systems of these plants are delicate, so use the utmost care when handling and planting. Container shrubs are easy to purchase, move, and plant, but avoid planting these during the hottest time of the day to reduce stress on the shrub.
Proper shrub care always begins with planting. The hole should be dug twice as wide, but not quite as deep, as the roots for planting. Dig the hole deeper at the bottom around the outside edges to provide room for the roots to grow. The soil at the center of the hole should be shaped like a cone to support the shrub.
After the shrub is planted, the soil should remain damp until the shrub settles. During spring and summer, create a basin around the shrub to localize the water. New shrubs require watering once the soil is dry at two inches (5 cm) deep. For established shrubs, water only when needed. Most shrubs do not require supplemental watering.
Fertilizing is another important part of shrub care. Fertilize newly planted shrubs with a fertilizer with high phosphorous content. Older shrubs require fertilization once a year using a slow-release fertilizer. Using this around the perimeter of the outermost leaves will benefit the shrub the most.
Different species of shrubs require different pruning methods, but some shrub care tips apply to all shrubs. Damaged or dead branches, overly thick branches, or branches that detract from the look of the shrub should all be pruned. Suckers are shoots that grow from the roots or lower stem of a shrub, and should be pruned immediately. Deciduous and flowering shrubs should be pruned just after the final frost of winter. Non-flowering evergreen shrubs can be pruned during any season but fall.
Flowering shrubs should be pruned just after blooming and late winter. Pruning is not a requirement, and some shrubs appear best in their natural state. Each individual shrub has its own requirements, so inquire with a professional for specific shrub care instructions.