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Planting Guide

Planting Guide

This is a copy of the Planting Guide insert included in every order from us. These are general planting and care instructions. All of us at Great Garden Plants are committed to ensuring that your plants successfully acclimate, and get a good start in your garden. If you have questions that are not addressed here, please refer to our FAQ, or Help Desk

When your plants arrive
Your order consists of live plants that need your immediate attention. Remove them from the box. Unwrap & discard any wrapping material. You may want to unpack on a garage floor, or outside in a shaded spot.

Potted plants
Water thoroughly - They are thirsty and need water immediately! If you can't plant right away, keep plants well watered.
Set in a shaded spot & wait 24-48 hours before planting- This allows any wilted leaves to recover while your plants acclimate to their new environment.
You will notice many of the plants have been cut back. This is a good thing because it promotes a fuller, heavier flowering plant.
Temperature. These plants have been grown in a cool greenhouse and can withstand light frost (30-32 degrees).

Succulents (delosperma, sedum, sempervivum)
Keep dry - do not overwater. Plants require excellent drainage.

Delayed planting
If you must delay planting, keep pot grown plants in a shaded location, check daily and water as needed. In hot, windy weather you might need to water plants twice a day. Gradually move sun loving plants to a sunnier spot if you are holding them more than a week.

Right plant - right place
Select a location based on the plant's soil type, sunlight needs and moisture requirements. Newly placed plants (even drought tolerant ones) need consistent moisture and nutrients the first year in the ground.

Soil preparation
The secret to your gardening success starts with good soil preparation. For best results, plants must have good drainage, adequate nutrients and available water at all times. Adding organic matter such as peat moss, compost, or aged manure adds nutrients for your plants in addition to improving drainage of heavy clay soil, and helps sandy soil hold moisture longer.
For more tips - See our Planting Basics

As a general rule, plants should be spaced generously so air can freely circulate around them.
With shrubs, take the width of the mature shrub, and space accordingly. In other words, if Knock Out® roses grow 36 inches wide, plant it so that it is 36 inches away from the next rose. Each rose will spread 18 inches on each side. Space further apart to have area to walk between plants.
Again, take into account the mature width of the plant. This might seem too generous, but perennials will fill in quickly. Proper spacing will minimize mildew & fungus problems while allowing you room to walk through your beds.
Low growing groundcovers (under 12") can be spaced closer (8-12") for a quicker fill. If you are on a budget and are patient you can space them further apart.
Hedge plants & thuja
Plant thuja Green Giant 4-5 feet apart in a straight line or zig zag fashion in full sun or partial shade. Keep adequately moist during their first 1-2 years of establishment. Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer in spring.
If you are creating a hedge and the width of boxwood is 3 feet wide, you may want to plant 2 feet apart to create a continuous look and barrier.
More tips on thuja see our Thuja Guide
Planting container grown plants
• Dig a hole about twice as wide, and a little deeper than the pot. Mix ample amounts of composted manure or other organic material with the soil you remove from the hole.
• Woody plants are often brittle, be careful not to damage the stems.
• Knock the plant out of the pot by holding the pot upside-down and tapping its rim on a hard surface, or thumping the bottom of the pot with your fist.
• If the roots look like they've wound around the bottom sides of the plastic pot, pry them loose with your fingers or cut through them shallowly with a sharp knife.
• Put enough soil in the bottom of the hole to bring the crown of the plant (where the roots join the stems) about even with the surrounding soil.
• Fill the soil in and around the root ball, making sure you press it in firmly to eliminate any air pockets.
• Water the plant deeply with a slow stream of water. If the soil around the root ball settles, fill the depression with more soil.

Plant care

Plants require sufficient moisture to flourish. Water thoroughly after planting, and keep a watchful eye on the plants for at least two weeks. Water as needed throughout the growing season. Plants should have at least 1 inch of water a week during the growing season. Plants in containers dry out quickly, and will require frequent watering.

1-2 weeks after planting, work in Osmocote® or another slow release fertilizer according to label instructions. Roses will particularly benefit from this.

Hydrangea color
The color of hydrangea flowers depend on the pH of your soil. To raise acidity, and lower the pH, add aluminum sulfate; or if you are willing to be patient, amending the soil with pine needles or coffee grounds will acidify the soil over time. The best blue color comes from acidic soil that ranges from 5.5-6.0. Pink color comes from soil where pH ranges around 6.0-6.2. To change hydrangea blooms from blue to pink, you need to remove the aluminum from the soil. The only way to do this is to add garden lime to soil to help raise the pH.

Mulching helps retain moisture, and reduce weeding. Apply 2-4 inches of mulch around plants. Mulch should taper down to ground level beside each plant. Be extra careful not to mulch directly over the top of the plant crowns. Certain plants such as Lavender and Delosperma are sensitive to mulch, so for moisture sensitive plants, or if you live in an area where the growing season is humid, you can mulch with a thin layer of pea gravel which provides rapid drainage of surface water.
Low growing groundcovers such as ajuga, or sedum Angelina provide an alternative to mulch, by shading the soil, and helping to retain even moisture.

Summer planting
Try to select a cloudy day for planting. Plants require more frequent watering to establish themselves in their new environment.

Fall planting
Plants begin to slow down their top growth in the fall so they may have little growth when they arrive. Fall is an ideal time to plant since soil temperature and moisture levels are usually at a level that promote root growth. With roots already established in the fall, plants are bigger the following spring.
Plant at least 6 weeks before first hard frost so roots can establish themselves before winter.
Wait until spring to fertilize.

Perennial care
Perennials can benefit from "deadheading" which is the removal of dead flower heads. This is done to encourage the production of new flowers. Often not a requirement, this process can lengthen and intensify a perennials' bloom season. Reblooming daylilies benefit from removing spent blooms & seed pods.

"Shearing" is cutting back of a plant. Shearing stimulates new growth. Shearing back 1/3 at midseason keep plants dense and encourages strong late season bloom.

Shrub care
Shrubs such as buddleia & caryopteris need to be pruned back in the spring.
The pruning of Hydrangeas depends on which type of Hydrangea you have. Those that bloom on new wood can be pruned at any time (Endless Summer) and those that bloom on old wood (macrophylla, paniculata), are pruned after flowering. Look on our plant's specific pages to see the planting and care instructions for that particular plant.

Ornamental grass care
Grasses can be cut down in fall, or early spring. Cut back foliage to about 6-8 inches.
For more tips: See our Care and Maintenance articles

Sleep, creep, leap
There is a handy saying about shrubs & perennials. Sleep, creep, leap refers to the growth habit for the first 3 years. In sleep mode, the first year, plants are concentrating on putting down roots, ignoring growing more leaves & stems. Don't be disappointed that your plants are not putting on new growth, because the important action is happening underground.

In creep mode, you'll notice more outward and upward growth action in the second year.

The third year is leap year. The root systems are stable, and most perennials and shrubs are now at their fullest potential.


For more information contact:


Great Garden Plants, Inc.

12601 120th Avenue 1511

Grand Haven, MI  49417

Phone: 877-447-4769

Fax:     616-399-0997