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Essential Planting Tips

Planting tips

Top Tips

  • Always water your plants for the garden well before planting. A prolonged soak in a bucket of water is the best way to prepare hardy plants before planting.
  • Create a saucer like depression, formed by a ring of soil approximately 30cm from the plant. This will reduce “run off” when watering.

  • Water plants in thoroughly after planting and do not allow them to dry out in dry weather. New plants will also benefit from daily overhead spraying in the spring.

  • Mulching new plants helps considerably to retain moisture, keep the soil cool and reduce competition from weeds.
  • Climbing plants should be planted no less than 15cm from the base of a wall or fence to avoid unnecessary drying out.

  • Some varieties of trees and shrubs e.g. crataegus, hibiscus, laburnum and wisteria sometimes fail to break until mid summer. To determine whether a plant is alive, scrape the bark with the thumb nail or knife blade. The layer just underneath the surface will be moist and green if the plant is alive. Make the test low down.

  • Many plants will benefit if the soil is enriched with well rotted manure, compost or a similar soil conditioner before planting. Using a fertiliser such as bone meal will encourage new roots to establish quickly.
  • More planting guides for the season can be found on the regularly updated Notcutts blog.

    Autumn planting

    Whilst some plants will always have a specific planting season, generally speaking most hardy garden plants will particularly benefit from planting in the autumn, especially as our summers get increasingly drier. At this time the soil will still be warm from the summer suns and rainfall will have replenished moisture levels to provide ideal growing conditions for adventurous new roots. You will still find a very wide selection of plants in our centres at this time of year and our bare rooted plants are usually available from November.


    Spring and summer planting

    Half hardy plants should always be planted outdoors once the risk of frost has passed, but this is also the time to plant the more tender evergreens such as cistus. If cold nights still threaten immediately after planting, protect the new shoots by draping fleece material over the plants. Mulching is always a wise precaution when planting at this time of year in order to conserve moisture and be sure to give your new plants generous amounts of water.


    Planting of bare root plants



    A planting hole should be dug to a depth of 60cm and 1m in diameter. The sub soil should be thoroughly loosened but not brought to the surface. Add well-rotted manure and mix in with the sub soil. The top soil should be retained for filling around the roots. Do not plant too deeply; the soil ring on the stem just above the root gives the correct planting depth. Fine soil should be worked in around the roots and made firm by treading, finally finishing off with the remainder of the top soil, which should also be firmly trodden. The land may ‘heave’ during frosts and should be re firmed in early April. Do not plant when the ground is waterlogged. 

    All trees, especially Standards, must be securely staked and tied. The stake should be placed in position before the tree is planted and secured using purpose-made tree ties. It is recommended that stakes are angled at 45 degrees to the ground and into the prevailing wind for optimum support. Ensure that ties are checked regularly and adjusted as the tree grows. Stakes and ties can be supplied at the time of purchase.

    Grass and weeds must not be allowed to grow round newly planted trees for at least two seasons, longer if possible. A ring of clean soil 1m in diameter will aid the successful development of the tree.

    See our ‘Planting New Trees’  guide for a full walkthrough printable guide.



    Planting is the same as for trees but holes may be proportionately smaller. Normally a depth of 35 45cm and a diameter of 60 90cm should be enough. When planting a border or shrubbery the whole area should be dug, and the sub soil broken up with a fork.

    A rose fertilizer should be used to feed all types of roses and flowering shrubs; this will contain exactly the right balance of nutrients and trace elements for your new plants to thrive.


    Planting container-grown plants

    Container-grown plants enable planting to be successfully undertaken throughout the year with little or no check or risk of failure, however, greater care has to be taken to ensure adequate watering is given during our increasingly dry seasons. 

    To encourage the plant roots to leave the root ball the planting site should be well cultivated and organic matter (such as manure or compost) and phosphates (bone meal or super phosphate) are incorporated. Ensure that container-grown plants are saturated before planting. It may be necessary to submerge the plant for several hours in a bucket of water.

    The plant should be carefully knocked out of the pot, taking care not to damage any young roots which may be round the sides of the container. Large roots girdling the compost should be gently “teased” out and fine soil run in around them. Position the plant in a prepared hole with the top of the rootball about one inch below existing soil level. Fill in with friable soil and firm up. Water in to settle (except in winter), then apply a surface mulch of bark to conserve moisture and to keep down the weeds.


    Receiving plants during frost

    Plants received during frost should not be unpacked, but placed in a shed or sheltered position and the package covered with sacks, etc. If frost is prolonged, retain the packing material at the roots but loosen that covering the branches to admit air. During open weather, plants which cannot be handled on arrival should be ‘laid in’. This means digging a trench, spreading roots and covering firmly with moist soil.


    Planting into containers

    Container gardening has grown enormously as a way of enjoying plants we may otherwise be unable to enjoy in the natural environment of our gardens. Careful positioning of the container and considered selection of the compost provides the plant with its ideal growing environment. 

    Ericaceous compost is perfect for all lime hating plants such as rhododendrons and camellias, which all thrive in containers. For most trees, shrubs, roses and perennials which are to become permanent features, we recommend using a mixture of soil-based and soil-less compost in order to gain the advantages of both. Our garden centres normally stock a ready mixed compost ideal for such use. Our plant protection composts include a systemic insecticide that will give your plants prolonged protection against a range of garden pests without the need for you to spray chemicals.

    Always ensure you select a container with ample drainage holes to avoid water logging and place some coarse material in the base before filling with compost. Firm the compost as you fill the pot and don’t fill to the top of the pot so you allow some room for water to sit and penetrate the surface.

    Regular feeding is the key to successful container gardening and our garden centres stock a range of slow release and controlled release fertilisers that can be added and re-added to your containers to ensure a constant supply of nutrients when your plants need them.


    Planting distances

    Taking into consideration shrubs of all sizes, an average planting is three shrubs per five square metres. Low growing shrubs should be planted fairly close together in groups with a wide space left between the groups. To find the distance between shrubs of different sorts, add the spread of each, as is given in the text then divide by two. Herbaceous perennial plants can, in general, except where stated, be planted at five plants per square metre.


    Clematis planting

    Clematis plants are grown in pots and can be transplanted at any time. Any normal, well prepared, drained soil is suitable. Firm planting is essential. The top of the ball, root and soil should be 5cm below the level of the bed after planting. For each plant add 55g (2oz) of bone meal.

    Such careful treatment should help to minimise the danger of “Clematis Wilt’’, a disease for which so far no sure remedy is known, when stems of apparently healthy plants suddenly collapse. Cutting all infected growth to ground level may induce the plant to produce new shoots.

    Some varieties will grow in any aspect, but all varieties must have a shaded, cool root run. Small shrubs will provide sufficient shade to meet this requirement.