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Planting Shrubs and Trees Year-Round

Trees and shrubs are staples of any landscape but must be planted properly to ensure lush, healthy growth. Planting trees and shrubs in Tucson can be challenging, with sometimes difficult soil and a harsh climate, but giving these plants a good start can help them have long, gorgeous lifespans.

Choose the Right Tree

Understanding what you want from a tree before committing to a specific type for your Tucson yard is important. What size, color, or shape of tree interests you most? Do you want a native tree that will nurture wildlife or a statement tree that will be a showpiece in your landscape design? Do you prefer fruit trees or flowering trees? Visiting a local arboretum, parks, botanical gardens, or simply walking your neighborhood can help you see a variety of trees to make your decision easier.

Furthermore, take your yard’s design into consideration when choosing the trees and shrubs you wish to plant. How large is your yard compared to the plant’s mature size? Is there enough space? Do you have enough sunlight for the plant to reach its full potential? Do you need to be mindful of a possible mess in a pool or whether a growing tree might interfere with nearby power lines?

Finally, purchasing your trees and shrubs from Green Things will guarantee you receive quality plants that will be off to a good start before you even have them planted. You will also receive accurate plant recommendations and cultivation tips from our knowledgeable staff.

Steps for Planting Shrubs and Trees in Tucson

Once you have your tree or shrub and are ready to plant, take the process slowly and carefully to ensure success.

  • Contact the Utility Company – Contact Arizona 811 to check for underground utility lines before planting. This might limit where you can plant in your yard, and you want to be sure to be safe while digging to plant your shrubs and trees.
  • Choose the Best Spot – Note sunlight levels, drainage slopes, and the surrounding space when you pick where to plant. Moving the tree or shrub after initial planting would cause undue stress and might damage the plant, so you want to be certain before you begin.
  • Have the Proper Tools – To dig in our hard, clay soil, you will need a pointed spade with a sharp edge and possibly a pick ax to break up the soil. High-quality garden gloves are also a must, and be prepared with a hose or watering can to give your new plant the best care.
  • Water Before Digging – Wetting the soil with a good soak 2-3 days prior to digging can loosen up the dirt and make it much easier to dig. This can also help you check for possible drainage problems affecting where you ultimately place your tree or shrub.
  • Dig the Hole – The hole for your plant should be just the depth of the root ball (not the depth of the planting container, but of the roots themselves) and 2-3 times as wide. This will give the roots plenty of space to spread out and grow, stabilizing the new plant.
  • Check the Hole’s Drainage – Before adding your tree or shrub into the new hole, check for caliche – the rock-hard layer of soil and calcium carbonate so common in Tucson. Fill the hole with water twice and allow it to drain thoroughly. If draining takes longer than 24 hours, you will need to break up the soil deeper in the hole so roots don’t strangle or drown.
  • Carefully Remove the Plant – Be gentle when removing your new tree or shrub from the nursery container to avoid stress and damage. Never pull from the top, but loosen the plant from the sides instead by carefully cutting the container to minimize transplant shock.
  • Loosen the Roots – If the roots are densely packed, or appear to be circling the bottom of the pot, it is important to loosen them after removing it from the container so they can better spread out in the new hole. Straighten any twisting or curled roots to encourage them to grow in a new direction to create a stable, firm base. Note, there are a few plants that have very sensitive roots that should be treated very gently, if at all (e.g. Creosote, brittlebush).
  • Position the Plant in the Hole – Carefully place the root ball in the hole you’ve dug, adjusting the depth as needed so the root flare is just above the top level of the soil. Backfill the hole gently using the soil you removed mixed with a soil amendment or compost in a ratio of 3:1 for landscape trees or shrubs and 1:1 for fruit producing or high water use plants (e.g. Crape myrtle, hibiscus, roses). Check the plant to be sure it is straight. Tamp the soil firmly with your hands, but not too firmly, as you may smother the roots.
  • Create a well – If you do not have a drip irrigation system create a gently sloping well. You can do this by building up a berm/wall with soil at the plants drip line so water can collect. This does have it’s downfalls as soil can erode from the sides of the well and bury the root ball, which can cause plants to struggle. As the plant grows continue to extend the well outward to the plants drip line.
  • Add Mulch – Mulching around your new shrub or tree will help prevent weeds, control moisture, and slow evaporation to keep your plant healthy and happy. Wood chips, shredded bark, or gravel are all great options, depending on the look you prefer. Avoid placing mulch within six inches of the trunk of your plant.
  • Water Well – Give your new plant a good, slow, thorough drink of water after planting, and begin a regular watering schedule so it will receive adequate moisture. Use a soil probe to test for moisture levels several inches deep to avoid over watering, or consider a drip system for more controlled watering.
  • Stake Loosely – Some new plantings do need light tension in order to develop the strength to resist the wind. Loosely stake the tree or shrub if needed. Adjust tension on the lines every few weeks to ensure it is not so tight that it may strangle or restrict growth. Most plants can have their stakes removed after one growing season.

Planting trees and shrubs can be a lengthy process, but by following all the steps carefully, you can give your new plantings an excellent beginning to a long and healthy life in your landscape.