Can I still plant?

 

Yes! You can plant.

‘Is it too late to plant?’ This is a question we hear a lot this time of year.

The answer: You can plant anytime during the growing season!While planting in the heat of summer poses some challenges, container grown perennials and shrubs are always happy to get their roots into the ground.

The key is water.  High temperatures and intense sunlight cause plants to make strong demands on their root system to keep up with transpiration (think of the plant ‘sweating’ to cool off). When the roots have to work hardto keep the plant hydrated, it can’t use that energy for growing roots. Even worse, if the roots can’t find the water it needs the plant suffers.

planting-tree-6l

For successful summer planting, makesure your plants are well hydrated before you transplant and plant in the cooler hours of early morning or evening.  This reduces the stress of transplanting.  Make your hole the same depth and twice as wide as the container your plant came in.  Larger plants, shrubs and trees will benefit from pre-moistening the soil.  Fill the hole with water and let is seep into the ground completely. While the water is seeping into the surrounding soil, mix 1 part compost with 2 parts of the soil you removed from the hole. Remove your plant from its container and gently loosen the roots. Place the plant with its roots spread out. For perennials, annuals and shrubs, match the same soil level as the container grown plant.  Avoid burying it any deeper.  For trees, CSU recommends planting with the root ball elevated from the ground, as trees will settle over time.  For 1” caliper trees and smaller, plant 1” above the grade.  For 2”-4” caliper trees, plant 2” above the soil grade. Add some of the soil/compost mixture if it sits too low. Fill the hole with the remaining soil/compost mixture while gently tamping down to stabilize the plant.  Avoid packing the soil tightly.  Our goal is to eliminate air pockets while still making it possible for roots and water to penetrate the soil.  Top with compost or mulch to retain moisture and water deeply one more time with a root simulator. Planting_Shrub

Check your plants both morning and evening if it’s been hot and dry, for several weeks.  Moisture meters are handy tools to keep an eye on the moisture level surrounding the roots of your new transplants.  For larger trees and shrubs, be sure to check in several places around the root ball, as they can dry unevenly while they establish.  The long handle of a wooden spoon or a sharpened pencil can be used as a substitute if you prefer not to stick your fingers in the soil. Exposed wood absorbs moisture.  Poke your utensil into the soil a few inches and pull it up.  Feel the end of the utensil.   If it is dry, then water.  For plants with smaller root masses, check the soil about 2 inches below the surface for moisture. For larger plants like trees, check 3 to 4 inches into the soil.  If dry, give it a deep soaking.  Once your plants are settled and appear to be growing well, you can begin to reduce your watering frequency depending on your plants particular needs.  Drought tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials will still need a deep soaking at least once per week during the hottest part of their first summer.

Remember to winter water trees, shrubs and perennials, too.  Our climate is arid and young plants are the most susceptible during this time. Even established trees will suffer.  If we don’t have a decent snowfall for 3-4 weeks then watering will be necessary to maintain your plants health.  Failure to winter water is the most common reason for plant loss each spring.

The key is water. High temperatures and intense sunlight cause plants to make strong demands on their root system to keep up with transpiration (think of the plant ‘sweating’ to cool off). When the roots have to work hard to keep the plant hydrated, it can’t use that energy for growing roots. Even worse, if the roots can’t find the water it needs the plant suffers.

For successful summer planting, make sure your plants are well hydrated before you transplant and plant in the cooler hours of early morning or evening. This reduces the stress of transplanting. Make your hole the same depth and twice as wide as the container your plant came in. Larger plants, shrubs and trees will benefit from pre-moistening the soil. Fill the hole with water and let is seep into the ground completely. While the water is seeping into the surrounding soil, mix 1 part compost with 2 parts of the soil you removed from the hole. Remove your plant from its container and gently loosen the roots. Place the plant with its roots spread out. For perennials, annuals and shrubs, match the same soil level as the container grown plant.  Avoid burying it any deeper. For trees, CSU recommends planting with the root ball elevated from the ground, as trees will settle over time. For 1” caliper trees and smaller, plant 1” above the grade. For 2”-4” caliper trees, plant 2” above the soil grade.   Add some of the soil/compost mixture if it sits too low.  Fill the hole with the remaining soil/compost mixture while gently tamping down to stabilize the plant. Avoid packing the soil tightly. Our goal is to eliminate air pockets while still making it possible for roots and water to penetrate the soil. Top with compost or mulch to retain moisture, but keep the mulch at least 3″ away from tree trunks.  Water deeply one more time with a root simulator.   There is no need to fertilizer trees and shrubs their first season.  

Check your plants both morning and evening if it’s been hot and dry, for several weeks. Moisture meters are handy tools to keep an eye on the moisture level surrounding the roots of your new transplants. For larger trees and shrubs, be sure to check in several places around the root ball, as they can dry unevenly while they establish. The long handle of a wooden spoon or a sharpened pencil can be used as a substitute if you prefer not to stick your fingers in the soil. Exposed wood absorbs moisture. Poke your utensil into the soil a few inches and pull it up. Feel the end of the utensil. If it is dry, then water. For plants with smaller root masses, check the soil about 2 inches below the surface for moisture. For larger plants like trees, check 3 to 4 inches into the soil. If dry, give it a deep soaking. Once your plants are settled and appear to be growing well, you can begin to reduce your watering frequency depending on your plants particular needs. Drought tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials will still need a deep soaking at least once per week during the hottest part of their first summer.  Stake trees while they establish.

tree with stakes

Remember to winter water trees, shrubs and perennials, too. Our climate is arid and young plants are the most susceptible during this time. Even established trees will suffer. If we don’t have a decent snowfall for 3-4 weeks then watering will be necessary to maintain your plants health. Failure to winter water is the most common reason for plant loss each spring.

We also suggest using tree wrap on young trees to prevent the trunks from splitting during winter.  The usual rule of thumb is to wrap at Thanksgiving and remove the wrap at Easter.

The Beautiful Leaf

This time of year we are all so enamored by flowers that it’s easy to overlook the value of colorful foliage in the garden.   Colored leaves come in many hues, from shades of purple-reds to bright chartreuse greens to shades of orange.  I’m not talking about fall color, here.  These colorful leaves can be enjoyed all summer in their bright hues.  Colorful foliage makes container gardens stand out from the crowd.  In perennial beds, colorful leaves can provide beauty when plants are between bloom cycles.  Colorful trees and shrubs stand out against the customary hues of green, becoming focal points of the garden.

Under the Sea Coleus "Bonefish" is a striking plant with bright chartreuse, serrated edges that add both texture and color.
Under the Sea Coleus “Bonefish” is a striking plant with bright chartreuse, serrated edges that add both texture and color.

Under the Sea Coleus, from Hort Couture Plants,  is a favorite for container gardens.  They come in several color combinations and sizes from tall to small.  Each is unique in the world of coleus.  All perform well in sun to part sun, in our Colorado climate.  Small leaved varieties sail through the heat of summer.  Large leaved cultivars, like “King Crab”  will benefit from some shade in the afternoon.

Most people don’t think about trees being colorful unless it’s fall.  There are, however, quite a few that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Best grown in a semi shaded area, protected from arid winter winds.
Japanese Maple “Shiraz”. Best grown in a semi shaded area, protected from arid winter winds.
Royal Red Norway Maple
Royal Red Norway Maples have large,richly colored, dark burgundy/mahogany leaves. These trees can reach 35′-40′ tall, providing ample shade. They tolerate pollution well, making them a great choice where there is high traffic.
Tricolor Beech have a decidedly pyramid shape while young. Like many of us, they round out a bit with age. They reach 25'-35' tall. They will do best in an eastern or north eastern exposure, in a partial sun area.
Tricolor Beech have a decidedly pyramid shape while young. Like many of us, they round out a bit with age. They reach 25′-35′ tall. They will do best in an eastern or north eastern exposure, in a partial sun area.

If landscapes had a sense of fashion, then dark leaved plants would be the “little black dress”.    They are always in style and every garden should have at least one in the wardrobe.   Japanese maples provide interesting structural form and many have colorful leaves that will turn a shady area into a mystical garden.

Heuchera Blackberry Ice is a staff favorite. The dark berry colored leaves dress up shady borders. Try using them in shady container gardens too.
Heuchera Blackberry Ice is a staff favorite. The dark berry colored leaves dress up shady borders. Try using them in shady container gardens too.

Heuchera is the coleus of perennials.  Every year, more new cultivars are introduced.  Most are relatively compact, making it easy to add them to existing garden beds or container gardens.

Heuchera Amber Lady shows off it's luscious leaves. Grow them in shady gardens.
Heuchera Amber Lady shows off it’s luscious leaves. Grow them in shady gardens.

Barberry are among the most versatile, sun-loving shrubs for Colorado.  They come in multiple sizes and shapes.  Most have colorful leaves, ranging from bright red/orange to lemony greens.  Tiny or tall, there’s so many shapes and sizes, it’s difficult to choose.   Their thorns make them less suitable for areas where people may brush against them.  That said, those thorn make them a great choice as a deterrent when planted around a home’s foundation, under windows.  Their berries provide food for birds and their density provides shelter.

Barberry Orange Rocket is a columnar shrub, ideal for creating a hedge in a narrow space. They can also be used as a centerpiece in container gardens. Just be sure to plant it in the ground in fall.
Barberry Orange Rocket is a columnar shrub, ideal for creating a hedge in a narrow space. They can also be used as a centerpiece in container gardens. Just be sure to plant it in the ground in fall.
Barberry comes in many colors and sizes. They dress up sunny garden areas and can be used in borders, as hedges or as accent shrubs. Few shrubs are as versatile.
Barberry comes in many colors and sizes. They dress up sunny garden areas and can be used in borders, as hedges or as accent shrubs. Few shrubs are as versatile.

Evergreens, in both tree and shrub forms, are hardy additions to Colorado gardens.  They thrive in full sun and manage to look fabulous despite our arid late summer conditions.  They take wild temperature swings in stride, making them ideal in a climate with more than 40 freeze/thaw cycles each year.

Juniper "Sea of Gold" is a dramatic shrub that provides garden color year round.
Juniper “Sea of Gold” is a dramatic shrub that provides garden color year round.

Say the word “juniper” and some people  cringe, thinking of prickly shrubs filled with spider webs.  Today’s junipers come in many textures and sizes.  Some are great for use as low growing shrubs.  Others, like the one pictured, are drama queens, with soft needles and dense branching.

There’s more than one way to enjoy a colorful garden.  So try some colorful leaves in your garden and see how dramatically they change the look of your landscape.