Shrub tips to help you in ’17

Q. I bought a shrub this fall when it was on clearance. It’s still in the garage! Can I still plant it?

Pat from Canfield

A. Well, it depends on the type of shrub, the shrub’s condition, the size of the root ball, your planting scheme and the winter weather.

Deciduous shrubs – ones that go dormant and lose their leaves in the fall – are the easiest to deal with when you want to plant during winter months.

Most likely, a deciduous shrub is dormant and is just fine to plant outside.

The only warning sign would be the buds on the shrub breaking due to a warm garage. Anything that has broken dormancy should stay inside and will be difficult to keep alive.

Watering in the garage will be most important, as most container-grown shrubs are grown in potting mix. Thus, they can dry out quickly. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. If you use a saucer under the pot, empty it a few minutes after watering.

If it is an evergreen shrub and has been living in your garage, it may not be hardened off completely or it may have dried out already.

Evergreens need consistent water since they are always losing water at a high rate due to metabolic processes.

If you feel the shrub has not broken dormancy, you can make plans to plant it as long as you are able to dig a hole.

Ensure the hole is three times the width of the root ball. Backfill the hole with the native soil you removed.

If needed, use a bucket of water to help the soil settle. Use existing mulch or a new bag to mulch the area well (3 inches to 4 inches thick). Mulch will act as insulation, allowing the root ball to adapt to the soil temperatures and the soil to settle more until the ground freezes in the planting area.

If you are unsure about planting, do what you can to keep the plant moist in the garage.

Water just a little to ensure the roots do not dry out. Do not water them on a schedule or allow them to sit in water.

When spring comes, plant them outside. Mulch them well to keep the soil temperature even throughout the area.

Another option is to place the shrub (pot and all) in a protected area outdoors.

Dig a small hole to drop the pot into for added insulation and pile on mulch in the area with leaves (or other mulch) to insulate the roots for winter survival.

For evergreens, you should provide some winter protection such as burlap as an extra precaution. This will prevent desiccating winds from drying out the plant.

Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Winter hours for the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic vary. Submit questions to the clinic at 330-533-5538 or drop samples off to the OSU Extension Office in Canfield. Hours vary throughout the winter season.

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