What to Do When Your Perennial Plants Arrive

What to Do When Your Perennial Plants Arrive
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What to Do When Your Perennial Plants Arrive

When Your Plants Arrive: Perennials

Potted Plants

When your plant arrives, remove it from the shipping box immediately, discard any packing material clinging to the leaves or soil and water thoroughly, until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. Next, place the pot in a shaded, protected (not windy) location for a few days. This allows the plant to acclimate to your garden without the added stress of being transplanted.

Bareroot Plants

Many plants are shipped bareroot (without soil around the roots). Inspect the plants upon receipt and if either the roots or the packing material are dry, add just enough water to keep them moist but not soggy. Leave plants and any packing material as received in their shipping bags or wraps until ready to plant. Open the top of the bag so the plant can get light and air. Do not expose plant to full sun. Keep in a cool protected area, and always keep the roots from drying out. When it's time to transplant, do the job as early in the day as possible. Overcast, slightly cool weather is best, but if you’re in the middle of a heat wave, compensate by planting very early in the day and draping some shade over the plant (even if it’s a sun lover or already in partial shade) for a few days for added protection.

Soil Preparation

Before your plants arrive, turn over soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches, working a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic matter such as peat, ground pine bark, compost, leaf mold, or well-aged manure well into the soil. Add a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-10, at the rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet, and mix in thoroughly. For the best drainage, the planting site should be a few inches above ground level. Nothing will improve the quality of your plants more than this initial effort to obtain a deeply worked, friable soil.


If plants are in pots, place one hand over the top, with fingers around the base of the stem, invert and rap the bottom of the pot briskly. The plant and its intact ball of soil will come out easily. Set it in the hole so that the surface of the ball is just barely below soil level. For bareroot plants, remove the bag and any packing material and set the plant so that the crown (junction of the root and stem) is at ground level, unless otherwise noted. If there is no top growth (as with dormant plants), cover the crown with ½-inch of soil. In all cases, firm the soil around the newly set plant, leaving a slight saucer shaped “dish” or depression.

Water thoroughly until water fills this depression. This “muddying in” is the most important of all procedures, since it firms the soil about the roots, drives out air pockets, promotes good root-to-soil contact, and does more to prevent transplanting loss than anything else. (After plants are well established, the dish should be filled in with soil to ground level so that water does not stand in it after heavy rains.) If planting in late spring or during summer when hot sun may injure the newly set plants, provide temporary shade for newly set perennials and ground covers with protective tents of newspaper or cloth.