Planting perennials? Stop digging!

You’ve taken the time to choose the right perennials for your planting beds. No mistakes waiting there.

Now it’s time to get them in the ground. Here is where many well-intentioned, would-be horticulturists commit errors that stunt their young plants.

Ever hear the old saying “if you’re already in a hole, quit digging?” The same principle applies.

The hole for a new plant should be dug twice as wide as its container. The hole’s depth, however, is often dug too deep by ambitious, excited homeowners.

Here’s a measuring stick: New plants should be put in the ground 1 to 2 inches above the grade of the soil. Call it a “mound effect.”

Why? The deeper a plant is set in the ground, the less moisture reaches its roots. The water has to penetrate through more soil. If you’re digging a spot for a new plant, make the hole just short of the height of the container the plant came in.

If a plant is obviously root-bound when removed from its container, loosen up the soil at the bottom of the new hole. Just don’t make it any deeper.

Some exceptions apply. Perennials can be planted at soil grade if the surface is covered by landscape fabric and decorative stone. These coverings hold moisture in the ground.

We’re often told from a young age not to “fall short” in life. Yet, when planting perennials, shallower is actually better. Coming up short is a good thing. Perhaps “quit digging while you’re ahead” applies, to paraphrase yet another old saying.


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