At its most basic, planting a plant is a simple matter of digging a hole and bunging in the plant. However, with a little bit of planning and preparation, the new plant is assured to grow and thrive.
For a plant to be able to grow well after planting it needs to be able to get its roots into the soil so well-prepared soil is a first step. For more information on how to prepare your soil, click here
Potted plants can be planted at any time of the year although the milder seasons of autumn and early spring are the optimum planting times for most plants. For bare-rooted plants, plant in late autumn, winter or very early spring.
Follow our seven easy steps to successful plant establishment with tips along the way.
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Step 1 – Prepare the soil
- Position the plant on top of the soil in its new home while it’s still in its pot. This will help you ensure you have the plant in its right position for its size.
- Make sure the potting mix and roots are well soaked before planting. Water the plant with Seasol (mix 30mL of Seasol concentrate per 9 litres of water) before it goes in the ground.
- If the mix is dry or the plant is hard to remove from the pot or punnet, soak the potted plant or the root ball if you are planting a bare-rooted plant, in a bucket of water enriched with Seasol (30mL of Seasol concentrate per 9 litres of water).
- Take the plant out of its pot just prior to planting. If roots are blocking the drainage holes cut the pot away or trim excess root growth.
Step 2 – Dig a hole
- Dig a planting hole that’s the same depth of the plant’s root ball but twice as wide to allow room for the plant to grow into the surrounding soil.
- Save the soil dug from the hole to use to firm in around the plant. It may be necessary to adjust the depth of the hole when positioning the plant.
- Check the drainage of the soil by applying water to the hole. If the soil is poorly drained, correct drainage. For more information, see ‘Checking drainage’ below.
- Apply Seasol Plant + Soil Booster to the base of the hole and through the backfill soil. Generally, apply 50 grams to the base of the hole or check the back of the bag for application rates depending on the size of the plant.
Step 3 – Raised garden beds
- If the soil is too hard or too shallow to dig to the necessary depth for planting or the soil is too poorly drained, prepare a raised bed. Also consider adding a soil wetter such as Seasol Super Soil Wetter & Conditioner to ensure water gets to where it’s needed (mix 50mL concentrate per 9 litres of water).
- Make a planting mound or build a low bed between 30cm and 1m high.
- Fill the new bed with the appropriate soil for the type of plants being planted. If you are planting natives or succulents use a good quality free-draining landscape or garden mix. If you are planting vegies, herbs or flowering annuals enrich with compost and aged organic matter.
- Before planting, to improve the soil, dig Seasol Plant + Soil Booster into the soil. It’s a natural pelletised complete garden health treatment with a rich source of seaweed and compost. Generally, apply 100 grams per square metre and remember to water it in thoroughly after application.
4. Position the plant in the hole
- Centre the plant in the hole so it sits at the same height in the hole as it was in the pot (or at the same depth as it was in the soil for a bare-rooted plant). Ensure you are happy with the plant in its position in the garden.
- Lay a stick across the top of the hole to judge the correct planting depth. If the planting hole is too deep, use extra soil in the base of the hole to elevate the plant. Ensure there is enough space in the surrounding soil for the roots to grow out and down.
- Trim off any broken or damaged roots. If the roots in the root ball are spiraling or densely matted, they can be teased out.
- When planting a bare-rooted plant (as shown to the left) make a mound of earth in the base of the hole to sit the roots over to avoid creating air pockets around the bare roots.
Step 5 – Firming in.
- Once the plant is in its correct position, back fill around the root ball using the original soil dug from the hole, incorporating Seasol Plant + Soil Booster.
- If the soil is poor, it can be enriched with well-rotted compost. For a no dig option, apply Seasol Liquid Compost (mix 50mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water) to improve back fill.
- Use your hands to firm the soil around the plant (avoid stomping soil down with feet which can damage the plant’s roots). Watering the soil at this stage helps wash soil around the roots and reduces air pockets.
- Make a shallow depression in the soil around the stem to direct water towards the plant. Don’t cover the top of the original potting mix or bury the stem any deeper than it was in the pot or ground.
- Remove any ties and the plant tag (but keep it as a record).
Step 6 – Do you need a stake for support
- If the plant is large and exposed to strong winds it may be necessary to stake it to prevent damage such as wind rock (where the plant is buffeted by the wind making it hard for the roots to re-establish in the soil).
- Ideally use two or three stakes positioned around the plant and soft ties. Put the stakes beside the plant at planting time to avoid root damage.
- A plant grown as a standard (with a straight single stem and a ball of growth) may need a stake beside its stem to strengthen support for the weight of the plant growth above.
- If animals such as rabbits or wallabies are around, protect the plant from predation by surrounding it with a plant guard. This also helps to protect it from wind and frost. You can buy plant guards from your local hardware or garden centre or make your own from shadecloth.
Step 7 – Water, fertiliser and mulch
- Water the new plant in well ensuring water soaks in around the roots.
- Check that the soil is still firm, and the plant is stable in the ground. If necessary, add more soil.
- To reduce transplant shock, water in with Seasol or Seasol GOLD. This aids plant establishment and give the plant a kick-start to life.
- Finish off the planting by spreading a 2cm-5cm layer of coarse mulch (keep the mulch away from the trunk).
- About two weeks after planting, apply a slow-release fertiliser such as PowerFeed with Troforte All Purpose including Natives. This will help boost health and growth plus adds beneficial microbes to improve soil health.
- All new plantings need regular care and attention until they’re established in their new location.
- Continue to water the new plants in with Seasol or Seasol GOLD every two weeks to help build a rapid strong root system and healthy growth and to reduce stress from heat, drought, frost, pests and diesase. It also helps to enhance flowering and fruiting.
- New plantings may also need to be protected temporarily from direct sun using a shadecloth, especially on very hot or dry windy days. As the plant grows, regularly check stakes and loosen ties. Keep the area weeded.
- Liquid feed with PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives every two to four weeks during the growing season for vigorous growth, flowering and fruiting. PowerFeed can be mixed in the same watering can with Seasol for a dynamic plant health and nutrient boost.
Plant Definitions Explained
When you are learning more about gardening and planting you may come across terminology that you don’t understand. Here’s a quick guide to some of the questions, concepts and terms relating to planting.
Deep or long-stem planting
In recent years a new and experimental method of planting has been developed called deep or long-stem planting. This involves planting more deeply than the plant was growing in the nursery pot. Plants that readily form adventitious roots such as tomatoes can benefit from deep planting.
In areas with poorly drained soils, it is important to check the planting hole for drainage before putting the plant in the soil. To do this dig a hole then fill it with water. If the water drains away within a few hours, drainage is not an issue. If there’s still water in the hole the next day the new plant will not thrive. Rather than digging into poorly drained soil, make a raised planting bed.
Round or square holes
Most planting holes are round but some experts recommend a square hole however there’s no good reason that a square hole provides any better growing condition. Getting the planting depth right and making sure the new plant gets good care are more important than worrying about the shape of the planting hole!