Basics of Planting: How to Plant Perennials

Basics of Planting: How to Plant Perennials

with Tony Avent

By Published August 30, 2022 Updated March 13, 2023

Shop for Perennials On Sale at Plant Delights Nursery

In this video, Tony shows how to plant your new perennials and how to insure that they develop healthy, vigorous root systems.

Video Transcription

Today we're going to talk a little bit about planting plants. A lot of people seem to have the wrong idea how plants get planted. So, first thing let's pull a plant out of the pot and what we're faced with (left with). When a plant is grown in containers, it has to be grown with a soil mix that will drain very quickly. If not, you get a heavy rain, and the plants will die because they'll rot. So most mixes today day are either peat moss based or pine bark base. This happens to be a bark-based mix.

When you plant, the mix needs to come off the roots so that the roots are then in contact with the soil that you're planting in. This is a very common mistake. People tend to be afraid to damage the roots of the plant and the plant doesn't get accustomed to the new soil. So, what we want to do on most plants is to begin by pulling the roots apart. And this is very simple on most plants and just pull and shake. And the roots then are going to be very clean and then they will be in contact with the soil that you plant them in.

For example, once we get this planted, we go into a bed (and this is obviously a well-prepared bed) and dig a hole. Now you often hear you need a hole much larger than the plant, much wider than the plant. That's really not the case in a well-prepared soil. That's only the case if you do a poor job in preparing your soil. So, if the soil is prepared, all you need to do is have something that the roots will go in very comfortably. So., we'll drop those right in and then fill in around the plant and your plant is ready to grow. Very simple.

Roots are a Good Thing

Now not all plants are that simple. For example, this plant here: this is what's called a root-bound plant. You hear that term a lot, but people don't understand what that means. In a well-grown container, any plant will be root bound in about 12 weeks. So, it's not a bad thing, it just means you have to take that into account when you're planting your plant. So, here it' is full of roots. We're going to do the same thing. We're going to pull. This particular plant has a very large underground storage organ. We're going to get most of the roots actually off and let the plant re-root into the ground.

Now some people do it different ways. Some people like to break plants apart. Some will come apart very simply and then you can plant from there. Other plants have a very extensive root system such as this yucca here. And this would definitely qualify as a root-bound plant. Not that it is a bad thing. Now, some people use a couple of ways to deal with root-bound plants. Some take a knife, and they like, go in and cut. They'll cut a couple of different ways. I see we have an assistant here. And if we cut, we can break that apart. Now that will work. It's not ideal.

We still want to do something a little more. You've got a couple of options: You can actually beat it up against something hard like a rock and get that bark-based mix off or you can simply take a water hose and you can do something very similar and just wash the soil off. The key in any way, is to get as much of that soil as you can off. You don’t need this to be a hundred percent, but you want to get those roots spread out and open. So, that the plan again, roots can contact the soil that you're planting in not the soil or soil mix that the plants were bought in. So, root-bound is not a problem. We hear people all of the time say, "don't buy root-bound plants". Knock it out and see what the roots look like. When you're buying perennials, all you're buying is roots. Because in the wintertime, well most of them, unless they're an evergreen, there is no top.

So, roots are a good thing. As much roots as you can [get] is a good thing. You simply need to know how to manage that. If you have woody roots, then you will need to come in and be sure they're untangled. But in most cases, perennial roots actually die each season.

How Deep of a Hole?

Once we've got those root balls we will come in and dig our hole and for most plants you want to plant it the same depth it was in the container. That's a good general rule. There are a few plants that, actually, you want to plant deeper. In very few cases do you want to plant something where it's actually out of the ground.

This is a good lesson in how to go in and get your plants established and get them out of the pots. if you wind up leaving them in the pots, remember in a nursery plants are usually watered at least once a day. If you only water, it once a week you are going to lose a lot of your roots before you ever get the plants in the ground.

So, very important safety tip to keep those plants happy once you've purchased them and get them established in the ground.

Back to articles