Fauquier/Rappahannock County
 Master Gardeners

Trees & Shrubs

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I consider when selecting a plant? 
There are environmental conditions of each plant must be considered. These are hardiness, soil and moisture conditions, degree of sun and shade as well as required maintenance. In addition, there are the aesthetic considerations; plant size at maturity, plant shape, plant texture and color.

What are the different forms of transplants?
There are four classes of transplants; bare-rooted, balled and burlapped, container-grown and containerized. Bare-rooted have had all the soil washed from their roots. Balled and burlapped have  usually been grown in nursery rows for several years and have been root pruned to encourage compact fibrous roots. Container-grown plants have been grown in the container. Containerized plants are field-grown and spend a short amount of time potted in a container. 

How do I plant my tree or shrub?
The planting hole is important because it is the environment of the root system. Generally make the hole two to three times the diameter and the same depth as the root ball. Set the root ball on solid soil to avoid settling and backfill with the original soil. When 2/3 backfilled fill the hole with water to firm the soil and eliminate air pockets.

How deep should I plant my transplant?
When planting in a poorly drained site, set trees and shrubs so that several inches of the root ball are above the soil level, and then cover the exposed ball with mulch. Otherwise the flare of the trunk should be at the soil level.   (Note: Remove as much burlap, wire caging, plastic or metal containers as possible before planting.)

How do I transplant a native tree or shrub?
Understand that the original environment must be duplicated for survival. Three to six months prior to digging, prune roots with a sharp spade. Transplant during the next dormant season; the root ball must be 4 to 6 inches outside of the pruning cut to get the maximum number of new roots.

Do I need to prune or support newly planted trees and shrubs? 
Yes, an initial pruning maybe needed; remove broken and damaged branches with poor structure. Avoid heavy pruning. Support all bare-rooted trees over 8 feet in height, large trees (6 inches or more in diameter) should be supported if top heavy or in a windy area. Small B&B and container grown trees should not need support.

What should I use for support?
For bare-rooted trees a single stake, three-quarters of the height of the tree driven 2 to 4 inches from the center of the tree, fastened by a nylon or plastic strap. For all other trees and shrubs use two parallel stakes driven solidly 18 inches form the center of the tree on opposite sides of the tree. Fasten loosely nylon or plastic straps around the trunk.  Note: All supports and wrap should be removed from trees within one year of planting.

Do I need to fertilize my trees and shrubs?
Trees and shrubs planted in fertile, well-drained soil that are growing well should not need annual fertilization. If the plant is not growing well then fertilizing maybe helpful after the problem has be determined and corrected. See Fertilizing Landscape Trees and Shrubs.  

My tree or shrub isn’t growing well, what should I do? 
Symptoms of poor growth may be cause by inadequate aeration, moisture, or nutrients; adverse climate conditions; incorrect ph; disease; or other conditions. If help is needed to determine the problem and applicable treatment; contact your local Master Garden help line at 540-341-7950 or 

When should I prune my plant? 
This is determined by when the shrubs blooms. If the shrub blooms in the spring, it blooms on last season’s growth so it should be pruned in the late spring after it blooms. Otherwise it should be pruned in late winter. Damaged, diseased or pest infected and crossing branches should be removed. Not more that 1/3 of the old wood should be pruned annually.  For more information see the following publications:

Are there special pruning techniques? 
Yes, Thinning cuts should be used to simulate growth throughout the tree, rather than in single branches. A thinning cut removes branches at their original point of origin or attachment. Twigs and small branches should be cut back to a vigorous bud or an intersecting branch. Select a bud pointing in the direction of the desired new growth. For more information see the following publications:

Should I mulch my trees and shrubs? 
Yes, for year round benefits of mulching, apply 2 to 3 inch mulch of aged saw dust, shredded pine bark, or wood chips around shrubs and trees. This will conserve moisture and help suppress the growth of weeds and grass. A circle of 4 to 6 feet minimum is suggested for trees and renewed to maintain the 2 to 3 inch layer.  ( Note: Keep the mulch back about 6 inches from the base of the plant. Otherwise, mice and voles will be encouraged to tunnel to the base and damage the bark.)