Plants are like people; if you give them everything they need when they’re young, they’ll grow up to take care of themselves very nicely. Keep in mind that 1-gallon shrubs are like 1-year-old children and will take years to reach maturity. They need a lot of pampering. Two-gallon plants can take care of themselves a little better, but they still need lots of attention. Trauma, such as transplanting, is something from which they have to recover.

Philadelphus coronarius

Keep your shrubs bloomin’ healthy with proper fertilizer use. A multi-purpose plant food like Osmocote® Flower & Vegetable can provide shrubs (as well as other plants in the landscape) with essential nutrients to help plants perform their best.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

The most crucial aspect of keeping shrubs healthy is giving them adequate water, especially when they’re young. Watering-in after planting will help establish strong root systems, as well as create more self-sufficient plants. I’ve heard of nursery professionals who give customers a magic pill for their new shrubs. The pill is administered for several weeks after planting, in a gallon of water. These are placebos. There’s nothing in the pill – it’s the water that does the plant a world of good.

How much you fertilize shrubs depends on your soil, the kind and size of the shrub and where it’s planted. If you have good soil, with lots of organic matter, you may not need any fertilizer. Unfortunately, most of us have less-than-perfect soil. Chemical fertilizers are high in nutrient levels, but this can burn the shrub. Organic fertilizers feed the shrub and your soil, but are low in nutrients. Smaller shrubs need more fertilizer than larger ones. If the shrub is planted in grass or under an established tree, it’ll need more fertilizer, since grass and trees take nutrients for themselves. Feeding shrubs with a good fertilizer that promotes strong root development is also important. Osmocote® Flower & Vegetable is formulated for just that purpose.

As the plant grows, you may want to prune some branches. A general rule of thumb is not to prune more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time. This leaves enough foliage on the plant to conduct photosynthesis, which supplies the plant with food for new growth.

Fortunately, plants are much easier to raise than children – and they’re cheaper, too!