How to Plant a Bush


Because of the wide variety of colors, sizes and varieties, bushes or shrubs are one of the most popular landscaping projects. A bush is defined as a woody plant usually no more than 15 feet tall and having multiple major branches. They can have showy flowers like roses, colorful foliage like the purple smoke bush or a pleasing scent like the lilac. Bushes can hide unattractive features of property or be eye-catching accents. Because of their relatively small size, you probably already have the equipment you need to plant them. Whatever the reason, planting a bush is a short afternoon project that will add to your home's curb appeal.

Things You'll Need

  • Bush
  • Spade or shovel
  • Water
  • Top soil (optional)
  • Water-soluble fertilizer (optional)


  • Choose an area that is compatible with the type of bush you are planting. A plant that requires full sun won’t thrive in a shady space. Check with your nursery for the best varieties for the area you are planting.

  • Plan on the bush growing considerably and make sure it has enough room. It’s much more difficult to move a full-grown bush than to give it plenty of room to begin with.

  • Dig a hole twice as wide as the roots of the bush. Don’t dig too deep; the top of the roots should be level with the ground.

  • Test the soil for drainage by filling the hole with water before planting the bush. If the water hasn’t drained within a day, the drainage isn’t sufficient for the health of the plant.


  • If the bush is potted, remove it by gently rolling the pot on its side or tapping it with a trowel. Don’t remove the burlap covering if it has a root ball, but do cut away any twine. Pull the burlap away from the top of the root ball and tuck it into the sides.

  • Gently place the bush in the hole and make any adjustments to straighten it.

  • Fill the hole with the soil you dug out of it. In most cases, you won’t need to use any other material, but if the soil is too rocky or compacted, add topsoil.

  • Don’t compact the soil with your shoe or the shovel. It could damage the roots. Just use your hands.

  • Water well, but avoid standing water as this could damage the bush. If you have exceptionally dry weather, water when needed, especially for the first year.

  • Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the bush to retain the moisture.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most nursery grown bushes have fertilizer added to the soil in the container and it’s not necessary to fertilize for several months. To avoid damaging a new plant, only use a time-released fertilizer if needed.

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  • Photo Credit William T. Trobaugh, Jr.
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