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Planting Guidelines

Trees & Shrubs:

Dig a hole 2-3 times as wide and as deep as the plant root ball. Mix Pine Soil Conditioner with original soil in a ratio of about 1:2. 

Place the tree in the hole so that the top of the root ball is slightly above ground grade, no deeper.

Planting depth is very important. Pull back the burlap slightly from the top of the rootball & remove any excess soil so that the root flare is exposed. The root flare is the area where you see large roots extending from the main trunk of the tree. 

tree planting imageBackfill the hole with amended soil and gently tamp.

Add fertilizer tablets when hole is ½ full, then fill the hole completely with backfill.

Apply a 3″ layer of mulch, taking care to keep mulch away from the trunk. Do not build mulch up around the trunk, instead, form a “donut” with mulch.  

Water generously. 

Burlap should remain on the root ball to keep it intact. It will bio-degrade in 1-2 months. Take care when handling root balls. A broken root ball is likely to cause plant to die. 

Removing Root Ball Baskets:  

Balled & burlapped plants may have a metal basket around the root ball which should be removed to prevent root breakage & “girdling” & ultimately may cause the tree or shrub to die. Using wire cutters, snip each vertical wire below middle horizontal rung all the way around basket. Remove bottom portion of the basket, then roll the plant  into the hole. Cut the strings on top of the ball & snip each horizontal rung along the same vertical line. Remove remainder of basket.

Plants in Containers:  

These should be planted according to tree & shrub guidelines, but should be planted level with ground grade. No topsoil or backfill should be added above the roots, only mulch which will allow surface roots to breathe.

Soil Preparation:  

For all plants, soil preparation is essential. By taking extra steps to amend soil at planting time & after, you ensure that they will not only survive, but will thrive. Generally, soil preparation means loosening compacted or heavy soils to increase drainage & enrich soil for plants. 

Particularly in Kentucky, soil needs to be amended for planting.

Recommended organic matter includes:

Pine Soil Conditioner —aged pine fines which improve drainage & break up clay soils. (available in bags)

Mixed Compost —a locally produced 50/50 mixture of pine fines & standardbred compost (available in bulk “scoops”)

Sweet Peet – a blend of composted vegetable matter & pine forest flooring. (available in bags)

Some other tried & true soil amendments include:

  • peat moss– acidifies the soil
  • cow manure– adds nitrogen & organic matter
  • gypsum – breaks down clay 

Plants such as azaleas, rhododendron, pieris, sourwood & many perennials have specialized needs and require rich, well-drained soil to thrive and require more involved soil prep. Plant these in deeply-tilled beds to which organic matter has been mixed with existing soil in a 1:1 ratio. Soil preparation is a process. The best beds are the result of persistence. Amending soil each season or every time you plant will result in rich, loose soil ideal for growing lush, healthy well-rooted plants.

Fertilizing: Feeding your plants regularly is a
pro-active approach to preventing problems & maintaining plant health. While all plants have different fertilizer needs, there are a few general rules. Refer to our plant-specific information sheets to learn the best fertilizers for your plants. 

Plants in Containers: Use a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, supplemented weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer, such as Monty’s Joy Juice,  Jacks, or Neptune’s Organic Fish Emulsion. 

Landscape Plantings:  Use Osmocote for annuals, perennials, grasses & roses, or go natural with Espoma Plant Tone & Rose Tone. Supplement this with water-soluble fertilizer. 

Trees & Shrubs: Use Bio-Tone or fertilizer tablets that feed slowly for the first year when planting.
After this, feed woody plants in March, June & November using Holly Tone or Tree Tone.   

Mulching: Maintaining a 2” mulch layer on beds reduces weeds, maintains moisture & protects plants. Top-dress as needed. Don’t allow mulch to build up on plant stems or trunks & avoid mulching with rock, color-dyed or rubber mulches. 

Weed Control: Weeds compete with the plants we love. Existing weeds must be removed prior to
granular application by manually removing them or spot spraying them with a herbicide. Apply a granular pre-emergent herbicide, such as Preen, to mulched beds every 60-90 days of the growing season. Stop in our garden center for specific information & products.  

Plant Guarantee:  

Trees & shrubs installed following proper planting guidelines, including the use of soil conditioner and fertilizer tablets and watered and cared for properly, are guaranteed for 1 year from the date of purchase.  

Roses, Perennials, Ornamental Grasses, Fruit Trees, Brambles & Berries are guaranteed to the end of the year in which they were purchased. 

Informing, Troubleshooting & Diagnosis
We’re here to ensure your  landscaping & gardening success. As a service to our customers, we want to help you prevent problems & when necessary, identify & diagnose issues. Examine plants regularly & note changes (i.e. discoloration, spots, or loss of leaves, visible pests). Contact us immediately with questions & concerns so that we can help you help your plant.    

Any plant which has failed to survive should be returned within 30 days of death. Any period of time beyond this makes it difficult or impossible for us to assess the cause of your plant’s failure & does not allow us to avoid the problem from re-occurring. Do not dig up & return plant material until we are sure it is dead. Certain plants may take longer to emerge in spring or recover from trauma. We do not replace plants that are still living. 

You must have proof of purchase & return the plant to receive credit. This is a purchase value credit & a one-time replacement credit only. Plants will be replaced with the same size or value of original installed materials. We do not issue cash refunds.

Shared Warranty Plants: Certain plants require special soil preparation, site selection, may be marginally hardy to zone 6, & have specific care needs which are the responsibility of the customer & over which Wilson’s has no control. We offer a “shared warranty” on these plants to help you along in your gardening endeavors, while recognizing that some plants are difficult by nature or not well-suited to this environment.  

These plants include:  Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Daphne, Dogwoods (Cornus florida & Cornus kousa), Pieris, Japanese Maples, Ilex crenata (Steed, Sky Pencil, Hoogendorn, Helleri, Soft Touch etc. Hollies) Crape Myrtle, Laurels, Leyland Cyprus, Sarcococca and select Magnolia varieties. These plants will carry a 50% shared warranty whereby we replace these items one time at 50% off their regular price. 

Sale Items: Items that are discounted by 30-40% will carry a limited 30-day guarantee unless noted otherwise.

Not Guaranteed:  

  • annuals
  • tropicals 
  • houseplants 
  • vegetables
  • water plants
  • plants or items on sale at 50% off or more 
  • plants kept in above-ground containers

Warranties on special promotions may vary.  

All warranties are effective for plants that have been properly planted & maintained. We assume no
responsibility for damage by pests, lawn mowers, weed eaters, chemicals, inadequate drainage, soil conditions or neglect. Acts of nature including drought, ice, snow, & excessive wind exempt the warranty. 

Please be considerate that Wilson’s guarantees living plants whose planting & care in the short and long term is your responsibility. 

Watering Guidelines

Root-zone watering:  All plants prefer to be watered at the root zone, slowly & deeply. To do this, lay the open end of a hose at the base of each plant & allow water to flow at a rate the size of a pencil.

For larger trees & shrubs, 1-2 hours of root-zone watering 1 time a week thru the first growing season in which it was planted. For smaller shrubs & perennials, allow water to run for 20-30 min per plant 1 time per week thru the first growing season.

A soaking rainfall of 1½” counts as one watering. 

Tip:  A rain gauge is a handy tool to monitor rainfall & keep watering on track.
Watering wands, hoses, soaker hoses, tree gators & sprinklers help make watering easier, but be careful, it’s best not to use sprinklers or soaker hoses for the first year as they tend to over or under water new plants.

Note:  These directions are general guidelines & may need to be adjusted according to soil temperature, humidity, sun & wind exposure, & seasonal or drought conditions. 


Annuals & Perennials

Remove spent blooms.Trim as needed through the growing season. Some perennials will need to be cut back after the first hard frost of fall & annuals should be removed. 

Evergreen Trees & Shrubs

Prune as needed during the months of March through September.

 Deciduous Trees

Prune in late winter or early spring before

bud break, except for Elms, Maples,
Birches, Dogwoods, Oaks & Yellowwoods, which should be pruned in early to midsummer. Dogwoods should be pruned immediately after blooming. 

Deciduous Shrubs

Prune in late fall or early spring. Flowering shrubs that bloom in the spring  should be pruned immediately after the flowers fade.  Shrubs that bloom in the summer should be pruned in early spring before new growth begins.

Ornamental Grasses

Cut grasses back to 2-3” above ground level in late February or early March.

 Spring Bulbs

Cut foliage back after it has turned completely yellow. Cutting back sooner will result in greatly reduced blooming or no blooming the following spring. 

 Azaleas & Rhododendrons

Prune after spring blooming season has ended. Rhododendrons require little or no pruning. Remove dead wood & spent flower heads. Azaleas can be cut back to desired size & shape immediately after the blooms have faded.

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