Gardening Guide & Growing Information

Gardening Guide & Growing Information

It's easy to grow Wayside trees, shrubs, and perennials. Just a little extra time and attention at planting time and during the first season will get your plants off to the best possible start in your garden, helping them grow healthy roots and look their best for years to come!

For specific planting instructions by Genus, refer to the alphabetical listings in Wayside’s complete guide to gardening.

First Things First...

Wayside's high-quality plants are ready to establish and grow in your garden upon arrival. Please take a few moments to read these general care instructions before planting, and then refer to the detailed instructions (organized by genus) for your plant throughout the year.

When your plant arrives from Wayside, remove it from the shipping box immediately, even if you cannot plant it right away.

If it is a potted plant, discard any packing material clinging to the leaves or soil, then water it thoroughly until water runs out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. Place the pot in a shady, protected area for at least 3 days. This allows the plant to acclimate to your garden without the stress of being transplanted right away. If you cannot plant it within a few days of receiving it, make sure the plant stays well watered.

If it is a bareroot plant (which means no soil around the roots), inspect the plant to make sure it is moist but not soggy. If it seems dry, add just enough water to moisten. Leave the plant in its packing material until you are ready to plant it in the ground. Put it in a cool, protected area, and always keep the roots from drying out. Plant bareroots as soon as possible.

When you are ready to plant, do the job as early in the day as possible. Overcast, slightly cool weather is ideal, but you can always add some temporary shade if the sun is hot. Even sun-loving plants appreciate a little shade their first few days in the ground.

Three Simple Steps for Growing Success


1 - Choose the best Location.
Location, Location, Location!

Choose a planting site that matches your plant's light requirements, soil preference, and water needs. Group plants with similar growing preferences to reduce maintenance. Watch your plant carefully the first season to see how well it is adjusting to its new home, and do not hesitate to move it if it appears unhappy. It is much easier to find the perfect environment for a plant than to try to compensate for less-than-perfect surroundings throughout the life of your plant. Besides, many a brilliant garden design has been created through these unexpected moves!


2 - Dig a Hole.
Make it easier for roots to spread and settle in

First, call your local utility company to have them locate buried cables and lines before you dig.

Potted plants:

Dig a hole at least two times wider than your plant's root ball, but no deeper than the height of the root ball. Place your plant in the hole, then backfill the hole and firm soil gently. In poorly drained soil, place plants about 2 inches higher than the surrounding soil to help excess water to drain away from the plant’s base or crown.

Bareroot plants:

Dig a hole large enough to accommodate your plant's spread-out roots, then create a small mound in the middle of the hole. Position your plant's roots on top of the mound, spreading the roots out and backfilling with soil as you go. The plant's topmost roots should sit one to two inches below the soil.

What about amending my soil?

Recent research has shown that amending the planting hole isn't as necessary as it was once thought to be, and may even be detrimental to the establishment of your plant. Amending only the planting hole can keep roots from venturing out into the native soil, so decide whether to add organic matter to your soil on a case-by-case basis and with regard to your soil structure. If you choose to add organic amendments to your site before planting, incorporate them uniformly throughout the entire planting area. In existing beds, you probably cannot amend the entire area, but topdress it once a year with an inch or two of compost, shredded leaves, or aged manure. Over time, the soil will improve as earthworms and other organisms work this material down into your soil to create a rich, well-aerated site.


3 - Water in and Mulch.
These good rules-of-thumb keep your plant hydrated and happy

After filling in the soil around your plant, build a thin, circular wall of soil an inch or two high and just a bit wider than the hole you have dug for your new plant. Then, fill the inside of the circle with water all the way to the top, refilling a couple of times as it drains into the soil to saturate the rootball. After the water has soaked in, apply an inch or two of mulch—this will help retain soil moisture, and has further benefits that will be discussed below.

The rule of thumb for watering most garden plants is an inch of water a week, especially during their first year in a new location. Keep in mind that some plants don't even need this much, so consider the water needs of your plant and your climate average rainfall when determining how much to irrigate them. Remember also that plants in containers will need much more water than those in garden soil, especially during the hottest summer weather. The best time to water your garden is early in the morning, before the sun is high. If you live in a humid climate, watering at this time lets the sun evaporate the standing water from the foliage of your plants, preventing mildew. And in all climates, you will lose less water to evaporation by the sun’s rays if you apply it early in the day.

Mulch to save water, keep down weeds, and protect plants from harsh weather

Mulch is simply any material applied on top of the soil around your plants to keep moisture in and weeds out. It may be organic, such as straw, pine needles, grass clippings, leaves, compost, bark, and even sawdust. Or it may be inorganic: ground-up tires, small rocks, polyethylene sheets, etc.

Simply leave a few inches between your plant's stem and the mulch, so the plant can "breathe" (and to reduce the chance of spreading disease). Never mulch over newly-planted seeds; do mulch heavily as the seasons change and your plants must adjust to new temperatures and light levels. We prefer organic mulches because you can let them sink into the soil, feeding it; however, inorganic mulches are just fine too.

Only one thing's left - how to tell if you need to fertilize!

The most important step for nearly trouble-free plants

  • A) Find out what your soil needs
  • B) Add lots of organic matter

A) Find out what your soil needs

Knowing what kind of soil you have and what nutrients it may lack before planting is critical. Begin with a soil test from your local Cooperative Extension Service (usually listed in the "Government" section of your phone book under "Agriculture" or "Education"; or visit the USDA website online to find an office near you). This inexpensive test will tell you a lot about the native soil in your garden and offer fertilization suggestions specific to your soil and what you want to plant. If your soil test indicates you need to fertilize your plants, wait until a week or two after planting to give your plant time to settle into its new home. If you plant in fall, wait until spring to begin fertilizing to avoid encouraging tender new growth before winter. Always follow fertilizer package instructions with regard to how much and how often to fertilize.

If you have heavy clay, you need to add organics that make the soil "lighter", so air circulates better and water drains more freely through it. A little sand can help, much better is organic matter in the form of composted leaves and vegetables; aged manure from horses, cows, chickens, and goats; peat; vermiculite; or gypsum. The ideal blend is 10% sand, 40% to 50% clay, and 40% to 50% organic matter, mixed evenly together into a crumbly brown mass that holds moisture but isn't soggy.

If you have sandy soil, you need to add things that will provide nutrients and hold moisture. Compost and organic matter of the types described above, plus a little clay, are ideal.

B) Add lots of organic matter
No matter what kind of soil you have, you can't go wrong by adding organics - compost, well-rotted manure, peat moss - frequently and heavily. Every time you prepare to replant annual beds or vegetable gardens, take the time to work in as much organic matter as you can lay your hands on.

When you weed your perennial and shrub borders, work organic material into the soil (being careful not to dig up the plant's roots!). When you mulch before frost, apply 4 to 5 inches of good organic material. With each watering the organics will be dispersed, and eventually your soil will be rich and easy to work with.

Follow these simple steps, and your Wayside Garden is sure to be a success! All of our plants are bred and selected for exceptional health and vigor, and grown in large containers until they develop healthy root systems. Plant them in your own moist, organic soil and they are sure to establish swiftly!

To download this Gardening Guide for yourself, with complete information and illustrations, please follow this link. Because the file is in PDF format, you will require the Adobe Reader to be able to view it. We hope that you will enjoy this guide and refer to it for years to come.