Gardening Guide & Growing Information

It's easy to grow trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials from Wayside Gardens. With just a little extra attention during planting and throughout the first season, you can get your plants off to the best possible start in your garden. The goal is to help them grow healthy roots so they can flourish beautifully for years to come!

For specific planting instructions by Genus, refer to the alphabetical listings in Wayside Gardens’ Plant Care Library.

First Things First...

When you purchase high-quality plants from Wayside Gardens, they 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 Gardens, 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 2 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 bare root 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. It is important to plant bare roots as soon as possible for a successful growing season. If planting bareroot roses, first soak roots in lukewarm water for 12 to 24 hours. If you can’t plant your roses right away, you may leave them in their boxes for up to a week in a cool, dark place. Be sure to sprinkle roots with water every few days.

Potted bare root plant

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 to combat hot, sunny days. Even sun-loving plants appreciate a little shade their first few days in the ground. This hardening off process allows plants to focus their available energy toward developing healthy roots which encourages successful establishment.

Three Simple Steps for Growing Success

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

Choose a planting area 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.

Dig a hole

First and most importantly call your local utility company to have them locate buried cables and lines before you dig. When choosing a location to dig, make sure that the area is most suitable for the plant in question. Only after you’ve tested the soil, and confirmed the optimal amount of light, moisture, and space your plant needs as it matures should you begin digging.

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.

Bare root 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?

Your native soil might already be rich enough, but to maximize potential and reduce the shock of moving the plant, soil amendment is recommended. Use a soil test first to check the pH levels and other facts about the terrain. Amending the soil is not always necessary, but when done correctly it can greatly enhance the continuing health and productivity of your plants. Take heed that soil amending, like so many other aspects of gardening, is a balancing act. Use too little and you won’t see any positive effects, but use too much and it could actually harm your plant and stunt its potential.

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.

Soil test


  • Is clay soil hindering your garden’s success? Use gypsum to break it down and make it more pliable for growing roots.
  • Peat moss is great for changing the pH to the soil, making it more acidic and welcoming for acid-loving plants.

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. To make this process easier we recommend using the Greenwell™ Water Saver which helps maintain the moisture and fertilizer around your plants without any additional effort on your part.

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. Watering can be one of the more tedious aspects of maintaining a garden and as such we suggest using a simple irrigation system to help streamline the process while saving you both time and money in the long run. It’s a good idea to always consider the specific moisture needs of your plant as it relates to your climates average rainfall when determining how much to irrigate them. Decorative rain gauges and rain barrels are practical yet visually pleasing ways to record your local rainfall and redistribute fresh water to your garden. Remember also that plants in containers will need much more water than those in garden soil, especially during the hottest summer weather. There are small scale drip irrigation as well as creative and fun techniques such as water globes that that work well in containers and adds extra interest to planters. 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.

Nearly as important as watering is adding mulch. Mulch helps the soil, both in the landscape and containers, retain moisture, deter weeds, and protect sensitive roots 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, or small rocks. For best results add about 2 to 4 inches of material and be generous, especially with plants that prefer cool roots.

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 good but require a bit more planning if you wish to add or relocate plants often.


All About Fertilizing

The 4 most important steps for nearly trouble-free plants

  1. Test your soil
  2. Amend if needed
  3. Water in to break down amendments
  4. Plant
  5. Fertilize

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 (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 amendment suggestions specific to your soil. Wait at least 2 weeks to plant after you’ve amended the soil. 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 more porous, so air circulates better and water drains through it more freely. Organic matter is the best choice and can be comprised of composted leaves and vegetables, aged manure from horses, cows, chickens, and goats, peat, and vermiculite.

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 are ideal. Sandy soil requires more fertilizer on average than denser soil types.

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 and *peat moss in moderation. Before replanting annual flowers and vegetables, remember to replenish the soil by working in plenty of rich, organic matter. It leads to more productive and healthy plants and greater harvests.

*Peat moss is high in acid and dramatically changes the pH of the surrounding soil. This is great for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, hollies and blueberries, but too much acid can limit plant availability of nutrients in the soil. Take this into consideration and use accordingly.

Weed often because weeds can rapidly deplete the soil of nutrients, drastically limiting the potential growth of your desired plants. When you mulch before frost, apply 2 to 4 inches of good organic material (4 to 5 inches is recommended for Northern zones). 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 development of healthy root systems. Plant them in your own moist, organically rich soil and they are sure to establish swiftly!

Feeling inspired to plant more greenery? Shop for perennials.