Shrubs make a real difference to a garden. Mike Richter/

One of the best gardening jobs is putting in new plants. And these are usually container-grown. This simply means that the plant has been grown its whole life in containers.

It differs from bare-root plants, which have been grown in the ground and dug up to be sold.

However, taking a plant out of a pot and putting it in the ground can be challenging. Getting them off to a good start in the garden is not simply a case of take off the pot and sticking it in a hole. You need to give the plant a little care and attention to make sure it thrives.

Here is how to make sure your plant survives the transition and quickly settles into its new home.

Preparing everything


Dig wider and slightly deeper. Poprotskiy Alexey/

First, give the container a really good water. This will help swell the soil and make it easier to release the root ball from the pot. You can leave small pots soaking in a bucket of water.

Now dig the hole. It needs to be at least twice the width of the container and just a little bit deeper. Don’t dig the hole too deep – one of the easiest ways to kill a plant is to bury the root ball too deeply.

Use a garden fork to break up the soil in the bottom of the hole. Remove rocks and any other debris that might get in the way of the roots.

Put a layer of compost or well-rotted manure in the bottom of the hole. Give it a water to soften everything.

Planting time


Fill the hole and firm in the plant. Halfpoint/

Backfill the hole with soil and us the heel of your boot or welly to firm everything in. Give the stem a gentle shake to settle the soil around the roots and remove any air pockets.

Water the plant really well and add more soil if you need to. You can also apply a mulch to give the plant a good start. This adds nutrients, blocks weeds and conserves more soil moisture. Get more tips about mulch here.

Keep the plant watered if you have any long dry spells – its roots do not run as deep as established plants and it may struggle in dry soil.

Follow these simple steps and your new plant will soon be thriving in its new home!


Now you’re ready to remove the plant from its pot. Grasp the stem firmly, hold the container in the other hand and tug it free.

Try to avoid damaging the roots. However, if they have grown through the bottom of the pot, you may have to trim them off.

If a plastic pot won’t release, you can always cut it off with a pair of sharp garden secateurs.

Next, use your hands to tease out the roots. Gently pull them out so they are not all clumped together in a pot-shape. The roots of pot-bound plants grow round in circles rather than down and out.

Place the plant in the centre of the hole. Aim to have the soil level on the root ball at the same level as the surrounding soil. The plant will struggle if it is planted higher or lower than this level.

For more garden planting ideas, check out my blog:

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