FAQs – Caring for Shrubs

Shrubs and trees in a garden. (Courtesy: Leuan Evans at flickr.com)

Shrubs and trees in a garden.
(Courtesy: Leuan Evans at flickr.com)

Shrubs have proven to be an ideal alternative for adding color, texture and height to your garden. Moreover, their flowers can attract wildlife like birds and butterflies as well as other insects. They smell good and are ideal for constructing a living screen to block out unappealing sights or can serve as a windbreaker that protects other plants in your garden.

Gardening gurus say that caring for them can be easy as long as you plant them in a space where they get the proper amount of shade or sunlight according to their tolerances, can establish themselves without outgrowing their space, and if you apply 3-inches to 4-inches of mulch around them that contains organic material. They need little water, no fertilizing after a few years, and will experience few or no insect or disease problems.

Still, as is the case with every plant, growers experience problems. Here are some commonly asked questions from horticulture hobbyists concerning problems they experience when tending to their shrubs.

Q: Can shrubs be grown in a container?
A: Yes. However, it may take a shrub as long as two or three years to start flowering. In addition, the contained shrub should not be in a location where the temperature drops below freezing for any extended period of time. If you have contained shrubs in an area where below freezing temperatures can occur, experts suggest that they be put under cover for the winter months. It is recommended that they be put in a cold, but frost-free location in dim light and watered occasionally.

Q: Do shrubs need protection during the winter?
A: Yes. High winds that can occur in the winter can offer serious danger to a shrub. If exposed to high winds for more than a short period of time, the shrub could lose its water faster than it can replace it and it can actually die of thirst. Although the plant is dormant, it is still sucking up water albeit slowly.

Shrubs planted in a group or near a wall are less susceptible than if they are planted sitting out in the middle of a yard on their own. If you have shrubs in locations like this, then you should take some preventive steps to protect them.

Back in the day, gardeners would surround a vulnerable shrub with burlap attached to stakes that are set into the ground all around the plant. Burlap allows the wind to get through, so the shrub can breath, but guards against serious drying out from direct heavy winds. You can find burlap at most garden stores.

However, in recent years companies have been making alternative products that are designed to do the job and they are very easy to set up. There are varieties of devices that can be assembled in minutes to give a small to moderate sized shrub a little house. These products include burlap that is stretched on posts that can remain all winter to guard the plant from wind, snow and ice. There are also products including the Shrub Coat that is made of ultraviolet-coated knitted shade cloth that can be used for this purpose. They come in different sizes and shapes.

Q: What insects eat shrubs to the point where they actually die?
A: You might be surprised to discover that pests are not a main killer of shrubs. In fact, experts say that insect and disease attacks account for only 20 percent of woody plant problems. Problems that account for the damage of most shrubs or their lack-luster performance include:

· Poor soil preparation and poorly executed planting.
· The use of plant materials that is not suited to the site or region in which the shrub is planted.
· Poor maintenance
· Change of the environment in which the shrub is planted

Q: If a flowering shrub is dug up, but some roots are left behind will it grow back?
A: Generally speaking, yes. As long as there is some remnant of a stem or root, the plant will grow again. If you want to get rid of the plant entirely, you need to be sure to remove all of the root system.

Q: What can I do about shrubs that are established, but are planted too close to each other?
A: You can prune back most shrubs by up to one-third per year without damaging them.

Q: How tall should front yard or side yard shrubs be allowed to grow?
A: You probably should check with local city ordinances or neighborhood associations that have set guidelines.

Q: What should I do about a container shrub brought inside for the winter that drops all of its leaves?
A: Some shrubs go dormant in the winter and need a dark area and others need light. Experts who do not have knowledge of what shrub species may be involved say that you should cut back on the watering and leave the plant in a sunny location.

About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.