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6 steps to planting a native plant

Wednesday 13 April 2022 | 4 min read

Help your new native plants start their life right and give them the best chance of survival. Here’s 6 steps to planting.

Planting a native seedling-photo John Kruger Hot Images and City of West Torrens
Planting a native seedling. Photo: John Kruger Hot Images and the City of West Torrens.

The best time for planting native seedlings in Adelaide is autumn, winter or early spring. This is because it gives them time to get established with the help of natural rainfall. Knowing how to plant your new plant is the first step in a long, thriving life in your garden. Read on to find out how to do it right.

Step 1: Dig a suitable hole

The perfect hole for your plant is one that is twice as deep and twice as wide as the plant container. Keep the soil you dig out in a pile next to your hole as you will need this to fill it back in again.

If your soil is really hard or has a high clay content, you’ll need to avoid creating a hole with smooth sides that look almost polished – this is called ‘glazing’. A hole like this will restrict the root’s growth in the same way a pot does, causing the plant to become root bound and stopping it from growing healthily and happily.

Smooth edges can be avoided by using a garden fork to loosen the soil around the walls and base of the hole – basically, you want the hole to look a bit rough. If your soil is really hard and compact, you can fill the hole with water and allow it to soak into the ground before breaking it up with a garden fork.

Step 2: Soak the plant’s roots

Giving your plant a good water while it’s still in the pot will make it easier to get the plant out of the container.

To do this, place the whole container in water but be careful not to submerge the whole plant. Then, wait until the water stops bubbling. Once that happens, remove it from the water.

Top tip: Add a small amount of seaweed extract to the water to stimulate root growth – you can find this at your local gardening store.

Step 3: Remove the plant from the container

Hold the plant with one hand; place one finger either side of the plant’s stem and tip the pot upside down. Use your other hand to gently squeeze the pot and the soil and root ball (the mass of roots) should fall out easily.

If the roots are coiled tightly, tease them out gently. Otherwise, try not to disturb the roots more than is necessary.

Top tip: If the plant doesn’t come out of the container easily, tap lightly on the edges of the container with a small garden tool like a garden trowel and try the process again.

Step 4: Place the plant in the ground

While supporting the base of the seedling (which is now out of the pot), use your other hand to hold the roots and soil together as you place it in the hole in the ground.

Step 5: Backfill soil

First, check how far up the stem the soil goes. The aim is to plant the seedling so that same amount of the plant that was covered by soil in the pot is also covered when the plant is in the ground.

You will need to hold the seedling in place with one hand, while you scoop the soil back into the hole, filling in under the plant and in around the sides. It’s best to leave a small dip around the plant – this will act as a water bowl to capture water and help keep the plant stay moist.

Once the hole is full, press down firmly but avoid over-compacting, as this will stop water soaking in.

Step 6: Water immediately

Always water new plants straight away. This will reduce the chance of the plant going into transplant shock.

Newly planted seedlings need a good soaking – not just a light sprinkle. It takes a lot of water to reach the roots under the soil so we suggest using about half a bucket or half a watering can’s worth. Deep watering reduce water evaporation and encourages the roots to become stronger, by growing deeper and looking for moisture.

Top tip: Add a layer of mulch around your plants to reduce water evaporation and weeds, and, over time, improve your soil.

Where to next?

Once you’ve settled in your new plant babies you’ll want to make sure you know when to water them, how often to prune and if fertiliser is required. Head to our native plant after care page for more plant care tips.

Just beginning your gardening journey? Head to our gardening hub for facts and tricks.

Main image courtesy of John Kruger Hot Images and the City of West Torrens.

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