Shrub Care Guide

Caring for Shrubs

In general, shrubs require even less maintenance than plants such as perennials. This generalization does not apply if you intend to maintain a manicured hedge along walkways instead of planting dwarf shrubs.

(Editorial note: hedge trimming should be left to those who actually enjoy it; I have other things to do on busy weekends.)



Your best choice is to feed plants while also improving the soil by adding natural organic fertilizer. An alternative choice is the use of time-released fertilizer, which has been worked into the soil or mulch (less likely to have storm water runoff remove a significant amount of your fertilizer or pesticide and deposit it in the nearest neighborhood creek).

Generally, fertilizing should take place during March through September. For information about your specific shrub, please consult one of the gardening books found in this CD, a nursery or bookstore. You may prefer to consult with a knowledgeable nursery, landscaper or county agricultural extension agent about the needs of your plant.

Insect Monitoring

If the correct native or adapted plant is selected, appropriately planted and properly maintained, insects and diseases are usually not a problem. In the event that your shrubs are subjected to excessive stresses (improper watering methods, hail or high wind damage, etc.) problems can occur.

Monthly inspections for insects and disease will keep you aware of potential problems. Just seeing several insects on a plant does not mean you have a problem; they may be beneficial insects. Observe the details of their appearance and make written notes. Next use an expert or a reference (county extension agent, nursery, gardening book, etc.) to identify the insect and determine if treatment is necessary.

Even the presence of a number of harmful insects won't cause significant, lasting damage, when a sufficient number of predators are present to consume them. If treatment is required, apply least toxic materials (including the use of bacterial sprays and organic methods).


Prepare the soil by adding at least 2 inches of organic matter or compost to the soil in the area that is to be planted. Mix the soil and compost or organic matter together. Install a drip or low volume irrigation system. Plant the shrub to the depth indicated on the label. After planting, add at least 2 inches of mulch. Add additional mulch, as needed (2 to 3 times per year), since it breaks down over time and is incorporated into the soil.


One reason to prune is to remove blooms from flowering shrubs to ensure repeat blooms. Another reason to prune any shrub is to remove branches that rub against each other and create on going damage to the bark. This will prevent entry of pests and diseases through the damaged area.

Another reason to prune shrubs is to maintain a well-balanced general appearance. Typically late winter to early spring is a good time to prune most shrubs. Contact your local nursery or check in gardening books to obtain information about your specific shrubs.


Water the shrub when it needs it. An easy test is to use a piece of metal rebar about 12 inches long to probe the soil. If the rebar comes out muddy or wet, don't water. If it comes out dry in the top 4 to 5 inches of soil, it's time to water. Shrubs should be watered separately from lawns if you are using an automatic watering system.

For additional information, refer to the watering and conservation section.

Leave it on the lawn! Yard clippings can pollute nearby streams and creeks.