Ask Danny | Ep. 6: How to Plant Shrubs, and Pruning Techniques

Lawn and landscape expert Sid Sexton is back to talk more about pruning, landscaping and shrubs.


In this week’s episode of “Ask Danny,” Sid Sexton is back to tell us how to plant shrubs and give some advice on pruning crape myrtles.

Sid is the founder of Sexton Lawn & Landscape in Daphne, Ala., and is licensed in turf and ornament spraying, landscape design, and setting of landscape plants.


Sid Sexton is the founder and president of Sexton Lawn & Landscape. (Photo courtesy Sexton Lawn & Landscape)

About Sid Sexton

As the founder of Sexton Lawn & Landscape, Sid is a down-to-earth, honest businessman with a love for lawn care, landscape design, and delivering the best products to his clients.

Starting at age 16, Sid spent his summers working for a local landscape company and the local country club and golf course in his hometown of Muskogee, Okla.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in horticulture, Sid joined the US Coast Guard and was stationed in Hawaii, where he met his future wife, Jourdan.

Sid was our guest for the first episode of “The Ask Danny Podcast,” and he’s back! Listen to “Ask Danny Episode 1: Improving Your Lawn’s Health” to catch up, or read on for more information about this second interview with Sid.


man planting shrub
When planting shrubs, the width of the hole is more important than the depth. (Minna Kantonen, Getty Images)

Planting Shrubs: Tips for Success

What are some of the steps our listeners should take when planting shrubs?

sid: Before you plant shrubs, follow these three steps:

  1. Have a plan. You need the right type of plant for your environment in the right location. Think about space, sunlight and water, then ask yourself these questions: Where will the plants go? Will the area have too much or too little water? Are they the right plants for the right place for the sunlight they need?
  2. Lay out the bed. Use spray paint to outline the bed line, then rent a sod cutter to remove the turf and vegetation.
  3. Add soil: Make sure to build the soil up. You can use top soil, bagged soil or an organic specialty blend. The main goal is to add some kind of amendment to the existing soil so your plants will have the nutrition they need.

When digging holes for your plants, go wide. The hole should be three times the width of the container. Giving it that space to grow out is much more important than how deep the hole is.

However, you don’t want to dig the hole too deep to where water settles around it. Plant it level to the ground or about a half inch above the soil level. You want water to drain away from the base of the plant.

Then add natural mulch, like pine straw, bark and hay. It will create a mat that will prevent weeds from growing. Weeds sprout from seeds that can be spread through the wind. If you create a thick layer of mulch, it will prevent the seeds from reaching the soil.

Landscape fabric also does this, but personally, I don’t use it because of the climate I live in. It stays hot almost year-round in south Alabama, so landscape fabric tends to trap heat underground and damage roots. Also, it can push water to low areas and lead to root rot.

Mulch also insulates the roots, preventing them from getting too hot and cold. And it keeps moisture in the soil from evaporating too quickly. As natural mulch breaks down, it adds organic matter to the soil.


pruning shrubs with sharp pruners in spring
Well-pruned shrubs and trees are a hallmark of a carefully tended yard or garden. (Maudib, Getty Images)

Best Time to Prune

What are some general tips about pruning? When is the best time and are there different steps for different plants?

sid: All plants require some pruning to keep them in shape and promote healthy growth.

There’s lots of nuance in pruning but a general rule for flowering plants is you want to prune the plant after it blooms.

Learn which technique to use when in our Basic Shrub Pruning Techniques article.


Crape myrtle branches and bloom against a blue sky
You don’t have to cut a ton of branches to encourage crape myrtle blooms. (c11yg, Getty Images)

Pruning Crape Myrtles

Many people have strong opinions on trimming and pruning crape myrtles. What’s your opinion?

sid: A crape myrtle blooms off new growth. So, some people hack away at the branches to stimulate this new growth. But this isn’t necessary — you can still produce new growth and keep the shape of the plant with selective pruning.

Select pruning eliminates an ugly knuckle from forming and maintains full foliage. Here’s how to do it.

First, prune cross branches — branches that are rubbing together and growing across from each other. You want the tree to grow up and out, so trim the branches that are growing toward the middle.

Then, prune broken branches and any branch that’s smaller than your pinky.

Read our guide on How and When to Prune Crape Myrtles for more details.


Sid’s Tips

  • Make sure you have a plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
  • If you’re not sure what to do, consult with a local expert, like a nursery or landscape architect.
  • Do it in stages so it’s not overwhelming in time and budget.

Further Reading


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