Hardy deciduous flowering shrub Hydrangea macrophylla 'Red Bull' in flower bloom

How to plant shrubs

Autumn's an ideal time to plant robust shrubs like roses, hydrangeas and viburnums. Take a look at our shrub planting guide to discover more.

Do it:

Sep, Oct, Nov

Takes just:

30 minutes

Shrubs of all sizes, including hydrangeas and shrub roses, form the permanent framework of most garden borders – and autumn is a good time to plant them.

Before you plant, dig over the whole border to at least one spade’s depth, removing all weeds, especially the roots of perennial ones. Then fork in lots of well-rotted garden compost, along with planting fertiliser, to get your new shrub off to a good start.

Short of ideas? Here are 10 unusual shrubs for autumn

Discover how to plant a shrub in just four easy steps, below. 

You will need

  • Spade
  • Fork
  • Well-rotted manure or garden compost
  • Slow-release fertiliser


Water the plant thoroughly before planting, so plants in leaf take up plenty of water and stress is minimised. Dig a hole at least twice the width of the rootball and the same depth – possibly deeper for roses, so the knobbly graft union sits at soil level. Use a fork to break up the sides and base of the hole.
Remove the shrub from its pot by placing one hand over the top of the rootball with your fingers spread around the base of the stem for support, then carefully pull off the pot with the other hand. If the pot is tightly packed with roots, it may be difficult to remove. Try tapping it against a hard surface, or if that doesn’t work, cut it off.
Roots that are spiralling around need to be gently teased out and straightened as much as possible, otherwise they’ll keep winding round once in the ground too and the plant will never thrive. Place the plant in the hole with the roots spread out and the top of the rootball level with the ground, possibly deeper for roses.
Water the plant thoroughly before planting, so plants in leaf take up plenty of water and stress is minimised.
Partly backfill around the roots with the excavated soil and firm gently to get rid of any air pockets, so the roots are in good contact with the soil. Then top up with more soil if necessary and firm down. Water in well and keep watered during dry spells next spring. Over winter, check the plant every month or so and firm in if it has been loosened by wind or frost.


Encourage roots to spread by adding organic matter to the soil over the entire area.

Shrubs to leave until spring

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