Hydrangea macrophylla 'Red Bull'

How to plant shrubs

Autumn is the ideal time to plant robust shrubs like roses and viburnums. Find out more in our guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
To do
To do

Do not To do in January

Do not To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do not To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do not To do in July

Do not To do in August

Do To do in September

Do To do in October

Do To do in November

Do not To do in December

Shrubs of all sizes, including hydrangeas and shrub roses, form the permanent framework of most garden borders.

Autumn is the ideal time to plant them, however container-grown shrubs can be planted at any time of year as long as the ground isn’t frozen, waterlogged or too dry.

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 fertiliser, to get your shrub off to a good start.

Pot-grown shrubs can be planted out at any time of year. Learn how to get the best results from planting shrubs, including where to plant and which fertiliser to use, in our No Fuss Guide, with David Hurrion, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine:

More shrub-growing advice:

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


You Will Need

  • Garden spade
  • Garden fork
  • Well-rotted manure or garden compost
  • Slow-release fertiliser

Total time:

Step 1

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 below soil level. Use a fork to break up the sides and base of the hole.

Digging the planting hole
Digging the planting hole

Step 2

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 cut it off.

Removing the shrub from its pot
Removing the shrub from its pot

Step 3

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.

Placing the shrub in the planting hole
Placing the shrub in the planting hole

Step 4

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 by giving it a gentle wiggle and firm in if it has been loosened by wind or frost.

Backfilling around the shrub
Backfilling around the shrub

Post-planting care

Encourage roots to spread by adding organic matter to the soil over the entire area. Snip out any dead, damaged, diseased or crossing stems after planting. Find out more on how to formatively prune shrubs.


Shrubs to leave until spring