What to know before you buy

You must follow these guidelines to qualify for a refund and you must apply a non-rock mulch.

Once you understand the requirements for your plant, you can select an appropriate site for it. Inappropriate site selection is the most common cause of failure in purchased trees, please educate yourself as we do not warranty against inappropriate site selection.  

Each plant will have site conditions required for it to grow effectively. Check the care guide on our individual plant pages for information about site selection. Here is an example from one of our Hybrid Astilbe:

All trees and plants are adapted to live in different conditions. In fact, there is a plant for almost any condition you can imagine. In addition, some plants are opportunists and can survive in many conditions, while others are picky about where they live.

There are three major factors that determine the site conditions. They are: soil, light and water. Each of them plays a distinct role in the success of the plant. Understanding how they work individually and in concert is an important step to becoming an accomplished gardener or having the yard of your dreams.


The amount of light and the time of day that plants receive light are both important factors during site selection. When determining how much light a plant needs we usually use this generic guide, but as you get more experienced you will learn that plants are more complicated than this general guide lets on, while not perfect it is a good rule of thumb for the beginning gardener. 

  • Full sun - more than 6 hours of direct sun per day
  • Part sun - 4 to 6 hours of direct sun per day, including some afternoon sun
  • Part shade - 4 to 6 hours of direct sun per day, mostly before midday
  • Full shade - less than 4 hours of direct sun per day, mostly before midday

The time of day that plants receive light is important is because the afternoon sun is hotter than the morning sun, so plants will have an easier time taking it in. Morning sun is also beneficial because it drys dew from the leaves. This tends to evaporate problems with leaf spot and fungus (good ventilation is another important component of fungal control).

If you live far north (e.g. Michigan, Wisconsin, Vermont) or south (e.g. Florida, Texas) you may need to adjust these due to the increased or decreased angle of the sun.


Soil is incredibly important because it holds moisture, contains nutrients, and allows roots to grow. Getting a soil test, with samples from different areas, is a great way to understand your yard. Almost all trees, and a majority of our perennials, prefer soil that is light, loamy, rich in organic matter and consistently moist. The perfect soil holds both water and tiny air pockets allowing roots to access either as needed.

One of the easiest ways to ruin good soil is through compaction - driving heavy equipment, cars, mowers and even regular foot traffic will cause soil compaction. Most newly constructed homes suffer from compaction as the equipment required to build and the removal of light loamy dirt in favor of structurally sound clay or rock leads to poor soil conditions. We get quite a few customers with new construction that can't understand why new trees continually fail. They probably didn't read this guide. Some trees are much more sensitive to compaction than others, so check the care guide for more information.

Achieving the light loamy soil that plants love isn't easy, but it is possible with time and care. The best mechanisms for doing this include planting deep rooted easy to grow plants a few seasons ahead and mulching heavily with hardwood mulch. Mulch is the best way to improve your soil, rings around trees and beds for perennials will protect your soil from the compaction caused by mowers and foot traffic. Mulch keeps soil moist by keeping the sun off the soil and keeps out competitive grass and weeds. Hardwood mulch is best because it decomposes. Rock isn't mulch and cypress and cedar won't add to the soil. For these reasons we require mulch on all new plantings!

Some plants don't want light loamy soil, like sedum, so check the nursery card. Others will be adaptable as long as you have the correct light and water conditions, but curating good quality soil should be a priority if you want a health happy yard or garden.


The amount of water a plant needs varies and is affected by both soil and light. Plants like to have accessible water at all times, but most roots can't survive in standing water or even wet soil. Most plants prefer moist, but not wet soil that drys out slowly and consistently before being soaked again. Trees and plants that are situated in poor soil usually struggle with root growth and water. 

Imagine a sponge that is soaking wet, when you squeeze water surges out and the sponge remains nice and moist. Good soil is like a sponge. It will suck up lots of water, drain off too much water pretty quickly and remain moist for a long period of time. Compacted soils tends to shed water or hold too much, then dry out quickly and stay dry. Most plants don't tolerate these extremes well. Sandy soils tend to dry out more quickly and many plants like this long as they have access to plenty of water and nutrients. That said, sandy soil near the ocean tends to contain salts that most plants don't tolerate.

Finding the appropriate water regiment for your tree or plant is important. Overwatering, soil that doesn't drain well, can be as bad as under-watering. Poor soil simply makes the watering regiment more difficult. If you are inexperienced with watering we recommend a moisture meter. This tool will give you objective data about the soil and remove guess work.

The method of watering is important. Image trying to drink from a 5 gallon bucket being poured over your head. With good soil the sponge soaks up some of this water, but much of it escapes you and the sponge. This is what happens when you water with a bucket or hose for 3-5 minutes. Rather than pour a large amount of water quickly, use soaker hoses, tree diapers, or even a 5 gallon bucket with pin-holes to achieve a slow steady rate of flow. Water your plant with a consistent slow flow over an hour, the water will stay near the roots for longer, the soil will hold more moisture and the water will penetrate deeper. This method of watering, encourages deeper root growth and increases a plants tolerance to drought.