Choosing the best shrub for your landscape starts with a good root system. Don't be afraid to lift it out of the pot and take a look. Produced by the Department of Communications at Kansas State University.

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Check the Rootball Before Planting Shrubs

So, you go to the nursery, it’s the most fun part of the spring season – picking out the plant that you love. You have your list of what you want to get and for example, you come up to a whole block of spireas. You want to make sure you get a good one. You pick this one up, and you say “Well, it’s got a pretty good rounded form, and it’s pretty full, it’s got a good tag, and it’s identified.” How do the roots look? You’re taking the roots home, too! Don’t be afraid to stick your hand in there, cover the top of the soil, and take the can off, and look at those roots. This one has very good root coverage. You should be aware, that if you start to take a plant out of a pot and the potting material starts to fall away, you should stick it back in the pot and let it grow a little longer to fill out the container. This one is good because you can see the root coverage. The entire ball is staying together. What I want to emphasize is, when you plant this, you should cut these roots. It’s important to redirect them, and help them want to go out to the soil and find new areas to put roots. There’s no specific method that works better, just get a box knife and hack at it a little bit. So, this one would be a good one to choose.

Buying local is so important. It’s not just an issue of economics – it’s an issue of survivability. Plants that are sold at your local independent garden center are far more likely to have been produced locally. They’re more acclimated to our climate, and they’ve probably been chosen for their suitability for our climate. You’ll find this all across the United States.

This feature story prepared with Cheryl Boyer, Kansas State University Research and Extension, Nursery Crop Production. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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