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Planting potted trees in cold weather? Confused.

New gardeners here... thanks for the advice we have already received! We have some Elaeagnus x Ebbingei potted trees we have ordered arriving this week or next week and are keen to plant them asap so they can establish and grow a bit next spring/summer. Hopefully planting this Sunday 26th Nov. On the Friday and Saturday before, the Met Office says there is a low of 2°C/1°C where we live (high of 6/7).
From what I've read/heard, I'm a little confused about if/when it's ok to plant these trees in colder months. Both of our parents say to plant them before frosty weather, but most things I've read say that only applies to bare root? And potted plants can be planted whenever Nov-March?
What is the actual danger, that the plant will die in the pot, or that it will die after planting from frozen soil/ground?
Can anyone offer their opinion/advice on any precautions/measures we should take when planting or if it's ok? Would covering the ground in horticultural fleece before planting be a good idea?
We are based in Wiltshire, chalky soil. Thanks in advance.


  • The usual advice is that it's preferable to plant in the ground as they will be more insulated than in a pot. Ideally I'd have done it a month ago when it was warmer but as long as the planting holes are prepared properly they should be fine to do now. It also matters how big are they, the bigger the potted plant the more maintenance it will need to keep healthy in order to plant them in the spring. 
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • @amancalledgeorge thank you, in terms of preparing the planting hole what do you mean exactly? We were planning to dig the hole, add root grow, plant trees and fill gaps with compost and cover with landscaping bark. Anything else?
    For reference the pot size is 30L, they are 3/4 size standard espalier trees.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 5,278
    edited 21 November
    @mail79514 Any compost that is added must be mixed well with the soil that you remove to avoid a sump. Evergreens can spend much of the winter coping with the weather and can deteriorate. Newly planted specimens are particulaly prone to stress.

    The arrival of spring gives them the chance to get going again and grow well. However last November saw heavy rain followed by a December of minus temperatures, this kills roots, a windy site can also be a problem for espaliers as they act like a sail. Cold winds can cause leaf spots/ scorch/ blackening of leaves.

    The use of MF is not always necessary as most soils carry enough micro organisms.
    I don't know if you are planting for privacy but these things take time, nature can't be hurried.

    I am sure you can sense my negitivity but I should add I struggle with evergreen espaliers they are unnatural and I am never sure if they appreciate being 'flattened out' but would prefer to grow in a natural way.

    What we plant and when we plant is never an exact science due to the weather this is becoming more of a problem in a changing climate.


    Looking forward to my new garden with clay soil here in South Notts.

    Gardening is so exciting I wet my plants. 
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,079
    I agree, get them in the ground as long as it isn't either frozen solid or waterlogged. If you can dig over and improve the soil in a larger area around where you're going to plant, that's good for encouraging the roots to spread out. If you fill in a planting hole with compost without breaking up/improving the surrounding soil, the roots will most likely stay within that planting hole. Also if you're in a clay soil area the hole can act like a sump and fill up with water. If you don't have enough compost/soil improver to improve a larger area, best to just plant in the loosened soil and use the compost as a mulch. I think the jury is out on whether rootgrow is beneficial or not, but it won't hurt to use it if you already have it.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,554
    The usual advice is it's fine to plant as long as the ground isn't frozen. When you dig the hole, don't be tempted to dig and 'improve' the soil underneath where the root ball sits. Doing so can cause the rootball to sink, and you want to make sure the rootflare (the thickened base where roots meet the trunk) is planted slightly higher than the finished soil level. It is a good idea to break up and loosen the soil around the tree though, as the roots will find it easier to grow out horizontally. Increasingly people say don't add soil improvers to the backfill - just use the existing soil - but I would lay compost on top as a mulch.
  • thevictorianthevictorian Posts: 1,119
    I wouldn't use soil improver either. It's far better for the plant long term to spread the roots out in search of nutrition, rather than to give them what they want in a small space. 
    Most plants do better in the ground over winter for the reasons mentioned already and if you your soil doesn't become waterlogged in winter normally, it's where I would put them. 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,925
    edited 21 November
    Are these preached?  Preached  evergreens present a ‘sail’ which catches the winter winds … your trees will need very good staking. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

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