How to Dig a Hole for Plants

Dig a £10 hole for a £5 plant!
tree planting at United House of Prayer
‘A big hole for a big tree.’

It is often the easy gardening jobs that can be done better by a professional gardener but can you dig a better hole for planting?
For a long time I have just plonked plants in willy-nilly but then I started thinking about the place my plants were going to live for the rest of their lives.

Holes are Homes for Your Plants Roots

  • Roots anchor a plant safely in the soil.
  • The soil then provides water, air and nutrition for the plants growth.
  • Most roots are nearer the surface than you think. 95% of tree roots are in the top foot of soil.
  • The best soil is at the top. Sub soil is underneath the top soil and can be very compacted and lacking in humus and or drainage.
  • If top soil in thin you can break up the sub soil but do not bring it to the surface.
  • Read about healthy and unhealthy roots

Tips on Plant Holes

  • The hole should be appropriate for the plant your are planting both now and in the future as your plant grows.
  • Dig the hole at least twice as wide as your root ball but not necessarily twice as deep.
  • Most plant pots are round but roots want to have free reign. Aim for a square or oblong hole to discourage roots turning round and round.
  • Break up the bottom of the hole to aid drainage.
  • Add compost particularly if the soil is dry and sandy.
  • A slow release fertilizer can be added and mixed with the soil you will use for back filling. Bone meal, Growmore or blood fish and bone are suitably organic.

Tips for Planting into Holes

  • Plants grown in pots should be planted at the same depth. Put a cane across the hole and nestle the plant in place so the soil level showing on the plant is level with the top of the hole.
  • Clematis are an exception to the plant it level rule, they are best planted 6″ lower than their previous planting depth.
  • Trees and larger plants will need staking. Put your stake in place first so roots are not damaged.
  • Roots that are twisted around the growing pot should be teased out. Compacted soil around the root ball should be gently separated.
  • Pour water into the hole and let it drain away before planting. Keep trees and shrubs well watered for the first year.

Apollo Habtamu Planting his tree at the KMIS tree planting day

tree planting at United House of Prayer by nowyou33 CC BY-NC 2.0
Apollo Habtamu Planting his tree at the KMIS tree planting day by ILRI CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


  1. Healthy and Unhealthy Roots | Gardeners Tips - June 7, 2012

    […] themselves need to remain in peak condition and this is where the gardener can help. Start with the right hole in the right place and understand what and why you are doing […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes