TopTropicals guide to in-ground planting

South Florida or similar temperature zone

This planting guide was created specially for South Florida and can be used for most areas suitable for in-ground planting of tropical and subtropical plants.

See also: How to plant a tree?

1. Plan before you Plant

Make a sketch of your property showing existing plants, driveways, buildings, and overhead or buried utility locations. Play it safe and call your local service two business days before digging to find out where buried facilities (electric, gas, telephone, cable, water) are located. The "one call" utility locator service is free. For Florida residents: Sunshine State One Call of Florida (1-800-432-4770, //

  • Determine mature height and spread of your selected trees. Consult reference books, the Internet, or contact us. Make sure you give your trees adequate room to grow.
  • Do not plant large trees under utility lines or where they will grow to interfere with utility lines or equipment. Plant trees with a small mature height near or under overhead utility lines.
  • Do not plant trees or shrubs where they will block traffic signs or views at corners.
  • Do not plant trees too closely.
  • Do not plant tree with invasive roots (such as ficus tree) that might damage pavement
  • Use small trees, shrubs and vines to provide shade for walls and windows, if there is not enough space for a large tree.
  • Provide shade to your outside AC unit to increase its efficiency.

2. Plants should be kept in containers until the last possible moment before planting.

It's a good idea to water plants the night before you plant. If it's too dry, the root ball could fall apart on you when planting.

3. In the center of the planting area dig a hole at least two-three times the diameter of the container

Most South Florida soils are alkaline and extremely low in organic matter content. That's why we recommend digging as large hole as possible and modifying your soil by adding peat moss, composted cow manure (you can buy it in Home Depot or similar store) or another organic reach component when planting tropical trees and shrubs. Most shrubs and trees normally develop shallow root systems and the wider planting hole can make a significant difference in the rate of establishment in hard soils.
We suggest mixing components directly in the planting hole adding slow-release fertilizer, like Osmocote or Nutricote or any other "slow release" or "controlled release" fertilizer. Usual soluble fertilizers are inefficient in S. Florida.
During rain season or when irrigation is used majority of the applied solubilized fertilizer is quickly leached beyond the root. This fertilizer is unavailable for the plant and contributes to the pollution of our ground water. Make sure that fertilizer you're using contains microelements which are extremely important for plant health. For more information see our brochure about fertilizers.

4. After you prepare hole, add enough soil mix at the bottom, so that the top of the root ball is flush with the top of the hole

Soak soil mix in the hole and let it settle. Make sure soil mix is compacted under the root ball, so the plant doesn't "sink". If part of the trunk gets below ground, its bark may root.

5. Place the tree in the hole

If the tree is in a container, pull the container away from the root ball. Don't pull the tree out by its trunk. With small containers, you just hold the plant at the top of the root ball and then turn it upside down. Tap the sides to loosen the container, grab it and let the root ball slide out. For larger containers, simply tilt the pot onto its side, tap it lightly, and gently slide out the root ball. You can also cut the container off. If you see roots growing from drainage holes try not to damage these roots.
Important! Container plants tend to grow roots in circles. So before planting take a knife and make few vertical cuts down the roots to get them growing out again.
Place the root ball in the center of the hole and adjust the tree so it is straight and at the proper level. Stand back and look at the tree now - before you put the soil mix back into the hole. You can make adjustments at this time without seriously harming the root ball.

6. Start filling the hole in and around the root ball with prepared soil mix

It's a good idea to add slow-release fertilizer in the mix. Tamp the soil around the root ball gently with your foot. When the hole is half full fill the remaining space with water to settle the soil and allow the hole to drain. Repeat until the hole is full. If soil settles after a few days of watering, additional soil may be required to refill the hole.

7. Cover the entire loosened area of soil with 3-4 inches of mulch

It will slow water loss, reduce competition from weeds and grasses, will moderate soil temperature in hot weather. Keep mulch 2-3" away from the trunk base oytherwise the stem might start rotting.

8. Water is absolutely essential for new plants.

Make sure you provide lots of water during first two or three months.

9. Staking trees larger than 4-5 ft is recommended

It prevents dislodging by wind, people, and animals. Make sure the stake ties do not cause damage to the bark. The stakes should be removed after two or three growing seasons.