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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 29, 2011

From: Babylon, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Replacing shrubs with perennials in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We removed a lot of shrubs from our back yard that had been there for many years. We now want to plant perennials but there seems to be a lot of very deep roots in the soil. The roots look dead but I'm not sure. I tried to remove some of them but it is a lot of work. Can we plant in this soil?

ANSWER:

If you have dug the roots out and have workable soil to a depth of a foot or so, you can go ahead and plant perennials.  If you had very vigorous shrubs that you did not actually kill, you may have a bit of a mess, but if the roots are actually dead, they will gradually decompose, add nutrients to the soil and improve the drainage.

You will want to plant perennials that are tough enough to "make a go of it" so we recommend you plant native perennials.  You can visit our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search for New York selecting Herbs (herbaceous plants) and your light and moisture conditions.  You can also narrow your search for bloom color and time preferences to help with your planning.  Each plant on the list has a link to a detailed information page (with images) that will also tell you what wildlife benefits the plant may provide.

Have fun!

 

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