Plant Installation Tips Take it Back to Basics

Before a plant is even installed, we need to make sure it is the right plant for the right place. At times, we sell plants because the customer requests them, even though we know that this is not the right environment for that plant. The plant struggles, and we look bad. If we had educated the customer first, we could have avoided this—and looked like a hero instead of a heel.

Planting height is also very important. Some nurseries, while cultivating trees in the growing process, cover the root flare. On balled and burlap trees, we need to remove enough burlap to find the root flare to determine the correct planting height.

Plant handling is a subject we rarely talk about. Yet, few things are more upsetting than seeing someone grab, and carry, a container plant by the plant itself. We see this with grasses and small shrubs. Imagine if your parents had carried you around by the hair when your were a child. Ouch! We don’t see the results of plant injury for weeks or sometimes months. But when we do, they show up in the form of dead limbs.

Don’t forget to water the newly installed plant. Watering after installation not only gives sustenance to the plant, but also gets all the air pockets out and settles the soil around the plant. You’d be surprised at how many people use hope as a technique: Hope it rains or hope the irrigation comes on in time. It’s important to remember the critical timing of plant installation and watering after installation.

Technician-Exterior certification is top draw

The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) offers several certification programs, and the most popular is the Landscape Industry Certified Technician-Exterior exam. This combination written and hands-on test is administered throughout the United States and Canada by state and provincial association licensees. Nearly 4,000 people actively hold this credential in North America.

As the summer heats up, so do the testing opportunities. Dozens of volunteers work with association staff to set up the test site and conduct testing across the U.S. and Canada. Why do they do it? I urge you to read “In the spirit of volunteerism” in the spring issue of Inside Certification. You’ll also want to watch an excellent video produced by licensee California Landscape Contractors Association and supported by PLANET that captures their efforts in a way words can’t describe, while also highlighting the value of certification.

I am a Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician, but it was the Technician-Exterior designation I sought first. I was the first to pass the test in Ohio, so I had “celebrity” status from the start. This helped me to get involved, take on leadership roles, and improve my understanding of this field. I learned to question how I’d done things to that point. The answers I found pushed me to another level in my job knowledge and performance. I wanted to coach and mentor more, which for a trainer are critical qualities.

The exam encompasses a choice of specialty areas—softscape installation, hardscape installation, turf maintenance, ornamental maintenance or irrigation. Recommended study materials, available through licensees or PLANET, offer solid preparation for the exam. The Landscape Training Manuals for Technicians with supplemental videos can be used for general in-house training for your company. Take a tour of these manuals and videos at

David Hupman, Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician, is a production specialist with Brickman in Loveland, OH. He is a trainer for Brickman offices in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Kansas. In his role as chair-elect of PLANET’s International Certification Council, he serves as the ICC liaison to the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association Certification Committee.