How To Plant & Care For Podocarpus

Podocarpus is an especially easy-to-grow plant in temperate to mildly warm regions. It is quite unfussy about its lighting situation, although brighter light brings faster growth. Originally from Asia, the plant is a darling of landscapers, both for its adaptability but also the way in which it can be grown. Pruning the plant to any desired shape does not offend it and even espaliering is an option. It is also tolerant of air pollution, poor drainage, compact soil and even drought, once established.

Soil Preferences

Podocarpus are a very tough plants that thrive in the most adverse conditions tolerating a wide range of soils, including well-drained clay. They prefer a moist but well-drained sandy soil, however are exceptionally drought tolerant when established. As with so many other ornamental plants they not like constantly soggy or wet soils, which can cause problems with the roots. Very alkaline or heavy soils may cause nutrient deficiencies.

Light Preferences

Podocarpus plants tolerate a wide range light exposures, growing well in full sun or full shade.

How To Plant A Podocarpus

Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and not much deeper than the root ball. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.

Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area it might be beneficial to amend the native soil. When planting in dense clay or other compacted soils it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some bagged top soil, sand, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in moist but well-drained soils of average fertility there is no need for adding a soil amendment.

Step 3

To remove your Podocarpus plant from the nursery container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the piot to loosen the root ball. Then try to gently remove the plant from the container. If the root ball is stuck it’s best to use snips or a utility knife to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the sides and bottom surfaces of the root ball.

Step 4

Set your Podocarpus Yew in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.

If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) improve soil drainage in the planting area or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils.

Step 5

After setting your Podocarpus in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.

Step 6 (Optional)

When planting your Podocarpus in a site far away from a water source in well-drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a 3-inch high water retaining berm (catch basin / doughnut) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a growing season or two.

Step 7

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Podocarpus with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.

Step 8

To conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, apply a 1 to 2″ layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your plant will appreciate. Avoid the use of freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot

How To Water a Podocarpus

Podocarpus prefer a well-drained soil. When young they’ll require some water to establish roots, however are quite drought tolerant when established. As with so many other ornamental shrubs and trees, constantly soggy or wet soils can harm Podocarpus plants. So be careful not to over-water them!

How To Prune a Podocarpus

Podocarpus do not require pruning however respond very well to it for shaping purposes.

Pruning or shearing to shape your Podocarpus for formal hedges or shapes can be performed almost any time of year. That said, to avoid damage to new growth that is stimulated by pruning, cease pruning your Podocarpus plants two months prior to the average first frost date in your area. Pruning can resume after the plant has gone dormant.

Damaged branches should be removed as they occur. When pruning a damage branch make your cut at a point at least two inches beyond the point of breakage or damage.

Hard pruning using bypass hand pruners or loppers to reduce size or for topiary purposes should be performed in late winter before new spring growth emerges.


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