Transplanting always does temporary damage to plants and sometimes even kills them. However, your shrubs can survive transplanting – and go on to thrive – if you follow some simple guidelines.
Choosing the right time is one key to your shrub’s survival. Late winter or spring is the best time for transplanting because rapid spring growth means rapid recovery for your shrubs. Fall is the next best choice, as the cooler weather will cause less stress to the plant. Although transplanting in summertime is ill-advised, it is still possible with special care.
Make the transition easier on your shrubs by following these steps:
- Pick a location with the space, sunlight, and soil composition your shrub needs.
- Prune about a third of its foliage to speed its recovery.
- Dig up the plant, aiming deep and wide to get as many roots as possible. Leave the soil on the roots.
- Dig a hole in the new location twice as wide as your shrub’s root system, but no deeper.
- Position the plant in the new hole and fill it with the excavated soil, or with garden soil. Be sure to keep the plant straight while filling the hole.
- Tamp down the soil firmly, but not so hard that you break the shrub’s roots.
- Build a berm around your shrub to reduce runoff, then water it deeply. Adding a dilute liquid fertilizer will help it to recover faster.
- Keep the soil moist (not wet) for 3-4 weeks. Mulching 3 inches deep around the base of the plant (but not touching the trunk) helps it to retain water.
Here are tips to help your specific shrub survive transplanting:
- Rhizomes and shrubs with taproots (tulips, rhododendrons, dahlias, etc.) prefer spring transplanting rather than fall.
- If your shrub has to stay out of the ground for several hours, wrap the root ball tightly with burlap and keep it well-watered.
- If your shrub is large, consider root pruning during the previous fall. This involves severing the outer roots by cutting at least 12 inches into the ground around the plant.
- Provide summer transplants with shade for about a week to protect them from wilting and sun scald.
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