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Dean Johnson

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Trees & Shrubs

Transplanting Shrubs

transplant shrubSometimes, a shrub gets planted in a spot that later proves to be inappropriate for any number of reasons.

  • Shrub is too big.
  • Shrub is too small.
  • Bed is too sunny.
  • Bed is too shady.

In most cases, though, it can be transplanted to a more beneficial part of the yard as we describe in the following steps.



Preparing Shrub

preparing shrubThe best time to transplant a shrub is when it's dormant (mid-autumn to early spring).

But we recommend easing the shock of transplanting by preparing the shrub a couple of months prior to moving it.

First, trim back the shrub's branches by about a third. That's to reduce the amount of foliage the plant has to support.

Second, Tie the branches up into a tight bundle to give you room for the third step.

Third, cut the longer roots in a circle around the shrub roughly equal to the spread of the branches after you trimmed them back.

shovel rootsTo cut the roots, just dig down in a circle around the plant, pushing in a square-nosed shovel every six inches or so.

The idea is to encourage the shrub to send out new, shorter roots that will develop into a nice root ball by the time you're ready to transplant.

Be sure to untie the shrub after you're done cutting the roots!

To finalize preparations for transplanting, water the shrub thoroughly a couple days beforehand to get the rootball moist.

And for a quick transplant, you should probably dig a hole for the shrub in its new home BEFORE you actually move it. You don't want it sitting out of the ground too long.



Moving Shrub

moving ShrubWhen you're ready to transplant, tie up the shrub's branches to keep them out of the way.

Dig down around the shrub about 18 inches deep, duplicating the circle you made before when you cut off the longer roots and creating a trench wide enough to later pry up the rootball. But don't dig into the rootball itself!

Use the shovel as a lever then, pushing it under the rootball and pulling up on the handle to free it. Repeat that process as needed all the way around till it breaks free.

bundled roots of shrubBut to keep the rootball intact during the transplant process, wrap it in burlap before pulling it out of the hole.

It's awkward, but you can spread half the burlap on one side of the rootball, bunch up the other half at the bottom of the ball, push as much of it through as you can and then pull it from the other side as you rock the ball. Use twine to secure the burlap.

If you can lift the ball, set it in a wheelbarrow to move it. If it's too heavy, have a tarp standing by and roll it onto that. Then you can pull the tarp to the shrub's new bed.


Re-Planting Shrub

replanting shrubFor re-planting, you can leave the burlap and twine wrapped around the rootball since they will decompose.

Set the shrub in its new hole and backfill around it.

Cut away the twine and the burlap left exposed at the top of the rootball, since the burlap can wick moisture away.

Untie the shrub's branches and water the plant thoroughly as with any new planting.

And if you're transplanting in late fall in a colder climate, keep the roots moist until the ground freezes. Then come spring, you should also make sure it gets adequate moisture till it's fully established.


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