The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Evergreens

Question: We have an evergreen/berry shrub that has lived here @ 20 years. We would like to transplant it to a new location. Reading previous Q&A, you stated to dig @ base of shrub. What if roots are thick, and WELL established? would we kill it if we were to cut off part of root?

Answer: Unfortunately it is difficult to give you a detailed answer without knowing specifically what kind of shrub this is, or how large it is. Generally, though, moving an older established evergreen of any kind is an iffy proposition for the average home gardener, with the exception of shallow rooted types such as boxwoods or rhododendrons and azaleas.

The older the plant the more stressfull the move will be for it, and it is amazing how heavy the rootball and accompanying soil can be for even quite a small plant. If the plant is at all large, you might wish to call in a professional arborist to move it for you or perhaps consider removing it altogether if it is truly in a bad location.

When you transplant any shrub it is best to take as many of the roots with it as you can. This would include the fat strong roots near the trunk and the thinner feeder roots further out from the trunk. Often the roots extend well beyond the "drip line". Unfortunately, the greater the proportion of lost roots, the worse the chances for a successful move. Some gardeners will root prune the plant ahead of time to stimulate some new root growth nearer the trunk, but this needs to be done in phases well in advance of the planned move. Finally, aftercare is very important. The shrub must be dug, moved and replanted immediately to minimize shock and then kept watered and mulched for at least a full year and probably longer until it becomes re-established.

Good luck with your shrub!

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