The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Shrubs

Question: I want to transplant my shrubs, what is the best way of doing this so hopefully I don't kill them. They have been in the ground three year & need to be in a bigger area.

Answer: Many shrubs can be transplanted successfully. The best time to move them is very early spring. You will want to take as much of the root ball (roots and soil) as possible. This can be very heavy so have a tarp or wheelbarrow ready, and maybe a helper. Make sure they are well watered the day before you do this. Also, prepare the new planting area ahead of time.

Use a sharp flat spade to dig straight down and then under the shrub. Start about 18 inches away from the trunk and see if there are any roots, if not, move in a bit closer and check again. Dig down as deep as possible when taking roots from beneath the shrub. When you have dug it up, replant immediately at the same depth as it grew before.

If you have lost a large number of roots it is a good idea to trim it back.You may even find it useful to prune the shrub back by a third to a half in order to work on the roots, this is fine for deciduous plants but is not recommended for most evergreens. After planting, water it in well and add several inches of organic mulch such as shredded bark over the root zone. Water regularly for at least a year as you would a new shrub until reestablished, this may take two to three years.

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