The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Crowded Plants

Question: I have a boxwood, golden thread cypress and rhododendron that where planted too close to each other. When they were smaller, it was okay, but now that they are more mature, they are getting too crowded. When is the best time to transplant these types of plants and is there anything I need to be careful with while transplanting?

Answer: I think we've all had experience with plants that outgrow their designated spots, and moving them is usually the best solution to the problem. It's easier on plants (and the gardener!) to move them during the cooler weather of spring or autumn, and with natural rainfall at those times is also beneficial. Prepare your plants for the move this fall by thoroughly soaking the soil around the plants the day before the planned move. Dig new holes prior to unearthing the plants, and dig a generous root ball to avoid damaging too many roots. Depending upon how long the plants have been in the ground, you can expect lateral roots to extend at least as far away from the plant as the tips of the branches, and between 12" and 18" deep. Try to keep the rootmass intact as much as possible and transfer each plant to its new hole as quickly as possible. Make sure the plants are set into the ground at the same level as they were growing before, and water them in well. To help them adjust, water throughly once each week. By next spring the roots should be established and the plants should resume growth. Your rhodie may not bloom on schedule - or it may surprise you and bloom inspite of the move. Good luck with your project!

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