The Q&A Archives: transplants

Question: best time to transplant: smoke trees / bush and varigated hollies?
spacing between plants, special fertilyzer?? ground prep?? sunlight ?? smoke bushes doing well, hollies a bit crowded not filling out almost 3 -4 yrs.....

Answer: Smokebush is very deep rooted and thus difficult to transplant unless it has only recently been planted in the past year. I would move it in September. Take as much of the root ball as possible. Trim it back to compensate for lost roots. It needs a location with full sun all day, average soil that is well drained. This can grow quite large (tree size) so allow it ample room. Do not overfertilize; if grown adjacent to a lawn that is fertilized it may not need any more than that. You could top dress with a complete granular or slow release fertilizer in spring, top dress once or twice a year with compost, and use an organic mulch two to three inches thick over the root area. The mulch will help feed the soil slowly as it breaks down over time.

There are many different types of hollies, so without knowing which specific cultivar you have it is difficult to give you an idea of its mature size. Hollies grow best in sun either all day or all morning through noontime, and need a location with protection from winter wind. The soil should be slightly acidic, organic and humusy, and evenly moist yet well drained meaning not soggy or sopping wet. I would transplant in very early spring as soon as the ground can be worked (not frozen, not too muddy.)

Hollies prefer an acidic soil and are not terribly heavy feeders, a slow release fertilizer for acid loving plants such as Hollytone should be fine, read and follow the label directions. Compost and mulch as above.

Hollies will stay dense at the base if allowed to develop their natural shape and grown in adequate sun. Although they will tolerate shaping, most hollies have a fairly symmetrical natural shape and so do not actually need much pruning at all.
In a shady location they will grow thinner, especially at the base. If pruned, it is important to keep the top slightly narrower than the base so sun can reach the bottom branches. If pruned incorrectly, the lower branches will defoliate due to lack of light.

Hollies are naturally slow growing plants, especially if compared to the very fast growing smokebush. They also need a few years to become established and rooted and begin to grow normally again, whereas smokebush is more easy going and grabs hold and grows -- also, deciduous plants as a rule tend to grow faster than evergreens. So what you are seeing may be normal in terms of growth rate for the hollies. If they truly seem stunted, there may be a problem with the roots such as encircling roots or failure to root into the surrounding soil or having been planted too deep or something like that. You might take some photos of the overall plant and closeups of the new growth and consult with your county extension or a professionally trained and certified nurseryman to see if they have any other suggestions.

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