The Q&A Archives: Digging up Rivermallows

Question: I planted two River Mallows three years ago and I planted them too close to each other. Every year they come back larger than the year before, they are crowding each other out. They get alot of flowers on them every year and just look beautiful. I am wondering if I can transplant them in another part of my yard to spread them out alittle more but the problem I am having is that the root system is very large and I am afraid if I chop the roots, which will have to be done to move them, that I may kill them. My questions to you are: If I cut the roots to move them what is the possibility that they may die? Also, when would be a good time of the year to move them so I dont put them in too much shock? I appreciate the time you are spending to answer my questions. Thank you, Lisa from Chambersburg, PA

Answer: Glad you've found our suggestions and recommendations helpful in the past. We'll try to keep you well informed - all you need to do is ask!

River mallow or rose-mallow has the potential to grow quite large so moving one of your plants is probably a good idea. Since they've been in the ground for 3 years, they will each have large root systems but if you time the move right, they won't suffer too much from root loss. I'd wait until early next spring, before the plants produce new foliage, because they will be mostly dormant at that time. You can cut back the stems on the one you plan to move, just to make it easier to handle. Use a sharp spade or shovel and cut straight down all around the plant to sever the roots that are extending out more than 12-18" from the base or main stems or trunk of the plant. Expect the roots to be in the top 12" of soil, extending out 12-18". Dig the plant and then replant as quickly as possible so the roots don't dry out. Fill in around the remaining plant to cover the roots and once you've filled in all the holes, water both plants well. Water will help settle the soil and give the roots a chance to re-establish themselves. By the time the plants begin to grow, they should both have recovered from their ordeal.

Best wishes with the move!

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