Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
March, 2007
Regional Report

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Bare-root roses are packaged in bark mulch and should be planted as soon as possible.

Transplanting Trees and Shrubs

Does your landscape need some new trees and shrubs? Perhaps you need to move small shrubs that were planted in the wrong spot or that may be getting too crowded. How about adding some new rose bushes at bargain prices? I've been garden store hopping and have found some real deals on bare-root roses. Now is one of the best times to take action and plant bare-root plants and transplant smaller bushes and trees.

Lifting and relocating deciduous shrubs, roses, small trees, and many perennials while they are still somewhat dormant or just starting to grow is best done in early spring before the onset of the hot weather. Plants without their foliage will suffer less transplant shock and acclimate more quickly if we take action while the temperatures are cooler and there's sufficient soil moisture.

Ready the Site
Before you proceed with transplanting, prepare the new planting site by adding a sufficient amount of compost or other organic matter. I like to use about one-third by volume of homemade or commercial-grade compost with two-thirds native soil. You don't have to make the planting hole too deep, but concentrate on making it two to three times wider than the spread of the roots. This will allow for the roots to spread without crowding. The extra time you take in soil preparation will pay dividends in a healthy and vigorously growing plant.

Moving a Large Plant
A rule of thumb for digging trees is to start at a distance from the trunk equal to approximately 1 foot for every inch of trunk diameter. For shrubs, the distance should be about 1 foot beyond the spread of the widest branch or dripline point.

This can be easily accomplished by digging a trench around the plant and then gradually prying the root system from beneath with a heavy-duty spading fork. Any damaged or broken roots can be carefully pruned off when resetting the plant.

When you get ready to transplant any bare-root shrubs or small trees, elevate the crown of the plant an inch or so above the surrounding grade. This will allow for natural settling of the backfill soil. And you don't need to do a dance around the transplanting hole once you complete the planting. This will compact the soil too much and reduce soil porosity that's necessary for healthy root growth.

Now is also a great time to take advantage of the sales on bare-root nursery stock, including roses. Some of the nonpatented roses can be found for as little as five dollars a bush. The moisture from this winter's melting snow makes conditions just right for planting. I'm digging it, and the plants love it, too!

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