Is that cute little holly you planted next to the front door a few years back now threatening to take your arm as you pass by? Now, and during the next few months, will be the best time to transplant trees and shrubs from one part of your yard to another.

Transplanting a Magnolia TreeTransplanting shrubs and trees can be a daunting task.  Many of us are worried that we might kill the plant in the process. Here is a different mindset that you may find less stressful.  Look at it this way:  The plant is not doing you any good where it is at, otherwise you probably would not be considering moving it.  So your goal is to get it gone. But if you are going to remove it, you might as well try to use it elsewhere.  If it lives, consider it a bonus. If it doesn’t, you still accomplished your goal of getting it gone from where it didn’t belong.

So with that load off our minds, let’s figure out how to try to make the transplant a success.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Water the plant well a day or two ahead of time, so that it is not thirsty when it comes time to transplant.  Of course you don’t want to be messing with a muddy rootball, so don’t water right before you plan on digging.
  2. If necessary, tie the branches up and out of the way, so you can get in close enough to dig.  Since the plant is now dormant you can cut back bushes or thin out older trunks to make the plant more manageable.  (If you are transplanting during the spring or summer months, you should avoid pruning at time of transplant)
  3. Dig a large enough rootball that you are avoiding cutting off many feeder roots.  Knowing what size root ball to dig when transplanting is the tricky part.  On large shrubs start out digging down about 18-24 inches out from the trunk of the plant.  If you are not seeing many roots, you can move in a few inches with your shovel, and dig again. Don’t go any closer than about 12 inches out from the trunk.  As you dig around the plant, angle your shovel in towards the plant. For trees, plan to dig a root ball about three feet in diameter.
  4. Work your shovel around the plant, and the plant should begin to give way as you dig. Once you are successfully able to work you shovel completely under the rootball you are ready to remove it from the ground.
  5. The goal is to keep as much of the soil in tact with the roots as possible.  Have a tarp, piece of plastic or burlap handy to set the root ball into. Try to lift the plant out of the ground from the underside rather than pulling on the branches. Use twine to tie the plastic or burlap around the rootball.
  6. Have your new hole already dug, so you can replant you bush or tree back as soon as possible.
  7. Try to dig a hole at least twice the size of the rootball and about the same depth.  When you are replanting tamp the soil around the rootball as you go to help avoid creating pockets of air, which will soon become pockets of water.
  8. Avoid piling soil over the root ball.
  9. Water the plant well as soon as possible.
  10. Water once a week if not getting a decent rain. Keep in mind the plant or tree may need supplemental watering its first spring and summer in its new home.

These ten transplant tips from Autumn Hill Nursery and Landscaping in Jasper, Georgia might not ensure that your transplant is a success, but it will at least give your transplanted tree or shrub a shot at living, and get it out of your way and into a more desirable space. Next time you are looking to create a landscape design, give us a call at Autumn Hill. Calling in a designer for your landscape can help you avoid this problem in the future!

Img via Flickr.

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