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Relocating And Transplanting A Shrub or Tree


Transplanting trees and shrubs may appear an easy task, but deceptively so! Many transplants die due to improper transplanting. If you need to relocate existing plants to another location in your landscape, there are steps to take that can improve the likelihood of survival.

When should you conduct your shrub and tree transplanting? For most trees and shrubs late winter (February in Georgia) is the best time for transplanting, however, anytime during the fall and winter dormant season is okay. In summer it's not advisable, with the exception of Southern Magnolias.

Step-By-Step Transplanting Instructions:

1. First, consider location. Prior to relocating a plant, note the environment the tree or shrub has been growing in: sun, shade or part shade - wet or dry soil. Make sure to relocate your shrub or tree to a spot that has similar conditios. For instance, don't locate a plant that prefers lots of moisture next to one that prefers dry conditions: their needs will be incompatible.

2. Next, dig the hole at the new location before you dig up the tree or shrub that you intend to transplant. Estimate the width and depth of the rootball by doing a bit of exploratory digging around the plant. The width of the new hole should be twice that of the rootball. The depth should be kept a bit shallower, to avoid puddling and root rotting. When you reach the bottom of the new hole, do not break up the soil at the bottom of the hole. This could cause the tree or shrub to sink after transplanting, inviting rot.

3. Mix in compost or planting mix, such as Claycutter or Mushroom Compost, at a 50/50 ratio with the soil that you excavated from the new hole.

4. Next, dig out the tree or shrub selected for transplanting. Don't start digging right at the base of a tree or shrub. Rather, start digging at a point a foot or so outside and around the perimeter of the plant. Remember, the general rule of thumb when transplanting an existing shrub or tree is to keep as much of the rootball and soil intact as possible. The larger a plant the wider the root system. Usually you will have to cut through some roots on a more mature plant. Once you've removed enough soil from around the sides of the plant, you'll eventually be able to slip your shovel under it and begin to loosen the plant's grip on the soil below it. After it's loose, spread a tarp on the ground nearby and gently move the tree or shrub onto the tarp. Note: For older, more established plants or trees it may be necessary to hire a professional landscape contractor who has the equipment necessary for digging, lifting and successfully transplanting larger specimens.

4. Using the tarp as a transporting medium, drag the tree or shrub over to the new hole. Gently slide it into the hole, and get it straight, making sure also that the top of the root system is level with the existing ground around the hole. Now begin to shovel the excavated soil-compost mixture back into the hole and around the roots. Tamp this soil down firmly and water it as you go, to eliminate air pockets. The formation of air pockets could cause the tree or shrub to shift after transplanting.

5. After filling the hole, create a water retention ring around the newly transplanted plant. Mound up the soil in a ring just oustide and around the perimeter of the plant, forming a berm that will catch water like a basin. This will help you achieve your main objective from here on out - keeping the new transplant's roots well watered from rain or the hose, until it becomes established.

6. A light shearing or pruning of most transplants is recommended. During the digging out process some roots were damaged or cut, and pruning some of the top of the plant away to compensate for this root loss is beneficial to the recovery and stimulative process.

7. After transplanting, water your newly transplanted plant deeply with a solution of water and Root Stimulator. Root Stimulators contain B vitamins and other nutrients that will enhance and stimulate new growth. Root Stimulators are available at your local nursery and garden center.

8. Spread a 2" layer of landscape mulch, or 4" layer of pinestraw around the new transplant. Make sure to always keep landscape mulches a few inches away from the base of the tree or shrub.

9. Fertilize your newly transplanted shrub or tree is best done with a non-burning, organic fertilizer such as Milorganite. Apply about a cup of organic fertilizer per 1 inch of trunk diameter. Fertilize again in mid-spring and again in early fall. Other organic fertilizers, some of which contain chicken manure, are also available.

10. Water your transplanted plant regularly, especially during the first summer, but make sure not to over-water as this may literally drown the roots and cause root rot. Proper watering is as essential as anything to success in shrub and tree transplanting.

NOTE: Keep in mind that even if you follow the above steps that your transplant may not be a successful one. These instructions are provided to increase the odds for a successful transplant of a shrub or tree. Good Luck!

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