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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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!