Spring : Tips for Successful Transplanting

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Tips For a Successful Transplant.  

Last summer when most of my plants were at their peak, I could easily observe where I had overcrowding, voids, plants not preforming well due to specific environmental conditions in my yard, and unattractive plant combinations.  Time to change it up! I have made a plan of perennials that need dividing, several shrubs that need to be relocated, and some additional specimen trees and shrubs that I would like to incorporate into the landscape.

Early spring and late fall are optimal times to transplant, when plants are dormant or nearing dormancy. Trees and shrubs root pruned in the fall, and fall flowering perennials are traditionally transplanted in spring.  Alternatively, spring rooted pruned trees, shrubs and spring flowering perennials are transplanted in the fall. Transplanting potted nursery stock can be done any time of the year as the root systems are contained in pots.  However, they still require the same amount of care in terms of planting and upkeep as would an established planting being relocated from one part of your garden to another.Transplanting very large tree

Ultimately, our plants success will rely on the care that we take to properly prepare the specimen for transplanting, proper soil preparation for planting transplants, managing irrigation practices to compensate for changes in environmental conditions, and monitoring overall plant health after it has been transplanted.

Before you begin digging plants out of the ground, you want to make sure that you have your planting area prepared.  choose an appropriate location for the subject plant, taking into account such things as exposure to wind, light, drainage etc.  Dig the hole larger than the root ball of the plant to be transplanted. It is always a good idea to amend the soil removed from the new planting hole with composted organic matter to help improve the chemical and physical structure of the soil (drainage for heavy clay soils, moisture retention for sandy soils, nutrient holding capacity, and aeration.) You may also want to consider incorporating bone meal or mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae are fungi that colonize the root systems of the plants.  They help increase a plants ability to absorb water and nutrients essential to plant growth such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.


When digging a plant for transplanting, it is essential that you try and preserve as many feeder roots as possible.  Feeder roots are important as they are responsible for absorbing a majority of essential nutrients and water, so try to dig as big a root ball as possible.  Probe around the plant you are attempting to move, and try and determine the extent of the spread of the root system in the ground. This will vary with different soil types. when transplanting potted nursery stock, examine the root system of the plant once it has been removed from the pot.  Sometimes plants will become root bound as a result of having spent to much time in a pot.  The roots become dense and tangled, and need to be loosened either by hand, or scored with a serrated knife prior to planting. root bound plantThis will help to encourage new root development.

You are now ready to place your transplant into its new home.  Carefully transport your plant being as cautious as possible to minimize root disturbance.  Place the plant in the new hole, and make sure that the crown of the plant either matches the finish grade of the existing soil, or is slightly higher if the subsoil at the bottom of the planting hole was disturbed.  This will allow for some settling.  It is important not to plant to deep as this will limit that ability of the roots to provide plants with oxygen, which in turn will stunt growth.  Furthermore, if too much back fill material is built up against the base of a woody plant, it can lead to decay of the bark. Begin back filling the planting hole with your amended soil. This should be done in increments, gently compressing the back fill in lifts to prevent settling. Once you have completely back filled the hole thoroughly water your transplant to encourage any further settling of the back fill, and remove any air pockets that may remain around the root ball of the plant.  Finish it all off with a thin layer of mulch to insulate the roots and help retain moisture.

One final note - make sure that your transplant is watered regularly.  The top several inches of soil should be moist, but not saturated.  If the soil is dry, increase your irrigation time and intervals.  Weather conditions will always affect how often you have to irrigate, so be sure to monitor your plants closely to ensure that are receiving adequate water.

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