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Plant Care
Transplanting Trees and Shrubs

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Moving - Easier Said than Done
Using a piece of heavy canvas or similar material, work this under the tree, and then lift the tree out and into the wheelbarrow or straight into its new home.

If you are moving the plant far wrap the branches and leaves with cling-film, wrapping a roll around the tree to stabilise the branches, and pack damp pea straw, newspaper or similar inside the canvas material around the root ball, and bind with twine to limit the exposure of the roots to the air.

Replanting
Before you start, make sure the planting hole is big enough to take the root ball. Any plant that sticks out of the ground is not going to be a happy, healthy plant but a transplant must be planted at exactly the same depth.

Orient the plant the same way. The old sunny side should be the new sun-facing side. Position the wheelbarrow/plant right way on. Ease the plant into the planting hole. Check the depth of the tree by laying a cane over the hole to ensure that you achieve the correct planting level.

Begin to fill
Begin to fill the gap between the plant and the sides of the planting hole. Work around the tree, filling it evenly rather than one side at a time. As you go, firm the soil into place with your boot, without compacting it. Tread firmly without tramping the earth solid.

Fill the hole to the same level on the trunk as the soil mark on the trunk. Don't over fill; take any excess soil back to the hole left by the transplant.

The Kindest Cut
Trees and shrubs with a lot of top growth may struggle to re-establish unless you cut them back. Removing some of the leafy growth will reduce the demand for water and help the plant to cope with the huge upheaval.

Use your secateurs, loppers and pruning saw and be gentle. Make sure the cuts are clean and without the ragged edges that are more vulnerable to infection.

Mulch and Water
Mulch the tree with 5-8cm (2-3in) of bark, pea-straw or other material to deter weeds and help retain moisture in the soil around the tree.

Water thoroughly.

Tie the tree to the stake with a tree tie. Ties should be stretchy; strips of rubber are often used and even pantyhose will suffice. Make sure that the ties are firmly tied but not so tightly that they 'strangle' the tree.

Filling the Gap

Take leftover soil back to the hole left by the removal. As there never seems to be enough soil, add a generous amount of well-rotted compost and work it together, filling the hole. Replant any perennials and bulbs temporarily removed.

After care
Remember to water your transplant regularly, and especially whenever it is dry, for the first one to two years at least.

Take care not to over-water in cold and freezing weather as you can freeze the roots damaging them. For larger trees or those in exposed site, a length of pipe placed in the hole at planting time will allow you water to the trees root system in the first, vulnerable year.

In all but the most exposed sites, remove the tree ties after a year. The tree should be able to stand on its own and must develop a good root system if it is to flourish in the long term.

Check tree ties every few months to ensure that they are not rubbing or cutting into the tree.

Filling the Gap
Take leftover soil back to the hole left by the removal. As there never seems to be enough soil, add a generous amount of well-rotted compost and work it together, filling the hole. Replant any perennials and bulbs temporarily removed.

Know Your Limits
Larger trees and even substantial shrubs are best left to the experts. There are many specialists with the skills and equipment to move larger plants. Get two or three quotes and ask direct questions about their technique and experience.

Enjoy
Transplanting may seem to be more effort than it is worth, but a mature tree or shrub plays a significant part of any planting scheme. Those growing years are important, especially for the larger plants in the garden. Once the effort is over and a plant has been moved energy returns and you can enjoy that new planting plan. So, round robins over, enjoy!


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More on Plant Care



Work a piece of heavy canvas under the shrub
Work a piece of heavy canvas under the shrub

Watch Your Back!
Get help with liftingMoving even a small shrub is a heavy job, so get help with lifting. Be sure to bend and you use your knees to lift, saving your back.


Lift the shrub into the wheelbarrow then into its new home
Lift the shrub into the wheelbarrow then into its new home

Orient the shrub the same way and plant at the same depth
Orient the shrub the same way and plant at the same depth

Firm the soil with your boot
Firm the soil with your boot

Waiting in the Wings
If you can't replant immediately, then you must heel the trees in rather than leave them out of the soil.

Wrap larger specimens in hessian or pot up smaller shrubs. There are quite large planter bags available and these will hold large shrubs and rhododendrons for a month or so. Fill the planter bag with friable soil and keep moist.

Trenching a ShrubAnd if you are moving house, remember that you must not move shrubs unless you have specified this in your sale contract. (Do check with your solicitor on this, it can be very contentious.)

Cordylines like to stay put
Cordylines like to stay put


Trees and Shrubs that Move

Choosing A TreeMoving is a shock for anyone and plants are no exception.

Some small trees and shrubs move more easily than others. Deep or tap-rooted plants resent moving and are hard to shift. Young plants and those with dense, fibrous root systems move most easily. Trees that rapidly develop new roots systems also shift successfully.

Rhododendrons are renowned for being easy to move, cordylines are almost impossible to move successfully once well established.

Some shrubs that move easily
Azaleas
Camellias
Cistus
Lavender
Hebes (some)
Palms
Rhododedrons
Shrub roses
Viburnums

Dislike moving
Cordylines
Magnolias
Cornus nuttalli, C. florida and cultivars

Rhododendrons move more easily than most plants
Rhododendrons move more easily than most plants
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Last revised 10 Jun 02