Tips for transplanting trees and shrubs in your garden

Redesigning your garden may involve transplanting perennials, shrubs or even trees. It's not a daunting task, but remember that timing is key because no plant should be kept out of the soil for too long.

Tips for transplanting trees and shrubs in your garden

The best time for transplanting is late summer or early fall. That gives plants the chance to put down roots and start growing before the onset of winter.

The right timing

  • Try to transplant during wet and cool weather to reduce stress on the plants.
  • Transplant evergreen trees and shrubs in April or October, when the soil is moist and warm.
  • Transplant shrubs that are sensitive to frost, such as mallow, hibiscus or hydrangea, in spring.

Transplanting large trees and shrubs

Trees and older shrubs should be prepared before being relocated — otherwise they won't tolerate the change. It takes two to three seasons to fully root-prune a tree but, in the end, a compact, well-branched root system will greatly increase your tree's chance of survival once it is moved.

  • In spring, dig a furrow (40 centimetres/15 inches deep and 25 centimetres/10 inches wide) one-third of the way around a tree, slightly closer to the trunk than you will eventually be digging when the tree is moved. By doing so, you can break long, unbranched roots, prompting the regrowth of new roots nearer the main trunk of the tree. Cut off the roots around the main shoots, at a slight angle toward the shrub or tree.
  • Fill the trench with fresh soil and compost and keep watering the plant well to promote the growth of new fibrous roots. Don't transplant until the following year.
  • Prune the shoots of the transplant by up to one-third of their length to prevent harmful effects from damaged roots.
  • A handful of bone meal and some mature compost will give the tree or shrub a good start in its new hole.
  • Keep transplants, whether perennials, shrubs or trees, from dehydrating by spreading a thick layer of mulch on the ground around them.

Transplanting perrenials

  • Transplant perennials after they've finished flowering. If you transplant in the spring, don't expect the perennials to bloom that year.
  • Transplant in late fall so you can save yourself the labour of extensive watering.
  • Add compost or humus to the hole for perennial plants to help them sprout new shoots.
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