It’s time to start transplanting

Randy Drinkard Contributing columnist

January 31, 2014

That’s odd - you could open your front door just fine a few years ago when you planted those small hollies nearby. But now you have a hard time getting in and out of that very same door because those plants aren’t so small anymore. You are probably wondering how it got so crowded near the door and how it happened so quickly.

Indeed, these shrubs were beautiful by your front door or under the picture window or in front of the porch - just a few years ago. But you forgot how big they would grow. And now you can’t get the door wide open or see very well out the window or feel that summer breeze when you sit on the porch.

You may be thinking that planting those shrubs near the door was actually a mistake. The problem is that they are way too big for where they are growing. On the other hand, they are too attractive and healthy to destroy.

You don’t have to live with your mistakes - simply move them to a more appropriate place. But don’t wait too much longer - do it now during winter. January is one of the best times of the year, maybe the best time, to move those plants.

If you do it right, there is no reason they shouldn’t survive and thrive in a new spot in the yard. Thus, you’ll still be able to enjoy these plants in the landscape. And you’ll be able to put smaller, more appropriate plants in the places the big shrubs have overgrown.

Research indicates that you don’t need to severely cut back the tops of shrubs when you move them. They will need a good canopy of leaves to manufacture food to help rebuild their root systems.

When you dig up a large shrub, try to save as many of the roots as you possibly can. The best way to do this is to dig a trench around the plant with a shovel. That will leave a ball of soil around the root system. Carefully cut underneath the ball and place a piece of cloth or burlap under it. Two people can carry the shrub by lifting the four corners of the burlap.

Once you’ve dug the plant, transplant the shrub as quickly as you can. This is the key to the transplant’s survival. The longer the plant is out of the ground, the faster the roots will dry out and the more “transplant shock” it will endure.

Remember to reset your transplant at the same level or depth from which you just removed it. And most importantly, water it in thoroughly as soon as you finish planting. Don’t take a chance on a rain shower coming along.

Rain may not occur for some time and your newly moved plant needs a really good watering-in immediately after transplanting. A thorough watering immediately after transplanting replenishes moisture in the soil and helps eliminate any air pockets that were created around the roots.

Now place a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch material around the transplant and you should be finished. But a word of caution. If there is an extended period without rain during the next few weeks, you could still lose it. Don’t let the root system dry out. You may need to water it from time to time. Keep the roots moist, but not overly wet, and it should do fine.