Moving Shrubs: How to Move Shrubs and Small Trees

Early spring is a great time to move small shrubs around. Sometimes the shrub is in the wrong place and not thriving, sometimes you decide that you are changing the landscape and relocating the shrub is part of that design. Whatever the reason is for moving the shrub, moving it in the early spring will give it a good chance of survival.

  • Start by gathering the tools you will need:

A shovel: Ideally this will be a ‘D’ shaped, heavy-duty spade;

A fork: Again, heavy duty is the key;

A dolly or wheelbarrow: This is really useful for transporting the shrub from place A to place B. A dolly is low to the ground and great for larger shrubs that you cannot lift easily. A wheelbarrow requires that you are able to lift the object into the barrow without too much hassle.

  • Digging the Shrub out:

Start by gauging where the main roots of the shrub are. In mature shrubs you may find that they extend several feet, but the really important ones are within two feet or so. With the fork, start digging around the perimeter of the shrub, lifting slightly as you go. Small shrubs may be able to be dug out with just a few lifts from the fork, larger ones will need the spade. Using the spade, dig out around the edge of the shrub and slowly dig further down until you are level with the base of the main root ball. With the whole root ball exposed, you will be able to lift the shrub out of the hole.

  • Replanting:

Ideally you will have a new hole already made for the shrub. If not, make a suitable size hole that will sit the shrub at the same level in the ground, as it was before. The hole should be wide enough to comfortably be able to accommodate all the roots without looping them around the hole. Refill the hole with soil and tap down firmly to make sure that the roots have contact with the soil for nutrients and moisture. Water the shrub well. Check that the soil has not settled below the level of the surface and mulch well.

Sometimes the new location is not ready and the shrub has to be placed in a temporary hole. This is called ‘heeling in’ the shrub. Dig a suitable size hole, place the shrub in the hole and loosely replace some of the soil, but do not tap down the surrounding soil. I prefer to use leaves over the top of the hole so that the roots stay moist, but do not grow into the surrounding ground while it is waiting for a new home. Move the shrub as soon as possible.

Shrubs and trees, just like perennials can be moved while they are still small, and so long as they are treated well, most will survive just fine.

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