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Now is a good time to transplant trees and shrubs


When planting a tree or shrub in the landscape, you want to make sure it’s in the final resting place, right? Of course this is the goal but it’s not always the way things work out.

Perhaps you have mis-planted a tree or shrub in a location that won’t be large enough for the plant in the future and decided you need to move it.

Or, maybe you have a lot of seedlings that you planted and over time, they have grown and need to be transplanted.

About seven years ago my husband and I started purchasing seedlings from the Clark Soil and Water Conservation District in order to grow them for a windbreak. We planted them in rows, about 2 feet apart in rows about 6 feet apart in the back of our property.

Today, we have some really nice-size evergreen and other assorted trees that need to be transplanted. Some in fact have gotten a little too big for us to handle.

In this case, we’ll leave some of the bigger ones in the back of the property as a screen. Those that are too close together will be cut down eventually. In the meantime, I am using the “too close” ones for my holiday greens.

Last week we had a chance to transplant several of the evergreens. We have done this in the past with pretty good success. It’s OK if we lose a few because we have plenty more to choose.

However, if you just have one plant and you really want it to survive, there are some steps to take to help ensure success.

First of all, a smaller and younger plant will likely be more successful. A larger plant requires a larger root ball, which becomes tougher to handle.

Most trees and shrubs can be transplanted any time of the year; however, there are better times for certain species. For instance, dogwood and magnolia tend to do better if transplanted in the spring.

You can do an online search to determine the best time of year for your particular tree or shrub.

Trees can be dug bare root and replanted or dug with a root ball. Either way, make sure the soil is moist at the time of digging.

Trees with trunks less than two inches in diameter can be dug bare root and transplanted. However, care must be taken during the transplant phase to ensure that the roots don’t dry out completely from exposure to air, wind and sun. Cover the exposed roots with wet burlap.

These trees might have to be staked to be held in place when replanted.

If you are digging a root ball, dig the largest size you can handle that will also protect the majority of the roots. A general rule of thumb is 9 to 12 inches of soil diameter for each inch of trunk diameter.

We generally end up with a combination of root ball and bare root. We try for a nice root ball and it doesn’t always work.

The most important thing to do if you are going to transplant now is to make sure you water the new location thoroughly, saturating the root ball and surrounding soil.

If newly transplanted trees and shrubs go into the winter dry, the chances of success decrease. You may have to water again before the ground freezes.


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