Early spring is the plant-moving season, when established plants may be safely relocated. Spring’s cool, wet days are perfect for the job.


Every landscape has at least one plant that needs moving. Perhaps it is crowding other plants or too close to the house or has overgrown and looks out of scale.

Early spring is the plant-moving season, when established plants may be safely relocated. Spring’s cool, wet days are perfect for the job.

Digging a plant causes shock. Plants have main roots for support and fingerling roots that spread out and gather nutrients and water. You can never dig all of the fingerlings, and this means the plant must survive on less water and food.

The primary cause of plant death upon transplanting is lack of water. It is especially serious with large, established ones that have lost more than 50 percent of their roots.

Plants are still dormant in spring. Days are cool and often rainy. When the plant wakes up in its new home, shock will be minimized.

This sounds strange, but when you move a plant it becomes a new plant. It takes three years for a plant to fully establish, a new one or a moved one. That requires an inch of water every week in the summer to minimize stress.

Another mistake is to fertilize. A dose of nitrogen can cause the plant to create more leaves than it can support when the nitrogen runs out. Let the roots grow and the new growth will come. A strong dose of chemicals can damage new roots.

When you find a candidate for replanting, decide where it will go. Try to find a spot similar in soil, light and dampness.

Plan for growth. I replanted a 6-foot pampas grass that had outgrown my perennial bed. It was very crowded, so I found an open area in the side yard for it. It is growing happily and has tripled in diameter.

For digging, cut a 3- to 4-foot circle around the plant. Remove the top dirt down to its roots. Cut the side roots, maintaining their length. Then run your shovel under the plant and pop it up. The plant can lose half of its roots and still survive. Plants bought from nurseries usually have 75 percent.

Your new hole should be twice as deep as the root ball. Fill the bottom with compost or composted manure mixed with soil. Then soak the hole with water before planting.

Trees probably will need support for the first year.

The best plants to move have a fibrous root system with many small branches. These will regenerate quickly after replanting. Moving can give them new vigor as they work hard to produce new roots.

Plants with strong taproots, a large, single root stretching deep into the soil, are more difficult. You must dig as much of it as possible, as it stores and collects water and nutrients. If you dig a plant and find it has a major taproot, it might be a good idea to leave it alone.

Mulching helps maintain moisture, but do not place mulch directly against the plant. It can cause rotting.

Replanting offers many benefits. You’re recycling a plant, turning a liability into an asset. All it costs is your time and energy.

Canton Repository