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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Search Results for ' Transplanting'

PAL Questions: 21 - Garden Tools: 2

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Keywords: Transplanting, Rhododendron

PAL Question:

Some friends of mine just bought an old house with a huge rhododendron up against the house. It is at least 8 feet high and probably 10 feet wide. I did not dig around and there may be multiple shrubs growing next to each other. What are the chances of moving the rhody successfully? Should it be cut way back before hand? Any particular time of year for moving it?

View Answer:

Fortunately, rhododendrons are very likely to succeed in being transplanted. Most experts recommend fall as the best time to transplant. Spring or late winter is second best.

The real challenge is getting a large enough rootball. A five-to-six foot plant requires a rootball of about 3 feet in diameter.

Step 1- dig a 12-18 inches deep trench around the rootball.
Step 2 - under cut the rootball to sever the roots from the underlying soil. The most important roots are the small feeder roots, not the big old ones. You can use a steel cable with a tractor or you can use a shovel and digging iron and a lot of hard work. The rootball will probably be about 8 - 12 inches deep and 3 feet in diameter.
Step 3 - tilt it on its side and slide a piece of 1/2-inch plywood under the rootball and set the plant upright. Use the plywood to move the plant to its new location. (A tarp works, too, if you can get it underneath the rootball.)
Step 4 - dig a new hole 4 feet in diameter and deep enough so that the rootball is 1 inch higher than the depth of the hole. (Slightly above grade)
Step 5 - water well and mulch around the perimeter of the plant BUT keep the mulch at least 2 inch away from the trunk of the plant.

Newly transplanted plants need some tender care and especially need to be watered regularly, but not over watered.

There were no recommendations to cut the foliage back. But it is always ok to prune out dead, dying, diseased or deranged stems. This also means you can prune out twiggy growth.

This information comes from Success with Rhododendrons and Azaleas by H. Edward Reiley (1992).

Season Fall
Date 2006-02-16
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Keywords: Acer palmatum, Tree planting, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I would like to transplant a Japanese maple, probably 5 years old and about 8 feet tall. Can I do it in late October/November safely in St. Louis? And what is the best method?

View Answer:

Japanese maples are best transplanted when they are dormant---usually late fall through early spring if the ground does not freeze in your area.

The following information comes from Japanese Maples (by J.D. Vertrees, 2001, pp.61-62). This book also contains good information about mulching and general care:

When moving a plant to a different location within a garden, the plant must be dug with an earthen ball intact around the roots. If the plant is of any size or age, this root protection is important. It is also desirable that the planting hole be prepared in advance, ready to receive the plant with its root ball, as soon as it is dug up. Having the new planting hole ready minimizes the risk of the fine feeding roots drying out. For this reason it is imperative that, whatever method, material, or timing is used when planting a Japanese maple, the roots are not exposed to air or direct sunlight for any length of time. Such care will help prevent them from becoming desiccated, which would cause too much transplant shock and possible loss of the tree.

The planting hole should be dug slightly larger than the root mass of the plant. To enable the root system to establish itself quickly, it helps to mix with the soil organic compost, such as composted conifer bark mulch, rhododendron or azalea planting mix, or rose compost. In tight , heavy clay soils the compost helps condition the soil, while in light, sandy soils the compost assists in water retention. Sawdust or wood chippings should never be used as, during their breakdown, they use up the available soil nitrogen and render it unavailable to the newly planted tree.

The planting hole should be deep enough so that the root collar of the plant, the ground line at which the young plant was grown, is level with the ground surface. The exception to this rule applies to tight, heavy soils, like clay, where success will be greater if the hole is rather shallow so that the root system is partly above the ground level. When filling in the hole, the soil should then be mounded up to the root collar to protect the roots from drying out. If deep holes are dug in heavy soil, it is like planting the tree in a large iron kettle with no drainage. Surely the plant will soon drown and die.

Whatever the soil conditions, the tree should never be planted deeper than the root collar. After the first season or two, the plant will find the level of root activity at which it can exist in particular soil conditions. I have observed maples growing in some surprisingly dry, shallow, and exposed conditions.

Season All Season
Date 2006-11-14
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Keywords: Transplanting, Bamboo

PAL Question:

I transplanted some bamboo and now some of it is dying. Can you give me some information on how to transplant bamboo correctly?

View Answer:

The following is an excerpt from the American Bamboo Society webpage.

Q. How do I transplant part of a large clump of bamboo?
Transplanting is hard work and involves digging a large chunk of root ball out of the ground. Never transplant bamboo when it is shooting. Dig bamboo either very early in the spring before there’s any chance of shooting or wait for the growth period to be over late in the autumn. You should look for a clump of culms that has come up in the last year or so and which includes at least three or four healthy-looking culms. A good size for the clump would be at least two feet in diameter. Bamboo roots (rhizomes) are tough but must not be allowed to dry out even for a few minutes. You may have to use a very sharp shovel, ax or saw to separate the roots from the rest of the grove. If you will be transferring the division by truck, then water the leaves and roots well, wrap the whole thing in plastic and get it into the ground as quickly as possible.

Season All Season
Date 2006-06-02
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Keywords: Rooting, Yucca, Propagation, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I have a number of large Yucca plants in my yard that I would like to dig up and transplant. I am not entirely familiar with this type of plant, but have noticed that, likely due to the age of these plants, several trunks have sprouted from the mother plant and have begun growing as what appear to be separate plants. However, these extensions are easily lifted from the ground and show no evidence of independent root development. Can I cut the new plants from the original plant and get these to take root elsewhere?

View Answer:

Following is some information that may help you in transplanting your Yuccas.

TRANSPLANTING

From Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener’s Guide by Mary & Gary Irish (2000, pages 65-68)

    In mild winter climates that have hot summers, particularly hot and dry summers, fall planting is best, so that root systems establish through the mild winter before the onset of the stressful summer season. If planted in early spring, plants must be carefully watered and shaded from the sun during the summer to prevent sunburn and debilitating heat stress…When planting agaves [& yuccas], regardless of the soil type, raise the center of the hole slightly, just an inch or so, and plant the center of the plant at the top. The crown of the agave [or yucca] particularly is susceptible to infections, and when the soil inevitably subsides after planting, the crown can sink below the soil line. The practice of raising the center of the planting hole slightly is helpful in all the stemless members of both families to prevent crown rots.

    For all plants, begin by digging a shallow hole no more than the depth of the root system….Backfill the planting hole without soil amendments or with a very small amount of compost. Tamp the soil lightly as it is backfilled to prevent excessive settling later...

    Moving mature arborescent plants, such as some members of Beaucanea, Furcraea, Nolina or Yucca, is more difficult. These large plants are sensitive to root and stem disturbance, and wounds of the basal growing platform in Yucca can introduce a host of infectious agents into the plant. If possible, it is much more advisable to move such plants when they are young and nearly stemless.

PLANTING TOES & SUCKERS

From American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation by Alan Toogood (1999, p. 145)

    TOES

    Uncover the roots of a mature plant. Remove swollen buds (toes) from the parent rhizome, cutting strain across the base of the toe. Pot each toe singly in a free-draining medium, at twice its depth. Water. With bottom heat (59-68 F) the toe will root in 2-3 weeks.

    SUCKERS

    In spring, carefully uncover the base of a sucker. Cut it off at the base where it joins the parent rhizome. Dust the wounds with fungicide. Pot the sucker singly in a free-draining medium, such as equal parts soilless potting mix and fine grit. Keep at 70 degrees F until rooted (12 weeks).

Season All Season
Date 2007-04-20
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Keywords: Shrubs--Care and maintenance, Syringa, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I have a dark purple lilac tree growing on the north side of my home. It does not get a lot of sunlight. I am wondering about replanting it somewhere else in the yard. When can I do this?

View Answer:

Lilacs should be able to tolerate moderate shade, according to The Plant Care Manual by Stefan Buczacki (Crown Publishers, 1993). You can move it to a sunnier location to see if it will thrive there.

The best time to transplant a lilac is before it leafs out (late winter, when it is dormant) but apparently they are somewhat tolerant of being moved at less-than-ideal times. The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden discussion forum also recommends transplanting lilacs in dormancy, and offers links to additional information. Blooming should not be affected, unless your bush is already leafed out and in bud.

Season All Season
Date 2006-08-11
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Keywords: Schizachyrium, Plant care, Transplanting, Ornamental grasses

PAL Question:

Schizachyrium scoparium seems to me to be difficult to transplant. They die on me when moved. What could I be doing wrong? The time of year? Adequately watered?

View Answer:

According to the Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, Schizachyrium scoparium requires full sun, prefers good drainage or sloping ground. Does not persist on highly fertile soils or in excessively moist conditions, and suffers if the crowns are crowded by mulch….


Propagate by seed or by division in spring.


Grasses are sensitive to soil level, especially when young. Ideally, the crown of the grass should sit just slightly above the soil surface. Planting too low can rot grasses and planting to high can cause them to dry out and die.


…mulch of all sorts can be an efficient method of controlling weeds and conserving soil moisture. Many species, such as Schizachyrium scoparium, cannot tolerate having mulch pushed up around their crowns, a practice that often promotes rot and disease at the base of the plant.

Source: Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses,” by R. Darke, 1999, pp. 121, 276.

Season All Season
Date 2006-10-05
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Keywords: Trees, Transplanting

PAL Question:

Can you direct me to information available on the transplant tolerances of different tree species?

View Answer:

There is general information on transplanting trees and shrubs from Morton Arboretum.

There is a table on "Ease of Transplanting" from Principles and Practice of Planting Trees and Shrubs by Watson and Himelick (Int'l Society of Arboriculture, 1997). It is the longest list of any I have found that covers this topic.

Season All Season
Date 2006-12-14
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Keywords: Rosa, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I have a rose (rosa) bush in the back yard, under a tree, it seems to be thriving but no one can see it blooming. I want to move it to a more prominent place in our yard. What is the best time of year for transplanting this rose?

View Answer:

Moving your rose out from under the tree is probably a good idea. Roses: 1001 Gardening Questions Answered by the editors of Garden Way Publishing (1989), says that the best time to transplant it to its new location is early spring or late fall. Before moving it, prune it, “leaving three to four canes. Prepare the new hole in the ground (and) give it some extra attention after it is planted.” This resource says that spring transplanting is preferred, because with warm weather on the way, the rose will have a better chance of starting new growth. When digging up your rose, dig a circular trench one foot away from the crown of the plant, removing the soil around the plant with your shovel. Loosen the root ball, and then take hold of the crown and push it back and forth to loosen it. Then lift it out of the hole. Dig a deep hole in the new location. Add two inches of compost, build a mound of soil, and spread the roots over it. Fill in with topsoil, make a ridge of soil around the base of the plant, and water well. Afterwards, water carefully, neither too much nor too little.

Season All Season
Date 2008-01-24
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Keywords: Hedera, Transplanting

PAL Question:

Do you have any information on how to transplant Hedera colchica?

View Answer:

Before you transplant your ivy, be sure to verify that it is not on your county's noxious weed list. Hedera colchica, or Persian ivy, is not listed on King County's site, but it may still share some of the self-perpetuating and plant- and structure-damaging properties of English ivy (Hedera helix).

I searched our books on ivies as well as our periodicals databases, and did not come across anything specifically about moving Hedera colchica. I would assume that what applies to the genus, as far as the procedure for transplanting, should apply to this species also. Below is general information I located.

The American Ivy Society has general information on moving outdoor ivies. Search under "Resources: Q & A."(You may wish to contact them directly for information specific to Hedera colchica). Here is an excerpt:

"You can dig up ivy fall or early spring and move it. If you are in a really cold climate you will best results transplanting in the spring.

"Dig around the base of the ivy stem leaving as much root & soil as possible. Dig the new hole wider and deeper than the root ball. It is good to plant ivy deeper-- as much as 3-4" deeper if possible. That will secure the ivy in the ground and help to prevent drying while it acclimates to the new location. Water regularly making sure the ivy does not dry out but do not keep the soil too wet.

"I would suggest mulching with almost any organic mulch like pine needles, leaves or chipped bark. This also helps to keep the soil moist and the temperature even.

"You will need to give the ivy some TLC for the first few months but once it gets started it should be fine. It is always a good idea to keep newly planted ivy carefully water for the first year or so. After that you can practically ignore it (depending on your climate) and it will survive with the natural rains or normal garden irrigation."

From The Helpful Gardener, an online garden forum:

  • First thoroughly water the plants and cut off a lot of the top growth to prevent dehydration (down to where there is growth evident - don't cut into old wood where there isn't anything growing from it).
  • Then dig the new holes for them - making them large and deep - and dig in some compost. Carefully dig up the ivies, taking all the roots and some soil around them, and put each in a bucket or piece of sacking.
  • Next, making sure the new hole is big enough, replant the ivies in their new homes, shaking the plant gently so that the soil settles around the roots.
  • Heel in gently, water generously, put some shredded bark or shingle on top to keep in the moisture, and keep well watered during dry spells.

Season All Season
Date 2007-04-04
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Keywords: Symphoricarpos albus, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I need to move some established snowberry shrubs forward about 8 feet to make room for a large 7' propane tank. I'm hoping to salvage the snowberry shrubs which are currently in a mostly shady location and would continue to be in shade after I move them. (I'm hoping they will block the view of the propane tank. Do you have any tips on transplanting this type of shrub? Or is it too difficult to do once they have reached 5+' tall? Am I better off starting with smaller snowberry that are only 3' in height?

View Answer:

According to the following information from University of Connecticut's Plant Database, snowberry or Symphoricarpos, is easily transplanted.

From an Olympia nursery catalog, Sound Native Plants:

Symphoricarpos albus - Snowberry
Exposure: full sun to shade
Soil moisture: very moist to dry
Transplanting success: high
Growth rate: rapid
Form: deciduous shrub to 2-6 feet; fibrous, shallow root system, spreads vigorously by suckers

Snowberry is an incredible survivor, flourishing in situations that would slay a lesser plant. It transplants well, tolerates sun or shade, withstands drought and/or occasional flooding, and spreads quickly even in poor soil or on steep hillsides. Another plus for snowberry is that it is one of the few native shrubs that stays small--it averages three or four feet tall--and thus is a good choice for areas where view corridors are important. Hooray snowberry!

If it makes it easier for you to move the plants, you can prune them back (this is usually done in spring). If individual plants have grown into a dense mass of stems, you can also dig up each whole plant and only replant smaller pieces of it.

Season All Season
Date 2007-06-02
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Keywords: Acer palmatum, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I need advice on moving a Japanese Maple tree. The tree is 10 feet tall, and has begun to grow unevenly because it was planted too close to a very large wisteria in front of our house. Ideally, we would only move it 8-10 feet, as there is a wide open space with lots of sunlight just east of its current home. I don't know how deep the Japanese Maple typically roots, or how difficult this may be, but any information you could provide would be very much appreciated.

View Answer:

According to the book Japanese Maples by J. D. Vertrees (Timber Press, 1987), Japanese maples do not have deep, tap-root structures, but are mainly a fibrous root network which stays in the upper level of the soil. As they mature, however, there will be roots going deeper, so if you are planning to move the tree, you will want to be sure to get as much of the root ball as possible. If the tree is not too old, it should be easier. Make sure to water the tree well and prepare the new site before you begin digging carefully.

The Royal Horticultural Society has general information on moving mature trees and shrubs which may be of use to you, keeping in mind that fall is a good time for you to move a tree here in the Northwest.

You can also contact a certified arborist for advice. For a referral, contact Plant Amnesty. You can also go directly to the local chapter of ISA, the International Society of Arboriculture.

Season All Season
Date 2008-02-08
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Keywords: Woody plant propagation, Transplanting, Arbutus menziesii

PAL Question:

We've lived in the Northwest for years and love madrone trees. Yesterday, we "rescued" two madrone trees from a construction site with the hope of transplanting them to our Seattle garden. After reading more information on madrone transplanting, I don't think it's an easy task. Do you have more information on this subject?

View Answer:

I've seen several references to madrone trees being difficult to transplant. This one is from Wikipedia: "The trees are difficult to transplant and a seedling should be set in its permanent spot while still small. Transplant mortality becomes significant once a madrone is more than one foot (30 cm) tall."

According to Native Plants in the Coastal Garden (April Pettinger, 2002), "Arbutus seedlings do not like to be transplanted because they have a single, long taproot." However, she does suggest they are not difficult to grow from seed by planting the whole berries in fall where you want the tree to be, and pulling up any extra seedlings that arise. According to Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants (Robin Rose et al, 1998), the seedlings will grow only a centimeter a year at first.

Even if the trees aren't looking great, it might be worthwhile to plant them and see if they come back from the roots, as they tend to have an underground burl that can re-sprout after the original trunk dies.

You might also try contacting the King County Master Gardeners, whose phone clinic can be reached at 296-3440.

Season All Season
Date 2007-10-01
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Keywords: Transplanting

PAL Question:

I have red osier dogwood, buttonbush, elderberry, and willow shrubs that I want to transplant. They are going to be transplanted near a pond to strengthen the riparian buffer, and I wanted to know if it is okay to plant them now. It's late October but it has been very warm, 70's and 80's, and not too cold at night yet. What are the optimal transplanting conditions for these plants and will they take if I plant them in the next week or so?

View Answer:

Are these mature plants, or nursery starts? Is it both hot and dry where you are? Fall is usually a good time to plant and transplant here in the Pacific Northwest, but we have ample fall rainfall. If it has been dry in Poughkeepsie, you might want to wait. However, I looked at the forecast for the next several days in your area, and it seems to be in the 40's and 50's, which should be fine.

Any relatively young plant should not present a problem when transplanting. Below are general guidelines for planting/transplanting:

Fall Planting of Trees and Shrubs from Iowa State University

Excerpt (keep in mind this is from the mid-West):

"If plants from a nursery can be planted in the fall, what about moving or transplanting established trees and shrubs from one locale to another? As you might suspect, severing the roots of a plant (up to 95 percent in some cases), hauling it out of the ground, and moving it to a completely new site is a stressful operation, regardless of the season. Still, transplanting can be successfully carried out if it is restricted to those plants with a proven track record of surviving such a move in the fall.

"Why is it that some plants can be planted at almost any time of the year while others are saddled with much narrower windows of opportunity? Reasons for these differences are a subject for debate, but the commonly held belief is that plants with shallow, fibrous roots can usually be planted with greater ease than those with fewer, larger roots. Prime examples of difficult-to-plant trees are magnolia and tulip tree; both have thick, fleshy roots. Other slow-to-establish species that are better planted in spring include fir, birch, American hornbeam, American yellowwood, ginkgo, larch, sweetgum, hophornbeam, oak, willow, bald cypress, and hemlock.

"Notable tree species that can be successfully planted in the fall include maple, buckeye or horsechestnut, alder, catalpa, hackberry, hawthorn, ash, honeylocust, Kentucky coffeetree, crabapple, Amur corktree, spruce, pine, sycamore, linden, and elm. Most deciduous shrubs are easily planted in fall; however, broad-leaved evergreens like rhododendron and narrow-leaved evergreens like yew prefer to be planted in the spring.

"Fall planting (mid-August to mid-October) takes advantage of favorable soil temperatures and moisture conditions that promote the root growth needed to sustain plants through their critical first year in the landscape. Unfortunately, our midwestern climate is unpredictable, and even the toughest plants may die if fall or early winter weather is severe or erratic. But if healthy, vigorous plants are chosen, if proper post-planting care is given, and if slow-to-establish species are avoided, fall planting of trees and shrubs can be as successful as spring planting."

Cornell University Cooperative Extension has an online manual on planting and care for trees and shrubs which includes a general recommendation of late summer to fall for planting woody plants in New York State, as well as a short list of species which should not be planted in the fall (it mentions Cornus, but not specifically red osier dogwood). The main reason not to plant too late in the fall would have to do with early frosts causing the plants to heave out of the ground.

The Cornell Gardening page has a link to the Cornell file.

Season All Season
Date 2007-10-24
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Keywords: Bougainvillea, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I have a Bougainvillea that has been in a container for a year. I would like to move it to a sunnier location, but it has taken root to the ground. What should I do to move it? I don't want to just pull on it for fear of tearing and harming the roots.

View Answer:

The best time to move or transplant your Bougainvillea is in early spring, before active growth begins.

Since your Bougainvillea is only a year old, it shouldn't be too difficult to transplant, but you should dig carefully around the base of the pot to try to loosen the roots which have made their way into the ground. You may have to break apart the container to get the plant out. Try to get as much of the root system as you can. Bougainvillea has very fine roots. According to Sunset Western Garden Book (2007 ed.), "the roots do no knit soil together in a firm root ball, and the are highly sensitive to disturbance." Are you repotting the plant, or planting it directly into the garden? In pots, Bougainvillea likes its roots to be somewhat crowded and potbound. The August, 2006 issue of Master Gardeners Newsletter from Travis County, Texas, says, "Don't place a Bougainvillea container directly on the soil or else risk the plant rooting out the bottom and creating quite a surprise when the plant is moved." So you are not alone in having this experience!

This document from University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension provides a lot of information about how to grow Bougainvillea.

Season Spring
Date 2008-03-13
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Keywords: Failure to flower, Helleborus, Transplanting

PAL Question:

One of my hellebores did not flower this year. I think the spot became too sunny with removal of a bush. When can I transplant it?

View Answer:

Hellebores should not have a problem with sun. They will do fine with a certain amount of shade in the summer, but according to C. Colston Burrell and Judith Knott Tyler's book, Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide (Timber Press, 2006), "the more sun hellebores receive, especially in spring while the foliage is expanding, the fuller the plants grow and the more prolifically they bloom. Light to partial shade is best for most species and hybrids. The stemmed species such as Corsican hellebore are likely to flop in shade, and they tolerate full sun." The authors also say that it takes 2 to 3 years for plants to bloom at full capacity, so if these are new Hellebores, perhaps they are still getting settled. After 2-3 years, the number of flowering stems should increase.

Have you removed last year's leafy growth? Perhaps if you do this, the plants will invest their energy in the flower stalks. The Burrell and Tyler book says that the winter foliage can cause problems if it becomes entangled with emerging flower scapes. Winter foliage can also attract aphids, which will drain the plant's energy as well. Be careful when removing the old leaves, as the sap can cause skin irritation.

If you wish to move the plants, I would suggest waiting until summer or fall when they are dormant. Moving them might mean you won't get flowers for a while, until the plants settle into new surroundings.

When transplanting, Burrell and Taylor indicate that "Small plants that are not root-bound recover from transplanting fairly rapidly. Once planted, sparse to moderate blooming occurs the following season. It takes two to three years for plants to reach full steam." p. 162.

Also, be sure that if you move it you replant it at the same depth it was growing at before, since deep planting can prevent flowering:

"Hellebores buried with their crowns in the soil exhibit inferor flowering, if they bloom at all, though they continue to produce foliage. The crowns produce short vegetative stems that raise the leaf buds up to the soil surface, but in our experience, when buried alive seldom flower." p.167

It is always hard to know the precise reason a plant fails to produce flowers, as there are many possible causes. I recommend removing the winter leaves, and waiting to see if the flowers return next year. I would not move the plants just yet, unless the site has become scorchingly hot.

Season All Season
Date 2008-04-12
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Keywords: Vegetative propagation, Transplanting, Hydrangea

PAL Question:

I have a very large hydrangea that has been in the ground at least 15 years. I'd like to move it, and have heard that it can be divided into several bushes. Are there any special details I should consider when performing this task?

View Answer:

I found a reference to the technique you describe in Hydrangeas: A Gardener's Guide by Toni Lawson-Hall and Brian Rothera: "DIVISION. Sometimes, when moving a large H. macrophylla cultivar, the plant falls apart during the operation. It has been found that, provided each section has good roots, planting the separate pieces is totally successful." This is similar to the process of layering, where branches are nicked and then pinned down into the soil to allow roots to form, and then severed from the parent plant with a sharp shovel six months to a year later. The small plants will be genetically identical to the original plant.

Season All Season
Date 2009-03-07
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Keywords: Transplanting, Rhododendron

PAL Question:

Can I move my rhododendrons now, in late winter to early spring?

View Answer:

According to A Plantsman's Guide to Rhododendrons by Kenneth Cox (Ward Lock Ltd., 1989), "rhododendrons are generally quite easily moved, most even in full flower and at considerable age. (…) Size is really no problem, provided you have the means to do the digging and the moving. Obviously, the more rootball you can take with the plant the better, but usually you can reduce it considerably without too much harm being done. If you end up with a disproportionately small rootball, you can reduce the size of the top somewhat to compensate. The roots of a rhododendron generally extend to about 50% of the plant's foliage diameter (…) it can be far more or much less. The roots are usually less than 18 inches deep, even on a very large plant. To move a large plant, start digging (…) quite far out from the stem, and continue towards it until you meet roots. Then dig all round underneath the rootball (…) gently rocking the plant to ease the rootball from the soil. Watch out when lifting a plant by its main stem; it may not be strong enough to carry the weight of the rootball. The root can best be reduced by prising soil from it with a fork. (…) A rhododendron can remain out of the ground for considerable periods if you keep frost and sun from the roots, and ensure that it receives regular watering. Heeling it into the ground, or covering the roots (…) usually gives adequate protection. Although rhododendrons can be moved during the growing season, they will require extra watering after transplanting."

In addition, you may find the Royal Horticultural Society's directions on moving a mature tree or shrub helpful.

Season All Season
Date 2009-03-07
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Keywords: Ornamental conifers, Cupressus, Tree planting, Transplanting, Soil amendments

PAL Question:

I am going to take my 6-foot tall Wilma Goldcrest out of the giant pot it is currently in, and plant it in the ground. I am seeking some sort of consensus on how to prepare the hole into which the tree is going. Someone said that I should not put compost in the hole because that will encourage the roots to just stay in the area of the hole. If that's the case, then shouldn't the "no compost" rule apply to all new plantings (which, of course, it does not)? Also, when should I fertilize the tree and what kind of fertilizer should I use? I always use organic fertilizers. What about putting some bone meal in the planting hole to feed new root growth?

View Answer:

I refer you to the following information from Washington State University Extension horticulturist, Professor Linda Chalker-Scott, who discusses planting procedures in her book, The Informed Gardener (University of Washington Press, 2008). She says that the planting hole need only be the depth of the root system, but should be twice the width. She advises against amending the planting hole in any way: Backfill the hole with native soil, not a soil amendment. The idea is not to 'spoil' the plant by putting rich compost just in the hole, which will deter the roots from spreading out into the surrounding area.

Her debunked gardening myths may also be found online. These two address soil amendments and planting. She also addresses the use of bone meal as a planting amendment.

'Wilma Goldcrest' is a cultivar of Cupressus macrocarpa, or Monterey cypress. The University of California's Garden Information publication on "Pines and Other Conifers"(including Monterey cypress)says:
"Pines and conifers require less fertilizer than most other trees and shrubs. Heavy fertilizing can promote rank, unsightly growth, destroying their natural, symmetrical, picturesque form." If you do wish to use fertilizer, a dilution of something like seaweed or fish fertilizer would probably not be harmful.

Here is more about fertilizing conifers from University of Minnesota Extension Horticulture.
Excerpt:
"Why Fertilize?
The plant itself will often indicate when it needs fertilizer. If growth rate and needle color are normal for a particular variety, fertilization is not necessary. If new growth is sparse or slow, or the needles are not a healthy color, or are shorter than normal, you should probably fertilize. Keep in mind, however, it is not unusual or abnormal for newly transplanted evergreens to exhibit slow growth until they're re-established.
Regular fertilization may be recommended if you are trying to grow evergreens in a less than ideal site, such as very sandy or heavy clay soil, or if the plant has suffered damage from insects or disease. You might also wish to fertilize to encourage more rapid growth in relatively young evergreens."

Local garden writer Ann Lovejoy says the following in her book, The Handbook of Northwest Gardening (Sasquatch Books, 2007): "I rarely feed plants directly, preferring to feed the soil with what are called 'feeding mulches,' made of materials such as compost, seed meals, kelp, and fish meals."

Season All Season
Date 2009-05-23
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Keywords: Pruning shrubs, Transplanting, Ceanothus

PAL Question:

I have a mature Ceanothus 'Victoria' that I'd like to prune and transplant. When is a good time to do this? It seems as if it has a deep root system.

View Answer:

Ceanothus 'Victoria' can be a bit difficult to transplant because the root systems are extensive, as you noted, but it is worth a try. I have transplanted this cultivar both successfully and unsuccessfully.

I would recommend either that you do not prune them or that you wait until August. You do not want them to grow much before you transplant them, and pruning during the growing season will encourage growth. If you prune them in August, they will grow very little.

Extensive pruning before transplanting sets up competition between the root system and the upper plant (responding to the pruning), as far as the plant's resources are concerned. After transplanting, you want energy directed toward the roots so that they might take hold and also so that growth above ground slows. If you choose to prune the shrubs, I recommend that you prune as little as possible. Prune from the inside, thinning and taking out dead branches, and removing a few lower limbs. You can also cut back some of the longer limbs, as this shrub can handle 'heading back,' as this type of pruning is called. Please note that this shrub is genetically programmed to get quite large, and pruning will not prevent this. Be sure the new spot can handle a shrub that wants to grow 8 to 10 feet up and out (possibly more!).

With this in mind, you can consider transplanting the shrub in the fall. I recommend October or later so that you can avoid a hot spell (which may promote upper growth and/or place the plant under stress). When you dig up the root system, retain as many of the roots and their native soil (surrounding them and holding them together) as you can. You will have to cut the deep taproot(s); that is unavoidable. The tiny, thread-like roots are more important to retain.

When you dig the hole, make it big enough to accommodate the soil around the roots as well as a bit of filler. You don't need to add new soil; simply backfill with the soil you dug out. You may have to water a bit, even in the fall, until our rainy season begins. You don't need to saturate the roots, but don't allow them to dry out.

Season All Season
Date 2009-06-18
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Keywords: Iochroma australe, Transplanting

PAL Question:

I grew from a seed from Kew Acnistus australis, now known as Lochroma australis. It is a small tree with white trumpet blooms. It is 8 years old and lives in the shade between two houses. I need to move it. Can you suggest methods for transplanting successfully? Also, any other information you might have about this plant would be great.

View Answer:

The current name of your plant is Iochroma australe (begins with the letter "i"), and it is in the Solanaceae family.

Is this tree hardy for you? Sunset Western Garden Book (2007) indicates that other species of Iochroma are not frost-hardy. Iochroma takes full sun to part shade, and requires regular watering. It is not a common plant in our area, and information about it is scarce. There is a reference to it in an article called "Get the Wows!" by Brian Minter in the October 2002 issue of Gardens West, where it is mentioned as an unusual container plant which is brought to a location under an overhang for the winter (in British Columbia). Iochroma is also featured in an article by Julian M.H. Shaw (pages 154-192) in the September 1998 issue of The New Plantsman (published by the Royal Horticultural Society). The name Iochroma comes from Greek for violet-colored. Since your plant has white blooms, it is probably a cultivar. There is one called 'Andean Snow' which has white blooms and is mentioned in the New Plantsman article. It grows "in a sheltered bay about four metres from the nearest wall," and is hardy in Nottingham, England.

Fall is often a good time for moving trees and shrubs. Be sure to get as much of the root system as you can when moving your Iochroma. I am assuming you are moving it to a sunnier spot, possibly one with some shelter from fall rains and winter cold. The Royal Horticultural Society has helpful information about how to move mature trees and shrubs.

Season Fall
Date 2009-10-21
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Keywords: Trillium, Transplanting

PAL Question:

My native trilliums (the beautiful white ones that have now faded to purple) are thriving in my woodland garden. I would like to know when the best time is to dig up a clump to share with a friend.

View Answer:

According to Michael Leigh's Grow Your Own Native Landscape (Olympia, WA: Native Plant Salvage Project, 1999), dividing Trillium is difficult because you must "dig deeply to ensure minimal damage to roots and rhizomes, take special care not to break the stems, and transplants may die back before reappearing the following spring." According to April Pettinger's Native Plants in the Coastal Garden (Whitecap, 2002), "Trilliums do not like to be transplanted, so if you decide to move them to another site, be prepared for them to take several years to flower again." My personal experience suggests that taking as much of the soil around those rhizomes as possible will give the plant the best chance of success, and I think early fall is the best time, although I don't find any source that specifies a time of year. Right after bloom may be fine too, as it is the recommended time for division according to the American Horticultural Society's Plant Propagation (DK Publishing, 1999).

Season All Season
Date 2010-04-21
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Keywords: Vegetative propagation, Transplanting

Garden Tool:

Early fall is that magic season in the garden when a good soaking rain and warm soil trigger a flush of new growth in perennials and some shrubs before cold temperatures slows everything down. This explains why now is an ideal time to transplant, divide and otherwise shuffle around your plants. For an illustrated essay on techniques and timing of dividing perennials go to: Clemson University Extension.

Season: Fall
Date: 2007-03-26
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Keywords: Transplanting

Garden Tool:

Summer is the worst time of year to transplant a tree, shrub or perennial, but sometimes circumstances force us to take action during the hottest, driest time of year. An out of print booklet titled Tree and Shrub Transplanting Manual by E. B. Himelick (available at the Miller Library) gives these tips for increasing the chance for success:

  • water deeply and regularly
  • apply a thick organic mulch
  • mist the foliage in the morning and evening
  • erect a temporary shade cloth
  • do not apply any fertilizer
Research has shown B vitamin "fertilizers" do not make any difference so don't waste your money!

Season: Summer
Date: 2007-06-11
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June 24 2013 12:55:25