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Knowledgebase record #566

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?


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.

Keywords: Transplanting
Date: 2007-10-24

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