Many people plant shrubs in places that are too small to accommodate a plant’s mature size. It is often hard to visualize just how big many shrubs will get when first planting them from the nursery. Even if you go by what the plant’s tag says about mature plant size, certain sites will often allow shrubs to grow beyond their intended potential. This often presents a problem for home gardeners, especially around the house.
If you have an overgrown shrub that needs to be moved, now is the perfect time to do it. January and February are considered the best months to move healthy but overgrown shrubs in the landscape. Moving a plant during dormancy will cause the least harm. When we move plants to new locations, we are cutting off a majority of their feeder roots. By doing this in January or February, the shrubs are not as affected by the sudden loss of roots. They will have time to grow new roots as spring progresses.
Before the start of the digging up the shrub, it’s recommended that you prune the limbs back on the shrub by at least one-third. This will help to lower to total leaf area that the shrub’s roots will have to support during recovery. This will also increase the plant’s survival chances after transplanting.
When digging the overgrown shrub, try to save as much of the existing root system as possible. Again, the more roots will increase the chance of survival. Dig a trench all the way around the shrub. Carefully trench out underneath the shrub until it is free from the surrounding soil. Lift up the root ball and slide a large piece of burlap or a plastic tarp underneath. This will make it easier for two people to transport the shrub to its new location. Shrubs often change their growth patterns when exposed to different light situations. To help avoid this, tie a piece of string or flagging tape to the side of the shrub that faces north. This will help you properly align the tree in its new planting hole and retain its original growth form.
The new planting hole will need to be at least 2-3 times as wide as your shrub’s root ball. Make sure the planting hole is the same depth as the root ball.
Planting the shrub too deeply will harm the plant and could potentially lead to death. To be on the safe side, plant your shrub an inch or two higher than before to allow for soil settling.
After transplanting, be sure to add a 3-inch layer of mulch on top of the new planting hole. Be sure not to pile the mulch up around the base of the shrub. This will hold excess moisture on the base of the shrub and make it susceptible to insect and disease infestation. Water the shrub thoroughly after planting and irrigate deeply and frequently if no rain is in the forecast.