The cold weather that has hit our area the past few weeks has been a blessing. You might not think so, especially if you like hot weather, but your plants are benefiting from this cold.
The cold weather is making our plants go dormant. During this period a lot of the plants rest, such as hostas, hydrangeas and many other perennials. Evergreen trees and shrubs still have green leaves, but they are not growing.
The root system continues to grow over the winter. This is why it is best to plant trees and shrubs during the late fall and winter months. One of the more common questions that I get is when can I move this plant. The term for this is transplanting. The best time to transplant is the same time that we plant new plants -- in late fall or winter. So, this cold weather is the perfect time to start transplanting trees and shrubs.
Moving established shrubs from one location to another can change your landscape and save money at the same time. The job might be intimidating, but good preparation will make the project somewhat easier and less time-consuming.
Paying careful attention to the recommended practices of root pruning, methods of digging, and root protection will improve the chances of success in getting a plant off to a good start after moving it.
Because the roots are the most important part of the plant, get as much of the root system as possible when transplanting. A method for doing this is called root pruning. This helps to stimulate root growth, so when you are ready to move the plant you have as many roots as possible in a small area.
It is almost like growing the plant in a container. The distance that you prune the roots will depend on the plant type. Evergreen plants require more of a root system than deciduous plants. An evergreen shrub that is 4 feet tall will need to be root pruned 2 feet from the trunk, creating a root ball that is 4 feet across. Dig down 10 inches to sever the roots.
If the plant has low-hanging limbs or branches, tie these limbs up so you can work under the plant. Tying up the limbs will decrease damage. After pruning the roots, make sure the plants have a good mulch layer around them to help protect the roots and conserve moisture. Also, water the plant well to remove air pockets that formed during digging around the root system.
The time of the year that you root prune is very important. Not all plants transplant best in the fall or winter. Deciduous plants can be moved in the spring. If you are moving deciduous plants, you need to root prune now. This will give the roots time to grow before you move the plant. Evergreen plants need to be root pruned in April or May and then transplanted in the fall.
Plants can be transplanted without root pruning, but your chance of success increases when the roots are pruned.
The next important step in transplanting is the digging process. Again, tie the limbs up to keep from damaging them. If you root pruned the plant, dig at the point where you did the root pruning. If you didn't root prune, dig at a distance from the plant where you can get the most roots. This is based on the height and type of plant. For a 2-foot-tall evergreen plant, start digging at least 12 inches from the trunk. Plants chance of survival increases with the size of the root ball.
Once the plant is out of the ground, wrap the roots in burlap, plastic or any material that will aid in keeping the root ball intact. The wrap also helps keep the soil from drying out, which will kill the root system.
When digging the new hole for the plant, make sure to dig two to three times larger than the root ball of the plant being moved. Make sure that the hole is not deeper than the root ball of the plant. It is better to have the plant too shallow than too deep. Then, remove the wrap and plant the plant. Mulch the plant and water well.
If transplanting in the winter, don't prune the plant back. The root system should put on new growth to support the top of the plant. When the weather turns warm, prune out any part of the plant that is dead or dying. If you transplant when the weather is warm, prune the plant if it shows wilt.
There are many reasons to transplant our plants, such as plants that have been passed down through the family, unusual plants and plants that were planted in the wrong place. Transplanting can be successful if it is done right.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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