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How to Safely Move and Transplant
Rhododendrons and other Large Plants

I was given some rhodies and roses recently. The only trick is that I have to dig them up out of my mother's garden and transplant into mine.
When is the best time of the year to do this? And how deep do I dig up the roots?
The roses have been there for 30 or so years and the rhodies about 5.
Can you give me some advice?
Wild Willy

When to Transplant Large Shrubs

Because of the size and age of these plants, you will have to take extra precautions and care when transplanting them. The plants will undoubtedly go through a certain amount of transplant shock, but by following these steps I have had very good luck.
I prefer to move specimen plants in the dead of winter when they are completely dormant.
Try to time this project so that you have a 2-3 week minimum window of nonfreezing temperatures after the transplant.

A Step by Step Guide to Transplanting Large Shrubs

Prepare the Planting Hole

Dig your new planting hole about 50% larger that your root ball. Mix in peat moss, compost, a scoop of transplant fertilizer, and possibly a little sand if your soil is heavy or clay.
Create a mound of soil in the bottom of the hole that is high enough to bring the root ball up to the existing soil line. Fill this hole with water, and let it settle.

Digging and Uprooting Your Plant

Water the plant to be moved thoroughly before you begin digging.
Older plants will have extensive root systems.
Using a sharp spade cut a ring completely around the plant, at the drip line. Push the shovel straight down to it's full depth.
Dig a 4-6 inch wide trench around the plant on the outside of this ring. This will allow you to make a deeper perimeter ring cut at the drip line. At this point, you have now have cut the roots to a depth of two shovels.
Now is when you find out who your friends are. You will be dealing with a considerable amount of weight, so find as much help as you can.....
Insert as many shovels as you have into your drip line cut, spaced evenly around the plant.
Apply even pressure to each shovel as you use them in a lever motion. POP!!!|
Your plant will hopefully snap any remaining roots and lift slightly out of the hole.
If you are finding to much resistance, dig your trench deeper and even under the roots until the plant pops free when you attempt to lift (lever) it upwards.

Moving Large Plants

While lifting different areas of the root ball with your shovels, slide a tarp underneath the plant. With some effort, the tarp can be centered up, and you will be able to use it as handles to lift and remove the plant from the hole. (Friends!)
Carry, drag or tow the plant to the edge of your new planting hole, and carefully move it from the tarp to the center of the mound. Make sure that the root ball is setting at the same depth that it was originally growing.
Turn the plant until you have found the best view of it from where you will most often see it. Check to make sure that the plant is standing straight up by viewing it from all four sides.

Replanting Shrubs and Trees

Allow your hose to run slowly into the planting hole as you begin to add fresh rich topsoil to the hole. Continue adding soil until the plant is once again at it's original level.
Add a good thick layer of mulch to the top of the soil to insulate and preserve moisture.
Keep your plant well watered for the first 2-3 weeks.
These are the steps that I personally follow. The plant will suffer far less shock if you follow all of these steps, but if necessary you can amend them according to your needs and abilities.
Larger plants may take a full year before they are again showing signs of growth.
This is because they are using their energy to rebuild their root system.
Be patient and you will be rewarded....

Rhododendron fastuosum Flore Pleno
Rhododendron fastuosum 'Flore Pleno'

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