Most shrubs and trees should be transplanted when the demand for water is least, in late fall or winter. Since many roots will inevitably be lost, they need many weeks to regenerate themselves before the hot, dry blasts of summer arrive. If you are contemplating moving a plant that would be happier in another spot, follow these steps to make the relocation a success:
• The perfect time to transplant is on a cool November – February afternoon, a few days after a good rainfall. Small-sized shrubs are easier to transplant than large ones. You might need to prune away several branches to make the plant small enough to handle easily.
• Even though transplanting is best done in fall, it can be done successfully any time of year as long as you get lots of roots, keep them moist after being dug and put the plant in a well-prepared bed.
• Plunge a shovel straight down into the soil in a circle around the plant, 12″ from the trunk on all sides. You’re forming a rootball 24″ across as you proceed, severing underground roots as you thrust the shovel.
• Just outside the slit you’ve made in the soil, begin digging a trench completely around the rootball. The trench should be 8″ deep. When you have finished digging the trench, place the point of your shovel at the bottom and push it underneath the rootball. A flat spade or a long-tongued plumber’s shovel is a real help for this task.
• When you have thrust underneath the shrub from all sides, get a friend to tilt the plant to one side while you slide an old shower curtain or a threadbare bedsheet underneath the rootball. With a bit of huffing and puffing and root clipping, the cloth or plastic can be slid under the entire plant. Wrap it tightly around the roots, to keep the soil in place, and go inspect the new planting spot.
• Assuming the new site is fabulously well-dug and a perfect hole is waiting for its occupant, carry or slide the shrub to its new home. Plant it at the same level as it was growing before and water thoroughly. When springtime comes, your shrub won’t have the faintest memory of being in its old spot!