Keep in mind that for greatest success, you will need to dig a large root ball which can be very heavy. Small trees and shrubs can be moved fairly easily but do your back a favor and call a professional to move the bigger ones!
We have gotten many calls from gardeners wondering when is the best time to move these beautiful flowering shrubs. According to The Azalea Society of America the best time to move azaleas is in the cool weather of early fall or in the winter or early spring unless the soil is wet or frozen.
The best time to move crape myrtles is while they are dormant, either late fall or late winter when the ground is not frozen or soggy. Be sure to locate them where they will get at least 6 hours of direct sun between the hours of 10am and 6pm - basically good afternoon sun.
Before you go digging up your tree or shrub to move it, you'll first want to prepare the new planting hole. Dig a good sized hole - remember, you will be planting a large root ball. Your planting hole should be at least 3 times as wide but not much deeper than the root ball - that's a big hole! You want the root ball to be be sitting on firm but well-drained soil so it won't sink after it has been planted. Andre's motto for planting trees and shrubs: "Plant them high - Never die!"
Here are Andre's recommendations for digging and preparing the new planting hole:
Andre recommends a mixture of Plant-tone, rock phosphate, green sand, and peat moss or compost when planting trees and shrubs. Below are his specific instructions:
- Dig a large planting hole about as deep as the root ball and 3 times as wide.
- Spread a tarp out on the ground and as you dig your hole, put the soil on the tarp.
- On top of the soil on the tarp add:
- 8 handfuls of Plant-tone or Holly-tone for broadleaf evergreens
- 8 handfuls of rock phosphate
- 8 handfuls of green sand
- 3 - 3 gallon pails of peat moss or compost (this is important as a soil additive)
- Mix well with the native soil on the tarp.
- Back-fill the hole with some of this soil mix and tamp it down.
- Add enough so when it is tamped down and the root ball is placed in the hole, the top of the ball is 1" higher than the ground-level (this is necessary because the root ball will sink when it is watered). A leading cause of problems with Leyland cypress and many others trees and shrubs is that they get planted too deep.
- Now place the root ball in the hole and fill in around it, tamping the soil as you go.
- At the very end, water the tree well.
- If your tree is OVER 6'-8', you should probably stake it the first year.
Once you have prepared the new planting hole, you are ready to dig up the tree or shrub you are going to move. It is very important to dig as large a root ball as you can handle, but the size will depend upon the size of the plant.
- In general, the size of the root ball should be 12" of root ball for every 1" of trunk diameter.
- You WILL be cutting through roots but a good rule of "thumb" is to make the root ball large enough so that none of the roots you are cutting through are larger in diameter than your "thumb".
- If you don't hit any roots, you are digging too far out.
- If you hit roots larger than your thumb, you are too close.
- If you are digging shrubs such as azaleas, make your root ball a size so that you are cutting through the fibrous root system.
- When you dig, dig down at a very slight angle with a sharp spade and cut all the way around the plant.
- Remove some of the soil to the outside of this cut so you can then cut under the root ball, free it from the soil, and lever it out of the hole. Be careful to leave the root ball intact as you do this.
- A large root ball should be wrapped tightly in burlap to hold it together.
I have found that one of the easiest and safest ways to move the tree (or shrub) to it's new location is to place it on a plastic snow coaster! They are easy to slide under the root ball and they drag fairly easily over the ground. Very carefully move it to it's new site and you're ready to plant.