Transplanting Bushes

By Kristen Castillo

July 18, 2013 4 min read

Fall is the ideal time to transplant bushes and shrubs because that's when they're not in bloom.

"In areas with colder climates plants go dormant, meaning their growth slows and planting or replanting them isn't as much of a shock," says Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware's home expert. "Since they're a little sleepy, they don't mind as much."

*Transplant Prep

Look for the right location to move the bush, taking into consideration how much sun and water the area gets. Try to plant bushes with similar sun and watering needs close to each other for easier maintenance

Before you start digging, make sure it's safe to do so. "Check with your municipality to ensure there are no buried wires before you dig," says Manfredini. "Even a shallow hole could be close to buried wires or pipes."

*Getting Started

Landscape designer Cathy Stein of Eclectic Design Choices advises prepping the bush for transplant in the fall and completing the move in mid to late winter.

In fall's cool weather, she suggests pruning the shrub to "help lessen transplant shock and make the shrub easier to dig."

Use a sharp shooter shovel to cut around the root ball. "This will allow the shrub to regrow some feeder roots within the root ball before you transplant it," says Stein.

*Digging the Hole

"Transplanting in the fall is all about the hole you dig, what you put in it and the temperature when you do it," says Manfredini, who stresses that transplanting needs to be finished "at least two weeks before temperatures are consistently lower than 45 degrees."

It is important to avoid disturbing the roots. When digging a hole, make sure it's twice as large as the bush's root ball. Manfredini recommends a hole that's two feet wider than the plant's footprint.

"This will allow a root ball to stay in place for the move," he says. "Older, more established plants, meaning those that are 10 years old, may be more difficult to move and would require an even bigger hole."

Some shrubs may be too large for you to transplant on your own. If so, get transplanting help from fellow gardeners or hire a professional to handle the move.

Dig around and below the plant, making sure the hole is "at least two feet below the base of the roots," says Manfredini.

Next, pull the shrub from the soil and prepare to move it to its new spot.

"The new hole should be as big as the one you just dug," says Manfredini. "Place some compost in the base of the hole -- about 2 inches -- and place the plant in the hole. Surround the ball of the plant with a 50-50 mix of compost and top soil."

*Best Bushes

Most bushes are safe to transplant and should do well if taken care of properly.

"Evergreens are one of the most hardy of plants and stand the best chance of being successful and growing well come the spring," says Manfredini.

Still, some transplant better than other. "The one shrub that comes to mind that I find does not transplant easily is rosemary," says Stein.


Watering is essential to your shrub's growing success. "Be attentive to watering for the first year after transplanting," says Stein.

Surround the bush with a few inches of mulch to help the shrub maintain moisture. Avoid fertilizer and simply let the bush get used to its change in location.

Don't be discouraged if the bush doesn't seem to grow much in the first year or so after the transplant, since transplanted bushes typically need extra time to settle in to their new environment.

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