Now is the time to move trees, shrubs and perennials | Home and garden

Now is the time to move trees, shrubs and perennials |  Home and garden

Planting is a word used in many ways in gardening.

When used as a noun, the word “plant” is what we call small plants that often set seed and that grow in a container. This term is most commonly applied to young vegetables or bedding plants purchased in cell packs or 4-inch, 6-inch, or gallon pots.

Plant is also used as a verb. We “plant” a plant that grows in the ground when we dig it up and move it from one place to another.

Transplantation is on my mind because February is the last month of the ideal transplant season, which runs from early December through February. This is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and hardy perennials (plant tropicals in April). Now is a good time to think about what you might need to plant and accomplish.

Root damage cannot be avoided when moving the plant. Replanting them during the colder months helps their chances of survival.

Why do it now?

Root damage cannot be avoided when digging the plant. Since a critical function of the root system is to absorb the water a plant needs from the soil, any damage to a plant’s root system reduces its ability to get the water it needs. In a very real sense, a plant’s survival during transplantation depends directly on whether you get enough of the plant’s roots when you dig it up. If you do not do this, the plant will die of thirst.

During the winter, when temperatures are cooler and they are dormant, plants do not use water as quickly and drink more slowly. This is when plants can more easily accept damage to their roots and a reduced ability to absorb water. Transplanting during the winter increases the chances of it surviving long enough for new roots to grow. Dig a plant in the scorching summer heat when it is in a state of active growth and absorbing water quickly, and the chance of success is much diminished.

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Water in small transplants.

Smaller is better

Transplanting a plant can be quick and simple or a huge undertaking — depending primarily on the size of the plant being transplanted. Perennial plants are easy to move. Trees and shrubs are more challenging. The longer a tree or shrub grows in the ground, and the larger the plant, the more difficult the task and the greater the chance of failure.

Whenever possible, especially when it comes to trees and shrubs, transplant plants when they are young. Young plants are smaller and have smaller root systems. The smaller the root system, the more likely you are to get the most roots when you dig them.

That’s why we’re generally so successful at growing perennials and ground covers. It is easier to get most of their roots. Smaller shrub species or small plants are relatively easier to transplant than larger-growing shrubs. Small trees a few feet tall are reliably transplanted. Large trees and shrubs are more difficult because they are simply heavier and more difficult to handle, and it is much more difficult to get enough of their large, distant root systems.

For shrubs: The rule of thumb is to dig up the plant using as much of its root system as possible. In general, for shrubs, dig a root ball about 9 inches wide for a 1-foot-tall plant. For each additional foot in height, add 6 inches to the diameter of the root ball. The depth should be about 9 to 14 inches — shallower for short shrubs and deeper for taller shrubs.

For trees: Dig a root ball about 14 inches in diameter for a tree with a 1/2-inch trunk diameter. Add 2 inches to the root ball size for every additional quarter inch in trunk diameter. A tree with a trunk diameter of 2 inches will need a root ball about 26 inches wide. The root ball should be about 14 inches deep.

Water the tree or shrub you want to transplant well a few days before planting if the weather is dry.

Planting Time: February is a great month to transplant trees, shrubs, and perennials (copy)

In cold weather when plants are dormant, they don’t use water as quickly, so they can easily accept damage to their roots caused by transplanting.

How to replant

Dig the appropriate sized hole in the new location before digging the tree or shrub you will be planting. The hole should be twice as wide as the root ball you have determined you will dig. When planting a shrub in a prepared bed, simply dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root ball.

To plant trees and shrubs:

  1. Dig a trench around the plant as large as needed for the size of the plant.
  2. Dig the trench down to the appropriate depth.
  3. Then dig to undermine the root ball to free it from the soil.

Once the root ball is freed from the soil, gently lift it from the hole and place it on a piece of cloth or plastic. Wrap the root ball tightly with the material and secure it in place by generously wrapping it tightly with twine.

Keeping the root ball intact, move the tree or shrub to its new location and loosen the root ball. Gently place the plant in the hole. It’s okay if some soil falls out. Check to make sure the top of the root ball is at the same level or slightly higher than the surrounding soil.

Completely crush the removed soil to make the hole and use it to fill in the planted tree or shrub.

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Pick up as much of the root ball as possible when transplanting.

Implant TLC

If your newly planted tree is tall enough to be unstable in the ground, it may need to be supported with stakes. Leave them in place for about a year.

Keep newly planted plants well watered, but don’t keep them constantly wet.

You will need to monitor trees and shrubs carefully the first summer after transplanting. Herbaceous perennials rarely suffer much transplant shock if transplanted at the right time with large enough root balls, and generally do not require much pampering after a few weeks of attention.

Even when done at the right time and in the right way, we take risks when planting large trees and shrubs. There is a great deal of promise in this process combined with proper technique and timing.

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