Don’t think you have to cut trees and shrubs down, though - as it can be quite easy to dig up and move most small trees, shrubs and climbers to somewhere more suitable. Small and young plants (up to five years) usually move with no problem at all, but well-established older plants might not recover from the shock of being transplanted, so it can be a bit of a risk. Ideally you need to plan for the move a year in advance.
The best time to move deciduous plants is when they have dropped their leaves and are fully dormant - usually between late October/November to the end of February. Evergreen shrubs transplant best in October or late March, when the relatively warm soil will allow their roots to re-establish quickly.
Remember: never attempt to move plants if the soil is frozen or waterlogged.
Prepare early to move trees and shrubs
Wherever possible, before lifting and moving your shrubs, start by pruning back up to one-third to half of the stems and top growth – this will reduce the stress on the plant’s roots and help the re-establishment be more successful.
The day before moving, water the soil around the plant thoroughly. This will make sure the roots are fully filled with moisture and reduce stress.
Moving day – our step by step guide
- Have the new hole dug and ready, so you can transplant straight away and the plant doesn’t have to wait. This should be the width of the expected root spread, plus an extra 30-45cm (12-18"). Fork over the bottom of the hole to loosen it up.
- Once you’re ready to move the plant, dig up as big a rootball as possible that you – or you and a friend or two – can safely lift and move.
- Mix some farmyard manure in with the soil from the hole, place the plant into the prepared hole and backfill with your soil mix.
- Make sure the planting level is the same as it was originally.
- Firm in the soil around the plant making sure there are no air pockets or gaps that may allow frost to penetrate the roots.
- Taller shrubs and trees may need staking to keep the roots secure while the plant is re-establishing.
- Water in well after moving and for the first year during prolonged dry periods, and mulch the soil to retain moisture.
- Always re plant straight away, make sure the new hole is ready and that the plant is out of soil for as little time as possible to reduce stress.
Staking a larger tree to keep it stable.
Moving mature trees and shrubs
Very mature plants need preparation a year in advance to give them a better chance of successfully re-establishing in a new spot.
Dig a circular trench around the plant one spade-width wide and one to two spade widths deep in line with the spread of the branches any time from November to February.
Back-fill the trench with sharp sand to encourage fibrous roots, which will help the plant to re-establish quickly when you move it the following year.