Preparing to Move a Plant

Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and heartache when moving a plant.
Digging Up Root Ball on Perennial Plant

Digging Up Root Ball on Perennial Plant

When dividing or moving a perennial, dig up as much of the rootball as you can. Go outside the plant’s drip line by a few inches and plunge your shovel in.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Image courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Planning to move a plant? You'll help ensure the success of the operation if you prepare the plant several months--even up to a year--before the actual move.

Why so far ahead? "Prepping a plant in advance is the most foolproof way to move a plant," says master gardener Paul James. That's especially true if you're creating a new garden bed and want to move plants from one location to another or if you're planning on moving and want to take some plants with you.

First, James recommends using his "rule of 18" to determine the ideal diameter of the root ball. Then, dig a six-inch-wide by 12-inch-deep trench around the base of the plant. Slice through the root of the plant as cleanly as possible with a sharp shovel. Finally, fill the trench halfway with compost or shredded leaves. This forces the plant to develop a greater concentration of roots within the root ball area. The area inside the trench, and that greater root mass--will help compensate for any roots lost during the trenching process. Over time, some roots will grow into the trench; just sever them with a shovel as they do--say, every month or so. When the plant is finally ready to be moved, all you need to do is use the normal digging process.

This prep technique works for virtually everything and anything that grows.

"Trust me, it's a lot harder than you think to actually hurt the plant in the process, especially if you do it at the right time and follow my suggestions," says James. "After all, I've moved almost 100 plants in my lifetime and they're all doing fine!"

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