Transplantation – Maybe…
In The Garden – By Stephen and Kristin Pategas
A re-landscaping project has many moving parts that need to be scheduled in the right order. Following the design, one of the earliest tasks, if the design calls for it, is the potential transplantation of plants. Transplanting means moving a plant rooted into the ground into a container or a new location in the ground. With transplantation there is a significant risk of the plant dying. Small non-woody stemmed plants are usually successfully transplanted since it is easy to excavate a greater portion of the roots and surrounding soil. For this scenario assume a landscape contractor will perform the work on a woody stem plant.
Start by answering a few questions to determine if the plant is worth moving:
- Is it in good condition?
- Is it in a location where it can be successfully dug?
- Is there a place to move it to that contributes to the design?
- At the new location, are the soil, light, and space conditions appropriate for proper growth as the plant matures?
- Is it unique – a specimen? Instead, is a replacement possible?
- How much would a new one cost compared to transplanting?
- Is regular and frequent watering available until it is established?
Consider these other factors when determining whether there is value in transplantation. Remember there is a labor cost for preparing and moving the plant and transplanted plants are typically not warrantied. If it dies, then there will be a cost to remove it and replace it with a new plant.
If the determination is to proceed, the next steps are preparing the plant, transplanting it, and caring for it until it is established in its new location. Pre-dig the receiving hole to make sure there are no underground obstructions or major roots from other plants. Start about six months in advance on the plant to move and trim away a portion of the outermost ends of the main branches. At about the same time use a sharp shovel with a long blade to sever some roots and encourage new roots to grow closer to the trunk within the future root ball. The final root ball diameter should be about two-thirds the spread of the plant. Check online for specific instructions.
In Florida, cooler months are the best for transplanting since the plant is under less stress and not growing vigorously. There may be underground utilities, obstructions, or competing roots that create problems and compromise the desired root ball. Make sure the digging area is moist, so the soil holds together to form a solid root ball. Place the shovel blade outside of the ring where previous cuts were made. This will allow the new feeder roots to be captured in the root ball. Keep the exposed roots moist and out of the sun. Either move the plant to its new location or if it isn’t ready, place it into a container with additional soil. Keep the root ball moist but not waterlogged for a few months. Do not fertilize the plant for a year.
Transplanting is often a possibility but not recommended unless the plant is prepared over at least a few months. If it is not a specimen, beautiful to the eye, or serving a useful purpose – remove it.
Hortus Oasis (FL26000315) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at 407-622-4886 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Credit: All photography by Stephen G. Pategas/Hortus Oasis