Moving Plants in Midsummer

Midsummer is not considered the best or easiest time to move established plants in the landscape. However, for a variety of reasons, there are sometimes circumstances which may make moving a plant necessary if the plant is to be saved. Some such circumstances might include moving to a new home, building a new structure, adding a home addition, or changing grade.

Sometimes the best solution is to say good-bye to the plant rather than tackle the job of moving it during this rather difficult period. However, if midsummer transplanting is essential and you are willing to take the risk and perhaps endure some disappointment, here are a few points to keep in mind.

First, disturb the roots as little as possible. This may not be difficult when a plant is small, but is practically impossible with larger well-established trees or shrubs. Plants of large size cannot be moved by an amateur and should be left to a tree-moving specialist with the proper equipment. Even with proper equipment, many specialists will be reluctant to move at this time. They will not generally accept liability if the plant does not recover well after the move.

Dig the plant when the soil is slightly moist so that it forms a root ball without splitting and exposing roots or tearing off roots. Make a soil ball as large as possible, but still small enough to move with available man-power or equipment. Unless a plant is quite small, which makes midsummer moving more feasible, some roots will have to be cut off. If those roots remaining have good contact with the soil ball, they will be better able to support and sustain the plant. Before digging a plant to be moved, have the new planting hole prepared. If weather is hot and sunny, the dug plant should be reset as soon as possible after digging. The soil to be replaced around the soil ball should have some additional organic matter added to stimu- late root development beyond the existing ball. Fill in around the soil ball and tamp soil lightly to help close air spaces around the root ball. Add water to settle the soil and fuse the added soil to the soil ball as well as to the existing soil beyond the hole. Do not tamp or pack soil in any way after the water has been added.

A plant with root loss will not normally have enough roots to support abundant foliage after planting at this time of year. Reduce the leaf area by about 1/3. Materials called antidessicants may be purchased in some nurseries and garden centers that help reduce water loss from leaves when they are sprayed on the plants. They may eliminate the need for pruning, particularly on many evergreen plants.

Staking is also important for plants moved at this time of year. Leaves on trees and shrubs provide more wind resistance than that of a dormant tree. Winds during storms can move the plant and root ball enough to tear off young roots that may have formed along the edge of the ball. This may further slow establishment. Proper staking holds the plant, particularly a tree, and prevents this from happening.

Reduction of the shade that leaves provide to the trunk may also occur after transplanting. Therefore, since the trunk may not be accustomed to direct sun exposure, it is also often beneficial to wrap the trunk of a young or thin-barked tree during the remainder of the season and perhaps next season with paper tree-wrap or burlap. At the end of that time, as the canopy becomes larger, the wrap should be removed.

Do not expect a newly moved plant to continue growth without interruption. Some leaf scorch, a dying of the edges of the leaves, can usually be expected. Mist over the foliage daily for the first week or two after transplanting if possible, particularly if temperatures are in the upper 80′s or 90′s. Keep the soil moist but do not over water.

During the summer, new plants are available from nurseries and garden centers which have been balled-and-burlapped earlier in the season or grown in containers. These can be planted into the landscape during midsummer with more certainty. However, they also require attention, but have roots that are better developed in the ball so the plants can continue growth with little interruption.