Plant Not Where You Want It?

It happens all the time; good looking plants are interspersed in your landscape, just not where you want them or where they are best suited.  This is especially true for folks who just bought a home, spent their time and money fixing the deck and changing out the curtains, and have now turned their attention to the landscape.

So, what should you do?  First, identify the plant.  Second, find out what growing conditions such as sun/shade, soil moisture level and eventual size are required for it/them to thrive.  Third, take a little time to work on the soil in the new area where they will be transplanted to. 

In most situations, the soil of the new site needs to be loosened and fortified with compost.  Unless this area has been a veggie garden and been cared for with a double digging or cover crop technique, loosening the soil with a pitchfork, applying an inch of compost (cotton bur, leaf mold) and forking it to the upper 6 inches is a key step in transplanting.

The pitchfork is actually great for lifting the plant from the existing location as well, as it usually doesn’t rip and tear the roots quite as much as a traditional shovel usually does, but both will work.  A good third option is a “sod spade” aka a square nosed shovel.

If prepared as described above, you can literally lift the plant out of the ground, carry it over to the new site lying flat on the shovel/pitchfork and gently set it down, then use your hands to create a planting site.  If you’re wondering how big to make the planting hole, just look at the root mass of the plant and double it.  Then set it in the wide hole, untangle any twisted roots and slide the excavated soil around the roots. 

Once planted, water gently, using the spray setting on your water nozzle, or sprinkler can.  Water lightly, let it soak in, then apply a little more, let it soak in, then finish it off with a third light application.  For most plants, a soaking of a half to a full inch after planting is just right.  Finish off the application with a light application of wood chip mulch to suppress weeds and keep the roots cool and moist.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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