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Tried-and-True Tips to Relocate Plants Like a Pro

(StatePoint) Whether your plants could stand a little more sun, a tad more space to grow, or you just want to redesign your backyard, transplanting plants offers them a fresh start.

“Tried-and-true methods will help you safely move your plants; all it takes is some know-how, elbow grease and a shovel,” says Jamie Briggs, director of marketing, Exmark, a leading manufacturer of commercial mowers and equipment for landscape professionals and homeowners.

This is the driving idea behind “Backyard Smart,” free online explainer videos full of facts to answer your most common lawn and garden questions. The following strategies, which come directly from a recent “Backyard Smart” episode, will have you transplanting plants like a pro:

• When to do it: Time of year matters. Perennials should be moved in spring when other flowers are in bloom and the days are cooler. Conversely, shrubs should be relocated in the fall -- the cooler air and warmer soil make for perfect transplanting conditions. Never move plants in summer or winter. Hot weather, when plants need the most water, can kill sensitive roots. Likewise, the cold, hard ground in winter makes it virtually impossible for plants to take root. Always transplant on cloudy, cool days to protect roots from the harsh sun and retain moisture in their soil.

• Rules of thumb: To begin, picture a circle around your plant. You’re imagining its root ball -- the mass of roots and packed-in dirt that help provide plants the necessary nutrients and stability to grow.

For perennials, dig a circle at least three inches out from the plant’s edge. Shrubs are a different story. Instead of digging out from the farthest part of the shrub, first measure the circumference of its stem. For every inch in stem thickness, draw the length from the circle to the stem a foot longer. If your shrub has a 2-inch-thick stem, measure a circle that’s at least 4 feet in diameter (or, a radius of 2 feet from stem to circle).

Now it’s time to dig. Always dig straight down, as digging too shallowly and at an angle can lead to damaged roots, which can stunt growth and ultimately kill your plants.

Once you’ve dug up your plants, knock a little dirt loose from the compacted root ball. This enables roots to hang free, and encourages plants to take root in their new home.

• Relocation: Always dig the new holes at the same depth as the existing ones. Planting too deeply can encourage water pooling around the root system, effectively drowning your plants. Planting too shallowly has an opposite, but equally deadly, impact: it exposes the root system to warmer weather and can dry it up. For an even easier reference when transplanting shrubs, the root flare -- the area where the stem expands at the base -- should be partially visible at the soil’s surface. Now fill the remainder of the hole with soil, water generously, rinse and repeat.

For more easy-to-understand approaches to making the most of your outdoor spaces, check out the Exmark Backyard Life site at

Now get outside and get moving -- your plants will thank you for it!


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