How to Transplant Mature Shrubs


Mature shrubs are often the centerpiece of a landscape design, or the anchor of a privacy hedge or border. Fragrant shrubs are commonly planted by entryways, so their pleasing scent will greet guests to the business or home. Sometimes, these shrubs will outgrow their original planting site. Rather than let an overgrown shrub overwhelm the space, many home gardeners choose instead to transplant the shrub where it can have more room to grow.

Step 1

Place a tag or piece of masking tape on the front or best side of the shrub, so you know which way to orient it in its new location.

Step 2

Tie up the branches of the shrub with string or twine. This will make it easier to dig around the base of the shrub.

Step 3

Dig a trench around the root ball of the shrub. Roger Cook, a master horticulturist with "This Old House," suggests measuring the diameter of the stem of the shrub, then multiplying that number by 10 to determine the diameter of the root ball. Dig the trench between 12 and 18 inches deep.

Step 4

Chop through the roots of your shrub as you dig the trench. Make clean cuts. Use hand pruners on any roots that cannot be cleanly cut with the shovel.

Step 5

Slip the shovel under the root ball and lift the shrub onto a piece of tarp. Drag the shrub to the new location. If you can't transplant the shrub immediately, wrap the root ball in a piece of wet burlap.

Step 6

Dig a hole in the new location that is a little bit shallower than the old hole, and twice as wide as the root ball.

Step 7

Place the shrub in the new hole, with the marked side or "front" facing your preferred direction. Mix compost into the soil that you removed from the new hole, and then backfill the hole around the shrub.

Step 8

Build a ring of soil around the outside of the root ball is, and fill the area inside the ring with water. Let it soak completely into the ground, and repeat the process two more times. This will settle the earth. Do not tamp down the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape
  • String or twine
  • Shovel
  • Measuring tape
  • Hand pruners
  • Tarp or burlap
  • Compost
  • Watering tool
  • Organic mulch


  • This Old House: Transplanting Large Shrubs
  • North Dakota State University: Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: transplanting shrubs, moving mature plants, big shrubs

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.