How to Transplant Shrubs in Winter


Shrubs are best to transplant when in dormancy. Dormancy for most shrubs will occur in early winter after a couple of frosts. Moving a shrub to a new location is not difficult and will require only a couple of hand tools. The amount of time to move the shrub will depend on its size. Small shrubs may take less than a half hour to transplant, and a large shrub may take half a day. Site selection for transplant is also important.

Step 1

Water the shrub well 2 days to 3 days prior to digging. The moist soil will keep the roots alive and make soil removal easier.

Step 2

Wrap the lower branches of the shrub with a small-diameter rope. The rope will hold back the lower limbs and make digging out the shrub a little easier. The rope wrap will also keep lower limbs from breaking off during the moving process.

Step 3

Dig around the shrub so a root ball is formed under the plant. Keep at least 2/3 of the upper shrub structure as a guide for the root ball. In other words, the root ball should be 2/3 the size of the upper shrub's foliage spread. Large shrubs will require the digging of a trench that is 18 to 24 inches deep. The trench must encircle the large shrub.

Step 4

Undercut the root ball with the shovel. Remove the shrub with the root ball from the hole. Place the shrub on a tarp. Prune any roots that extend past the freshly dug root ball. Do not allow the root ball to dry out. Keep the roots moist.

Step 5

Dig the new transplant hole slightly larger than the root ball of the shrub. Loosen the sides of the transplant hole with the shovel.

Step 6

Set the shrub into the new hole. Orient the shrub in the same direction as it was before it was removed--direct the branches toward the sun in the same way.

Step 7

Backfill the soil around the shrub's roots. Tamp the soil lightly around the roots with your hands. Water the shrub to remove any air from around the roots. Remove the rope from the shrub.

Step 8

Add mulch to a depth of 2 inches to 3 inches deep around the shrub. Keep the mulch 6 inches away from the main stem. Extend the mulch beyond the drip line of the outermost branches.

Step 9

Maintain moisture for the shrub to approximately 3 to 4 inches deep. Dig down next to the shrub, away from the root ball, to check the moisture depth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Some areas may require you to call local agencies prior to digging deeper than 12 inches.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Rope with a small diameter
  • Shovel
  • Tarp
  • Pruning shears
  • Garden hose
  • Mulch


  • North Dakota State University: Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
  • University of Minnesota: Planting and Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: move shrub, transplant bush, dormant plants

About this Author

G. K. Bayne is a freelance writer, currently writing for Demand Studios where her expertise in back-to-basics, computers and electrical equipment are the basis of her body of work. Bayne began her writing career in 1975 and has written for Demand since 2007.