How To Relocate Shrubs & Plants


Gardeners may use the best research to choose a location for a shrub or plant, but the encroachment of other plants necessitates relocation of crowded ornamental plants in the landscape. The changes of time affect sunlight availability and changes the growing conditions in a landscape. Relocating shrubs requires preparation of the plant and the appropriate choice of a new location.


Step 1

Perform root pruning on shrubs two seasons before the planned relocation. Use a spade shovel to dig down about 6 to 8 inches around the dripline of the shrub. The dripline is the maximum extension of the canopy of the shrub. Make a continuous cut into the soil around the circumference of the shrub. This cuts off trailing roots and encourages sucker (feeder root) formation at the cutoff point.

Step 2

Weed the proposed planting area using a hoe or shovel to dig deeply to remove roots. Turn over or till the new location to a depth of 18 inches to loosen soil and to promote easy mixing of amendments.

Step 3

Add a 3-inch layer of compost, peat or humus to the top of the proposed site and mix into the garden soil. This preparation will help limit transplant shock to shrubs and plants.

Step 4

Re-dig the same trench area around the dripline of the shrub. Work inward carefully to free the roots from the soil until you can easily lift the shrub from the location. Knock off extra dirt around the roots to fill in the existing hole.

Step 5

Dig a hole in the new location twice as wide and deep as the root ball of the shrub. Place the shrub into the hole to test root ball depth. Do not bend the roots to make the plant fit into the hole. The top of the root ball should lie even with the surrounding soil level. Fill in around the roots with amended soil from the new site. Press firmly on the soil to compress air pockets. Do not step down to firm soil.

Step 6

Water the shrub around the base of the plant. Over the next few months, make sure the plant receives deep watering via trickle irrigation directly at the root ball location. Deep watering helps a plant adjust to transplant and limits stress during this period.


Step 1

Locate the outer edge of the plant you want to relocate. Dig to a depth of 6 inches around the outer leaf edges of foliage or perennial plants. Slide the shovel under the plant at a 45-degree angle to free the roots. Lift the entire root mass onto the shovel for easy transport to the new location.

Step 2

Prepare the new site with deep cultivation of the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches. Chop up dirt clumps and smooth the soil surface with a rake. Add a layer of organic material (compost, peat moss or humus) to the site and blend it into the garden bed.

Step 3

Dig a new hole twice as deep and wide as the root mass of the plant. Place the plant into the hole and ensure that the roots fit comfortably in the allotted area. Widen as needed and adjust depth so the upper part of the root ball lies one inch below the soil level.

Step 4

Pour amended soil around the roots and firm the soil. Water thoroughly around the base of the plant. Check the soil regularly to ensure that the soil remains evenly moist during the first two growing seasons.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Hoe
  • Compost or peat moss
  • Mulch
  • Garden hose and water


  • North Dakota State University: Planting Trees and Shrubs
  • Clemson University: Transplanting Existing Trees and Shrubs
  • Cornell University: Transplanting Guide
Keywords: relocating shrubs, relocating plants, transplant garden plants

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.