How To Transplant a Shrub


Moving shrubs is an economical method for changing the landscape in your yard. Transplanting shrubs generally occurs immediately after the leaves have fallen. According to the North Dakota University forestry service, you should evaluate the success of the transplant process. In other words, if the shrub is exceptionally large, the success rate may not be very high. The best success in transplanting is when 50 percent or more of the root ball is pulled from the ground. Root ball size is judged by approximately two-thirds the size of the upper foliage limbs.

Step 1

Water the shrub two to three days prior to digging the plant from the ground. The water will add moisture to the plant and make the job of digging much easier.

Step 2

Pull back the upper limbs of the shrub with the twine. Wrap the shrub several times around to hold the upper limbs in place. This will aid in digging out the root ball of the shrub. Identify the north facing side of the shrub, and mark it with a piece of hanging twine. When setting the shrub in the new location, you will want to orient the shrub in the same north facing direction.

Step 3

Dig a trench, with the spade shovel, that is 15 inches to 24 inches deep, and the same diameter as the upper tied-back limbs of the shrub. The idea is to remove as much of the shrub's root ball as possible with the diameter of the hole. The depth of the trench will allow you to dig under the root ball with the spade shovel.

Step 4

Work the spade shovel under the main root ball of the shrub. Break the soil loose in order to lift the shrub from the current location.

Step 5

Set the shrub on the tarp. Drag the tarp to the shrub's new transplant area.

Step 6

Dig the transplant hole slightly larger than the root ball of the shrub.

Step 7

Place the shrub's root ball into the transplant hole. Orient the shrub to the correct northern (for this example) direction using the piece of hanging twine. Keep the top of the soil line from the root ball, aligned with the ground level in the new location.

Step 8

Backfill the native soil around the shrub. Tamp the soil down around the root ball with your hands.

Step 9

Irrigate the shrub with water to remove air from around the root ball and to improve the soil-to-root-ball contact. Use any leftover soil to fill the old location hole from the shrub's original position.

Step 10

Layer 3 to 4 inches of an organic mulch around the newly transplanted shrub. The mulch will aid in retaining moisture and retard competitive weed growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Twine
  • Spade shovel
  • Tarp
  • Organic mulch


  • North Dakota State University: Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
  • Clemson University: Transplanting Established Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: yard landscapes, move shrubs, transplant bushes

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.