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How to Dig Up a Shrub

By Elizabeth Knoll ; Updated September 21, 2017
Flat garden spades readily sever shrub roots.
dirty spade image by Arkady Chubykin from Fotolia.com

Sometimes, you may want to dig a shrub out of the ground. You may want to dispose of it or move it to a different location. If you're transplanting the shrub to a different location, you should thoroughly water the root ball two to three days before digging it up to lessen the chance of transplant shock. Digging up shrubs is a relatively simple process because their root systems are fairly compact in the ground and you only need a few garden tools.

Tie the branches of the shrub up with twine before digging. This will prevent injury during the digging process.

Dig a trench around the shrub to create a root ball that has a diameter of two-thirds of the branch spread of the shrub. Dig straight down to a depth of 12 inches to sever any roots that spread past the circle.

Angle the spade toward the middle of the shrub and slowly work the shrub up and out of the ground.

Lift the shrub up and out of the ground. Cover the root ball with moist burlap until replanting, if you plan to relocate the shrub.


Things You Will Need

  • Twine
  • Gloves
  • Garden spade
  • Burlap


  • Shrubs over 4 feet tall may need a trench dug that is 15 to 24 inches deep to ensure all the major roots are contained in the root ball.
  • Root balls need to be a minimum of 12 inches for each inch of trunk diameter, even if the branch spread says otherwise.