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How to Remove Shrubs

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Azalea shrub

Moving into a new home or updating your landscape often involves an assessment of the established shrubs, trees and flowers. Landscaping offers the homeowner the opportunity to refresh the outside decor by moving plants, removing accents and rearranging items in the yard just like you would the furniture in your home. In some cases, the rejuvenation of a landscape requires shrub removal. This task involves digging, chopping and lifting.

Removal for Transplant

Clip back the plant with pruning clippers if necessary to make the plant more manageable. Extremely long branches and stems should be removed by cutting at a 45-degree angle on each branch.

Dig straight down about 2 feet around the outside of the shrub. Digging close to the main stem can cause damage to roots from the shovel.

Remove as much soil as possible from the shrub base, digging an indentation around the entire base of the plant. This allows you to determine the depth of the roots and the direction of root growth. Resist tugging on the plant to free it from the soil.

Slip the shovel under the roots farthest from the center of the plant. Dig around and free these roots, working in to the plant center. You should feel the plant wiggle with gentle pushing. More stubborn plants require freeing every root around the base of the plant.

Remove the soil along the main root. Use a gentle rocking motion to wiggle the plant loose. Avoid hacking at the roots to speed removal--you may permanently damage the plant.

Removal to Discard

Dig 2 to 3 feet around the base of the plant. Remove as much soil as possible to determine the location of the root system.

Use pruning clippers to snip the small roots. You may be able to cut through these smaller roots with the shovel blade by applying pressure. If you plan to reuse the garden space, remove all roots from the soil.

Slip the shovel under each root to loosen the soil, using the tool as a lever by leaning back on the handle. Since you aren’t worried about damaging the plant, a lot of pressure can be used to loosen the roots.

Use the 10-lb. mauler and hacksaw to cut through stubborn roots. An ax or a hatchet will work as well.

Free the exterior roots first, then focus on the center root. Dig around the center of the shrub to loosen as much soil as possible.

Pull on the plant until it can be lifted out of the ground. Locate and remove any remaining roots from the soil.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning clippers
  • Spade
  • Hacksaw
  • 10-lb. mauler