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How to Pull Up Shrubs

By Amma Marfo ; Updated September 21, 2017
Even beautiful shrubs sometimes need to be moved.
rhododendron image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com

Whether you’re changing up your landscaping, need to relocate a few plants in your yard, or want to get rid of an old shrub past its prime, there is an easy way to pull up shrubs to destroy them or to transplant them. Depending on the size of the shrubs you need to pull up, have some friends help, especially if the shrub is large. Try to dig on a dry afternoon when it hasn’t rained for a few days to make the soil relatively light for digging and lifting.

Clear the area around your shrub by raking away dead limbs or leaves in a 1- to 2-foot radius from the base of the bush. Larger shrubs will need to be cleared further out, up to 3 feet from the base all the way around.

Dig all the way around the base of the shrub, starting just below the outer edges of the limbs and branches. Work down into the soil 1 to 1 1/2 feet deep.

Continue to dig around the shrub until you’re able to work your way underneath the root ball of the plant. While some roots can be loosened by digging, others may need to be severed with the blade of the shovel to free the shrub.

Position the shovel directly under the shrub, once it is completely loose, and lift the shrub up out of the hole. If you have someone helping you, have them help pull the shrub up while you lift with the shovel.

Fill the hole in with garden soil or plant the bare area with your desired annuals or perennials. Replant the removed shrub in a new location immediately if it is healthy, or discard it if it the shrub was being removed due to age or disease.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden rake
  • Shovel
  • Gloves
  • Garden soil


  • If you are pulling up the shrub to transplant it to a new location, be sure to do so when it is best for that particular variety of plant. While many shrubs can be moved in the fall after they have gone dormant, this isn't the case for all shrub varieties.


  • If you are pulling up the shrub without help from anyone else, be sure to hold your back stiff and lift with your legs during step four when the shrub comes out of the ground.