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How to Transplant Photinia Shrubs

photinia flower image by Alison Bowden from

Photinia shrubs (Photinia glabra) are a popular landscaping plant. They are usually planted in a row and maintained as a hedge. Their best feature is the dark red leaves that appear as new growth. Photinias can be sheared drastically to keep a tight thick shape. If allowed to grow, they can get large and woody. Although they are planted under the eaves of houses as a foundation planting, they often outgrow this space and need to be relocated. Photinia shrubs can be moved successfully if you follow the correct procedure and use the right tools.

Prepare the shrub for transplanting in the fall so it can get established in its new location before the following summer. Soak the root base of the photinia that is going to be moved two days before it is going to be dug by setting the water hose at its base and allowing a stream of water the width of a pencil to flow for one hour. Allow it to drain the day before digging, so the root ball is not heavy.

Cut back the photinia shrub to 3 feet from the ground the day before moving. Use a pair of garden loppers if the limbs are large. You need to leave 3 feet of growth so you can have something to grab in order to pull the shrub from the ground.

Dig around the shrub at a distance of 24 inches. Dig in a circle around the plant severing all roots. You may need to use the garden loppers to sever the roots. Don't cut the roots at a distance closer than 24 inches from the base or trunk of the shrub. Then, dig under the shrub to a depth of 12 to 18 inches, cutting the roots as you go. Continue digging until the shrub begins to release from the ground, using the existing trunk as a handle to work the root base back and forth to loosen the shrub from the ground.

Pull the shrub from the ground once the roots are severed using the existing trunk. Drag it onto a plastic tarp. Immediately lightly spray the root base with water so the roots do not dry out. Drag it to the new location and keep the roots covered while preparing the new planting location.

Dig a hole in the new location that will comfortably accommodate the roots of the shrub. The hole should be deep enough so the shrub will be planted at the same depth it was planted in its previous location. Cover the bottom of the planting hole with a 1-inch layer of compost. When placing dirt around the photinia shrub while transplanting, add one shovelful of compost for every four shovelfuls of dirt. The compost will help the soil hold moisture around the damaged roots so they can heal. Add water while filling the hole to prevent any air pockets from forming around the roots. Once the planting hole is filled, cover the root base with a 1-inch layer of mulch. Use the loppers to cut the photinia back as far as 4 to 6 inches from the ground. This is so it will branch out from the bottom when it regrows and give you a shrub that is full from top to bottom.

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