When Can I Move a Plant that’s in the Wrong Place?

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At some point, you will want to move a plant that’s in the wrong place, whether you inherited the garden or simply thought, it was a good idea at the time. Don’t worry you can move most plants around your garden without too much risk. The trick to moving plants is timing.

Of course, most gardeners will want to move a plant in the summer when it’s in full bloom! But when you uproot a plant and place it in its new position, there are a few points that you will need to take into consideration.

  • How long has the plant been in its original place?
  • Is the plant a tree, shrub or perennial?
  • How old is the plant?

Can you move a plant to a new position in summer?

Moving a plant in June, July or August can be a risky business, However, it is not beyond the realms of possibility. If you have returned from the garden centre and eagerly set to with a spade, happy in the knowledge you’ve picked the perfect planting spot, only to sit back to admire your work and realise it would have been better on the other side of the garden!

It takes a few weeks for a plant to start putting fresh roots out, so, as long as you water the plant well before the move and lift the plant gently, there really isn’t a lot of difference from when you planted it originally.

However!… moving a plant with an established root system and leafy growth up top, could end in disaster. If you have little choice and must move a plant in summer, perhaps because of building work. Follow these simple rules and the plant may have a chance of surviving.

Moving a Plant from One Place to Another

  • Soak the root system thoroughly, the day before moving.
  • Reduce the top growth as much as possible. The general rule is, to remove 1/3 of the growth above the ground.
  • The roots on a plant usually extend out to the same point as the canopy above the ground. Bear this in mind when digging the root ball out of the ground.
  • Depending on the size of the plant, dig down to cause as little root disturbance as possible.
  • Replanting: Dig a hole larger than the root ball, soak with water, Place the plant in the hole, backfill and water the area thoroughly.
  • Provide immediate shade for the recovering plant

Once the plant is out of the ground, wrap the root ball in a wet towel to prevent the roots from drying out. Dig a hole that will easily take the root ball and run plenty of water into the empty hole to ensure the roots receive enough water when you finally finish planting. Place the plant in the hole, backfill and water thoroughly again.

The plant may go into shock so lots of tender loving care will help the plant to survive. It may sound ridiculous but if you can shade the plant with an umbrella. This will really help keep the sun from ravishing the plant of much needed moisture.

The Best Time to Move a Plant

Autumn or early spring (October to March) is the best time to move a plant. This is because plants are in their dormant stage and have shed their leaves if they are deciduous.

Moving Perennials

As perennials reach their full potential in summer, it is only then that you realise the plant is actually in the wrong place! Moving perennials in mid-summer will almost result in certain death. If you can’t wait until autumn because perhaps you are moving house. Then you may have to go along the route of “Well, it’s got two chances!” and move it anyway.

If you have mastered your gardening patients, then take a photo of the plant in full bloom and another picture of its intended position and move the plant in the autumn or spring. If the plant is quite large, don’t forget, once lifted, you can divide the rootball with a spade giving you a couple of extra plants for free.

Perennials that don’t like to be moved

  • Aconitum
  • Peony
  • Lupin
  • Oriental poppies
  • Dicentra

Although these plants don’t like to be moved, it doesn’t mean you can’t give it the good old college try. If you are moving house, for example, and can’t bear to leave that beautiful peony, make sure when lifting the plant, you retain as much soil around the plant as possible. You may have to dig a little deeper too, as many plants in this category have deep taproots and you could risk cutting off their life support system.

Plants you cannot move

You cannot move annuals from one place to another. Annuals are plants that have been raised by seed, grow and flower all in one season.

You cannot move bulbs during their flowering season with the exception of snowdrops. Moving snowdrops should be moved “in the green” i.e. when they have green leaves.

Fully mature trees and shrubs cannot be moved successfully unless there is a dedicated machine such as a mechanical tree spade.