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Volume 17, Issue 8
August 2019


Grow Organically
Prune roots now before moving plants in fall
by Margie Lachman

Oak leaf hydrangea is a beautiful and easy shrub that gives four seasons of color and interest. It blooms in summer for months with white, lightly fragrant flowers that become pale pink in late summer. In late fall and winter the leaves change from green to a lovely burgundy and the bark peels to give winter interest.

Margie's overgrown hydrangea needs to be moved, and she's preparing now
Margie's overgrown hydrangea needs to be moved, and she's preparing now

Unfortunately mine has overgrown its place next to a path and needs to be transplanted to a place where it is not crowded. Fall is the ideal time to do this task. I have found most shrubs and trees respond well to this process if root pruned 12 to 16 weeks before being dug. So now is the time to prepare your plants for their fall move.

Root pruning encourages new root growth near the main trunk. This helps to prevent transplant shock. Push a sharp flat head shovel into the soil at the drip line (outermost branches) to trim roots. Dig a trench all around the plant a foot deep then replace the soil loosely.

After 12 to 16 weeks to allow new root growth, the root ball can be dug. First, dig the new hole about a foot deeper and a foot or two wider than the root ball. Fill the hole with water—when it has been absorbed you are ready to move the plant to its new home.

Be sure to choose a spot that is wide enough to allow the plant to look comfortable when mature, and where it will receive adequate sun and water. Oak leaf hydrangeas are tolerant of drier soil than other kinds.

As much soil as possible should be dug under and around the plant; this is the root ball that is moved into the new location. Place the plant on a tarp to move it with root ball intact. Plant it at the same depth that it was growing in the previous location and firm soil all around to eliminate air pockets. Water well right away, and be sure to water it weekly until winter rains arrive. Autumn weather provides warm soil to promote root growth and cool air that reduces dehydration in the foliage.

Don’t prune your plant at this time, as that will stimulate growth and stress the reduced root system. You can remove spent flowers, and shape it lightly in the spring when visible growth appears.

I have used this method successfully with several shrubs and trees. Next spring the plant will begin new growth.

Questions? Email me at margierose2@gmail.com or call 503-645-2994


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Portland, Oregon 97291
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