Transplanting Boxwood Step-by-Step

October 8, 2008 | By | Comments (113)


Q: Dear Grumpy,

I need to transplant a boxwood that is in the way of an addition to the house. How do I do that? It needs to be done now (October).


A: Dear Carol,

Few people it seems are happy with where their boxwoods are, because they all want to know when and how to move them. “When?” is easy. Now. October and November are good months. So turn off Oprah (even if she’s giving away goodies to her fawning, insufferably greedy audience), grab yourself a shovel, and follow me out to the yard.

Now the day before you dig, you want to water your boxwood thoroughly. Water needs to penetrate the earth to a depth of around 8 inches. Why? Three reasons.
First, the plant will be easier to dig.
Second, the plant will suffer less transplanting shock.
Third, the root ball is less likely to break and fall away from the roots during the move.
So now it’s tomorrow and you’re ready for the big move. Follow these steps.

Step 1 — Starting at the bottom of the shrub, wrap cord or twine around the circumference of the plant, making a pattern like the corkscrew stripe on a barbershop pole. When you get to the top, pull the cord fairly tight and tie a knot. What this does is lift and compress the branches, making the shrub easier to dig and less cumbersome to move.

Step 2 — This is the key step. Use a sharp spade to dig out a trench 4-6 inches wide and 8-10 inches deep all around the boxwood. The trench should be no closer than 6-8 inches from the trunk, depending on the plant’s size. Once you’ve dug that, start digging beneath the root ball, until you finally sever its connection to the soil.

Step 3 — Place your hands on the base of the trunk and carefully lift the root ball from the ground. If it’s too heavy for just you, get some help. Then gently place the root ball on a tarp or sheet of plastic. You should be be able to easily pull the tarp or plastic across the lawn or yard to its new location. If sliding the root ball isn’t an option, you may have to use a wheelbarrow. Don’t break the root ball!!!

Step 4 — Dig the new hole twice as wide as the root ball, but no deeper. Once in the hole, the top of the root ball should be a half-inch higher than the soil surface. This is because boxwoods hate standing water. You can use your shovel handle to estimate the depth the new hole needs to be. Tamp the soil around the root ball, then water thoroughly. Finally, spread about an inch of mulch over the root ball, but don’t pile up mulch against the trunk.

Good luck,


  1. Grumpy Gardener


    No need to put them back in pots. Water them well, give them some love, and perhaps they will be fine.

    March 28, 2016 at 4:08 pm
  2. Kobey

    I have only just transplanted them to so they are still alive for now that is, i am praying you may have a solution for me as they are around 5 years old and were in good condition

    March 26, 2016 at 5:06 pm
  3. Kobey

    I think i have made a big mistake with transplanting my english box, i have teased the root ball is there anything i can do to save them like put them into pots or is it to late and i should just wait for them to die !! i was moving them from one patch of garden to another

    March 26, 2016 at 5:03 pm
  4. Pam

    Pictures are worth a thousand words. Thank you. But you could have omitted your demeaning comments about Oprah and her audience. Or demeaning words about anyone actually. I want gardening advice, Not commentary about your prejudices.

    March 25, 2016 at 6:35 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener


    If you can find enough strong men to dig a really big root ball for each and follow the directions above, you can save them.


    Sorry I didn’t answer until now, but now would be a good time to transplant.

    February 29, 2016 at 11:11 am
  6. Robin Emmons

    I am having a demolition and rebuild of a porch now (February). I have (2) large, glorious, 30 year old Boxwoods smack dab in the middle of the area where the rebuild will take place. Is there any hope of saving these beauties that are now facing imminent death with concrete footings poured and lumber planned for decking right over them? Please Help!!!

    February 23, 2016 at 5:14 pm
  7. Thao Le

    I am planning on upgrading my wooden fence to an iron one, and in order to do so, it is necessary for me to transplant my boxwood about 2 feet from the fence. The end of October is near which means that winter will be arriving soon. Would the climate of the winter affect my boxwood or is it acceptable to transplant the boxwood now?

    October 24, 2015 at 10:29 pm
  8. Steve Bender


    Removing most of the roots of a boxwood now in order to fit it into a bonsai pot now would probably kill it. Its best chance at survival is if you wait until the plant is dormant.

    May 30, 2015 at 6:06 am
  9. Carole Patterson

    I have an older mature boxwood that I want to transplant to a fairly shallow container in order to shape into a bonsai. My question is, how much of the root structure can I safely remove in order for it to fit into a shallow container without killing the shrub?

    May 22, 2015 at 4:48 pm
  10. designerplants

    Hi Admin,

    I have just gone through to your blog, it seems a brilliant use of content and images to express your information. It’s really good information about transplanting boxwood hedges.
    Fall is the best time to transplant an existing boxwood hedge because it will have plenty of time to recover before the heat of summer. Spring is also acceptable, but transplanting in summer is difficult at best.

    keep writing the stuffs like this.

    Designer Plants

    April 17, 2015 at 4:40 am
  11. Steve Bender


    You can correct the U-shape by trimming them now. Gradually, they should grow foliage on the sides as the sides get sunlight. Given the apparent transplanting shock, I don’t think I’d try moving them again this spring. You might kill them. Wait until they go dormant in fall.

    April 24, 2013 at 8:46 am
  12. Cristina

    We transplanted 3- 4×4 boxwoods to the front of our house at the beginning of the month- it was our first time transplanting anything but we did the research and gave it our best. They had been used as a hedge for about 18 years and are now separated and thus totally bare on most sides with leaves mostly on the tops. I should mention the tops are very uneven- almost “u” shaped on one. Not exactly increasing our curb appeal! Is it even possible to get them to fill out and form them into nice mounds? Last week we started to see what I think is shock. Lots of leaves fell off but they look nothing like the pictures of diseased boxwood I’ve seen. Also, I’m not pleased with their placement, they’re not centered to the porch- is it too late to try to shift them again or would that be way too traumatizing?


    April 23, 2013 at 10:31 am
  13. Steve Bender

    If they have new, fresh foliage on them, it probably got burned by the frost. However, they will recover soon. I don’t think they’re suffering from transplanting shock.

    March 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

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