Don’t Transplant Trees and Shrubs in Summer

June 29, 2010 | By | Comments (8)

Grumpy has been inundated lately by queries from people who want to know if it’s OK to transplant trees or shrubs to new locations now.

Grumpy’s answer: Only if you really want to kill them.

Vicki’s inquiry is typical. She writes (well, types): “I have a white ‘Natchez’ crepe myrtle tree next to my pool. It is full of beautiful, white blooms, but so is my swimming pool. Can it be moved and survive? The thought of killing such a beautiful tree is killing me, but so is the constant pool maintenance.” Here’s a photo.


Now the Grump has seen a full-sized crepe myrtle tree moved in the heat of summer that survived. Unfortunately, this kind of operation involves digging a trench around a very large root ball, wrapping the root ball with burlap, and using a tractor to move the root ball to the new location. Few people other than the Incredible Hulk are equipped to do this themselves, so they have to pay a bundle to get it done. Don’t want to pay? Then you either have to wait until fall to move it or move it yourself now and kill it. It’s a tough world. Click here to read more about what Grumpy and his good friend, Matt Damon, have to say about transplanting a crepe myrtle at the right time.


Joyce, who lives in Zone 5 (gets cold there in winter), wants to know if she can transplant her dwarf English boxwoods now.

Grumpy’s answer: Again, no. Even in Zone 5, where the Grump understands moose and polar bears regularly wander the streets, it gets hot in summer. Disturbing the roots of an actively growing tree or shrub in hot weather causes transplanting shock and probable death, even if you water it. Wait until the plant goes dormant in the cool weather of fall. Then click here and follow Grumpy’s step-by-step instructions for moving boxwoods at the proper time.


MK in Oklahoma has a different problem. She writes, “For Father’s Day, my son gave his dad three beautiful ‘Hoopsii’ blue spruces about 8 feet tall growing in pots. Since it is past planting season here, how do I care for them during the hot dry days of summer, as I can’t plant until September?”

Grumpy’s answer: Even though summer isn’t the best time to plant, for trees growing in pots it is better to plant them in the ground now than leave them where they are. This is because root balls in the ground won’t dry out as fast as those in pots. Oklahoma’s clay soil is a problem for spruces, so I suggest you plant your trees high. This means digging a hole that’s 2-3 times as wide as each root ball, but no deeper. Using excavated soil, partially fill each hole so that the top inch of the root ball is above the soil surface. Then fill in around the ball and thoroughly soak it. Spread several inches of mulch atop the exposed ball to cool the roots and keep them moist. Keep each tree well watered throughout the summer. For a crash course on Tree Planting 101, click here.


  1. Mary

    We have 3 blue spruces – one is aprox 4′, the other two are under 2′ high. They need to be moved – should we wait until cooler months here in Michigan prior to transplanting? I would assume that they are to be somewhat dormant as well for transplanting. And do we use burlap on the root ball? I have never done this before and am trying to find out what to do. Thank you.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm
  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Forsythia needs full sun to bloom its best. I would suggest moving it to a sunnier spot now. Try to get a nice, big root ball to minimize transplanting shock and water it thoroughly after you plant it. To get it to bush out, cut back those long branches to about two feet.

    April 23, 2011 at 7:25 am
  3. Susan

    I have a forsythia probly spelt wrong however its been growing for three years not sure how it found its way to my house but its in with a bunch of trees near my yard its only a couple of branches . But I’m sure it would be beautiful somewhere that it could spread its wings . But I don’t want to kill it . Please help
    Thank you

    April 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Count your blessings, Kelly. At least two are still alive. As for the third one, once the bark loses its suppleness and starts to shrink or curl, that branch is dead. Your crepe may die back a good bit but still grow back or it may die completely. Only time will tell.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm
  5. Kelly

    A friend of mine works for a construction company. He is building a road and was planning to throw three mature crepe myrtles away. I told him I would take them and try to transplant them, even though it is August in NC. He dug the holes with a backhoe, brought the trees to me and we planted them. We placed a drainage pipe in with the tree so that we could make sure water was getting to the root system. This was 6 days ago. Two trees have perked right up and seem to be doing well. The third tree looks dead. My husband said it’s in shock, but it just looks dead to me. Completely brown and brittle. My neighbor says it will come back. Any suggestions?

    August 5, 2010 at 8:19 pm
  6. Henry H.

    I tried to transplant myself from the couch to the yard yesterday and I almost died!!!!

    July 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm
  7. Jim Long

    Or, use a backhoe. Out of necessity I had to move my small meditation garden, beginning in May and continuing (I can hear the backhoe uprooting things as I type). We’ve carefully, with the help of the backhoe, moved a few things, keeping them from wilting and maybe, hopefully, they’ll survive. But I agree with Grump, summer is a terrible time to transplant anything, large or small, unless there is no other choice.

    June 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm
  8. Roscoe

    Good luck Vicki, that is a monster crepe myrtle. Call the tree man and get him to do it.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:31 am

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