Can I Transplant My Boxwood Now?

April 30, 2012 | By | Comments (7)

Faithful readers, just a short post today on a matter of monumental importance to all of humankind.

What is Grumpy’s favorite all-time movie?

Just kidding. From all the desperate emails I have been getting, it seems a lot of you want to know if it’s still OK to transplant shrubs. Many people ask about transplanting boxwoods, but others want to know about moving azaleas, gardenia, loropetalums, crepe myrtles, and other shrubs. The answer to all of these questions is pretty much the same.

The best time to move boxwood or any of these plants is in cool weather when they are dormant. Once the weather warms and they start growing, transplanting them will usually result in some degree of transplanting shock. If it’s mild shock, they’ll recover. If it’s severe, they’ll croak.

You would probably prefer the former result. So here are some guidelines.

1. Once temps reach the 80’s, your chances of moving an establish shrub without killing it plummet. So ask yourself, “Do you feel lucky?” Is the shrub worth enough that you’re willing to wait until fall?

2. If you do decide to transplant, you must get a big root ball and disturb the roots as little as possible. Water the plant the night before so that the roots will be moist and the root ball will hold together.

3. Dig the hole for the new location before you dig out the plant, so you can get it in the ground ASAP.

4. Whatever you do, DON’T BREAK UP THE ROOTBALL or your plant is a sure goner. Get as many hands as you need to move the plant gently. If you are moving it some distance, place the root ball on  a tarp and slide it over the ground.

5. Plant it in its new spot so that the top half-inch of the root ball is above the soil surface. Fill in with soil, soak the root ball, and then cover the top with an inch or two of mulch.

6. If the plant is now in full sun, trying using a tarp or something like it to shade it during the afternoon until it adjusts.


8. DO NOT FERTILIZE AT THIS TIME. This just puts additional stress on the plant. Wait until next spring when the plant starts actively growing.

9. Good luck. You’ll need it.

Grumpy’s Favorite Movie

Could it be any other? Grumpy takes no prisoners. Neither did General George Patton. He’s my kind of guy.


  1. Steve Bender


    No problem. Thanks!

    May 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm
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  3. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Thanks for catching that, Carolyn. I wrote this piece early in the morning getting ready for a business trip and didn’t catch the typo.
    Oakleaf hydrangeas are tough. I, too, have seen them dug up and transplanted in summer and survive. But if you do this with most shrubs, they’ll be dead in a week.
    See you in Asheville, Lisa!

    May 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm
  4. Lisa

    Look forward to seeing you in Asheville!
    Your comments would have been relevant on our gardening call-in show on Your Day (SC-ETV) today!
    It’s definitely NOT the time to transplant in our area…

    May 3, 2012 at 9:31 pm
  5. julianchandler

    To Beth: I transplanted 6 mature oakleaf hydrangeas in central Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago. Through haste and lack of planning (and yes, admit it, stupidity), I violated every one of Grumpy’s rules. They were essentially bare-root by the time I got them in the ground, and sure enough, they wilted like 2-month old celery. I was sure they were goners, but I watered them thoroughly twice a day for the first week and at least once a day since then. To my total surprise, they perked up a bit after a couple of days, and now they look quite chipper except when the temps get over 80–so I water them again. Even the blooms are standing up straight! (We’ll see if they can make it through July.) Much luck with your own more sensible transplanting mission.

    May 1, 2012 at 10:07 am
  6. Beth@UnskinnyBoppy

    Great info! I have a bunch of oakleaf hydrangeas growing wild in the wooded areas of my house. I want to move them up front to my mailbox flowerbeds so I can pretend like I live on Riverchase Parkway. I now have a new Fall project. Wish me premature luck!

    May 1, 2012 at 9:20 am
  7. Carolyn choi

    What’s a bowxood, Grumpy? Spellcheck your title. Frankly, I’m surprised at your movie choice. I thought sure it would be Slingblade.

    May 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

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