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Transplanting Boxwoods

By Bill Trimmer, Owner/President of Professional Grounds, Inc.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Boxwoods. I’ve transplanted seven of my grandmother’s  boxwoods from her original home to each of my three new homes in Northern Virginia. When I move, they go with me. It is truly a labor of love. I haven’t lost a boxwood yet and wanted to share the steps I’ve used transplanting boxwoods successfully every time.

transplanting boxwoods

The boxwoods in this photo have been transplanted three times to each of the writer’s homes over the last 40 years.

Materials needed: A sharp spade and burlap/tarp

Preparation Tips: If you have the luxury of knowing your move 6-12 months ahead of time, it would be beneficial to root prune your Boxwood by inserting a spade just inside the drip line of your shrub to a depth of a least 1/3 of the height of the plant. The ‘drip line’ is the outer edge of your shrub, the point where water would drip to the ground from the outer leaves of the plant.

It’s also a good practice to mark the plant in relation to it’s current sun exposure so it can be planted with the same exposure in its new home.

When the time comes to dig, make sure the soil is moist. Why? The soil will be easier to dig. The moist soil will hold together and provide a firmer root ball and the plant will suffer less transplanting stress.

The best time to transplant boxwood is in the fall, spring would be the next favorable time of the year, however, if you follow these same steps you will likely have success anytime. My Grandma Nelly transplanted boxwoods so many times she joked that they could grow in the air. She was fortunate enough to have a real green thumb though and we’re not all blessed with that same talent.

The Task: Roll up your sleeves, this is the hard part: Digging. For plants under 28 inches, simply sink a sharp spade into the ground just inside the drip line. Carefully pull out the spade and work your way around the entire plant severing all lateral plant roots. DO NOT wiggle the spade, this will break up the root ball and damage roots.

Next, slowly leverage the root ball out of the hole with your spade. If you have a partner two spades are best for this part. For larger plants you will need to dig a 4-5 inches wide trench at the drip line to a depth of 1/3 the height of the plant before lifting.

Gently lift the root ball onto a piece of burlap (tarp can be used in a pinch). Secure the burlap around the root ball by tying opposite ends together securely.

Now your plant is ready for its big move. Again, it’s very important that you handle your Boxwood with care during the transition. If you damage the root ball you damage the roots.

Once you are at your Boxwood’s new site, dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and also a little deeper than needed. You will not be planting the Boxwood deeper than it was at its original site, however, digging the hole deeper and then back-filling the dirt to the proper height will allow the plant to settle in better. This will help with water distribution after planting as boxwood do not like “wet feet”.

I strongly recommend placing the boxwood so the tops of the roots are slightly above the soil level, about an inch.  Partially back-fill the hole covering the roots with the existing soil, ensuring sure to leaving about 4 inches from the ground level. At this point, water the plant thoroughly before adding the remaining dirt. Continue to back-fill to desired height and then mulch to a depth of 1 inch keeping the mulch away from the trunk.

Last but not least, continue to water your newly transplanted shrub on a consistent basis for the entire establishment phase.

Some gardeners may vary from this procedure slightly. For example, some suggest wrapping twine around the plant to compress the branches during transfer, a practice that can’t hurt, but I’ve found it to be unnecessary. At Professional Grounds, Inc. we enjoy creating designs that utilize a homeowners existing plantings, if desired, to help reduce waste and increase their ability to put that money toward other areas of their project. Please Contact Us today if you are interested in finding out more about our services.

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