Rescuing large rhodys and azaleas

vegangirl(z6 VA)June 20, 2006

I have an opportunity to move some rhodys and azaleas that are about 4 feet tall. I can't tell how wide they are yet because they are all intertwined. They will be destroyed in a month so I want to try. Is it worth the effort? How should I go about the transplanting? Should I cut them back? I would appreciate any advice! Thanks!


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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Rhododendrons and azaleas are among the easiest plants to move. Their dense, fibrous and shallow root systems make it
simple to remove plants with most of the root mass intact. If I were doing this, I think I would try to first cut around the outside of the entire intertwined mass. Then slice through the mass to seperate the individual plants. Try to stay as far away from each main trunk as you can in this step. Finally, undercut the roots (6 to 8 inches or so deep) using a flat spade and gradually prying upward. This should ultimately seperate them into individual plants. Avoid intense sun exposure and keep well watered and they should flourish in new locations. Cutting back should not be necessary - I've moved rhododendrons in the six to eight foot range without doing it. Performing the whole operation during a rainy spell would be ideal, but with shade and lots of water I think you will have no problem.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 10:37AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Mainegrower gave excellent advice. I would add:

 Take precautions to preserve the integrity of the root ball. Tie the ball together and support is so it doesn't fall apart. The very safest approach is to dig a trench up to 12 inches deep, around the dripline of the plant. Then undercut the plant to form a cone, removing the soil an inch or so at a time, moving all around the plant, until you begin to see that you are removing roots. If possible, then get a square of burlap under the plant. Tilt the plant to one side, put one edge of the burlap close to the center of the plant, wadded up so that only half of it is on the open side of the plant, then rock the plant the other way and pull the burlap through. Tie the corners of the burlap to each other across the plant. Tie the burlap tightly to keep the soil around the plant roots undisturbed. Then lift the plant by the burlap and the bottom, not by its stems.

 Pruning the top helps match the demands of the top to the capability of the roots after they are stressed by the move. People have been known to cut the top off wild rhododendrons before moving and the plants have come back with superior shape. This is drastic and not recommended for a plant you don't want to risk loosing. Rhododendrons and azaleas have dormant buds beneath the bark which sprout to form new growth after severe pruning, hence severe pruning which removes 1/3 to 1/2 of leaf area is quite common when transplanting. Make sure you watch the plant after it was moved like you would a new plant. Its roots are compromised and it will need a reliable source of moisture. If the weather has a dry spell, make sure you water any newly planted rhododendrons, large or small.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 10:57AM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

mainegrower and rhodyman, Thank you both so much for the very helpful information. I'll print this off and have my husband and son study it:-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 12:46PM
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Why are they going to be destroyed in a month? Are they growing wild in an area about to be deveoloped for construction? If they are let me know if there's any left. I live in Northern VA and always find out AFTER an area is bulldozed.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 7:38PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

winged mammal, no, they are around a double wide trailer that is being sold and will have to be moved. They are so close to the trailer that there is no way it can be moved without getting the shrubs out of the way.

I know what you mean about finding out AFTER an area is bulldozed. I love woodland wildflowers and it causes me anguish when I see a new area being developed and I think of the woodland natives I could have rescued if I had only known! There must be some way to find out ahead of time but I haven't discovered it yet.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 6:57AM
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