Moving Conifers

chinnend(z4 WI)February 13, 2012

Hi All,

I'm hoping for some badly needed advice from all you 'experts' out there. :) I am going to be moving most of my confers (about 50) to my new home about an hour away. I will start digging them probably at the end of March. I plan on putting them all in pots until I have their new locations ready to plant. The oldest ones have been in about 4 years. All of them are dwarf or miniatures. Do you think this will be too hard on the plants? How do you judge which size pots to use and can I use just a garden soil mixture in bags to plant them in? How long can I safely keep them in pots before transplanting? Any advice will be appreciated. I'm moving an entire house full of stuff but am more worried about the plants than anything else.

A true plant junky, Cindi

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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Are you selling your current house and have you stated that you will be taking the plants? If not you could run into some issues since they are technically pernament fixtures of the land/house.

If you dig them in late March when do you think you could plant them? Is it possible to start working a plan and getting a lay of land of the new house so you can execute your plan once you move in?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:09PM
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chinnend(z4 WI)

Hi, Actually, the house won't be up for sale until after the conifers are potted up and ready to move. I'm hoping to have the area at the other house ready to plant a few weeks after I pot them but am not sure. I'll need to dig up lawn and add compost etc.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 2:52PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

So you should be able to plant them well before bud break.

Alot of folks like to use a simple mix of 50% peat and 50% peralite. Since they won't be in the pot very long I'd probably just use 75% potting soil and 25% peralite. Just keep the soil slightly damp not wet.

Any reason you are using compost? I'd recommend planting right in the native soil. If its poor draining then plant high and plan ahead for staking needs.

What type of soil are the conifers in now? If possibe I'd try to cut the roots further out to capture the roots then partially bareroot so you don't have a huge soil ball. Then plant immediately into the pot with a little extra on the bottom so you don't plop the roots direct into the pot.

I'm just one guy so take my advice with a grain of salt.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:09PM
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Experts? Your passion and determination to take your "friends" with you qualifies you in my humble opinion...I'll just add that with four or less years in the ground, root growth shouldn't be substantially bigger than their original containers. ... And of course, minimizing time out of the ground would help. Big job, expert gardener :)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:39PM
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.....a slightly different take on the compost: If you are indeed aiming to incorporate it into the entire planting area, then it is a soil amendment par excellance. Otherwise, whaas is correct-no soil amendment to the tiny area around transplants. That is going to do no good, and could do some harm.

But again, if it is your plan to add compost to pretty much the full extent of your future planting beds, I say do it.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:42PM
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This is a great topic and I look forward to others opinion. It's a question I've had in the past when I want to move a plant but have to hold it in a pot awhile. Be intresting to hear what others do.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:50PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'll tell you one thing the only time you'll catch me with a plant in a pot is when the ground is frozen!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 7:04PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

If your soil isn't sand and you can maintain a ball of soil (use your hands to add to the rootball more soil until it's a solid ball) then... use trash bags and sack the rootballs each individually.

You can prepare a tilled strip at the new location in morning sun or mostly shade and plant them temporarily there, and then move them again when you're ready to landscape.

I'd never pot em up. Never would consider it. Never did that either when I moved.

If you cannot maintain rootballs, use cheap topsoil but don't keep em in the pots for an extended period of time, and definitely keep them in mostly shade and well-watered.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 7:26PM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

You can use a an old technique called Heeling in. This is accomplished by digging or tilling a trench wide and deep enough to cover the root ball. First, if you are digging the plants for heeling in, dig enough dirt with their roots to keep as much of the 'dirt ball' around the roots as possible. The longer you expect to have the plants heeled in, the larger the root ball you want to keep. This minimizes the shock, and would be true even if you weren't heeling them in. In the meantime you can decide where you want to put them and get the holes ready in the spring. The watering is, again, extremely important for their survival, as is keeping them out of direct sunlight, especially if it turns hot and dry. Also add several inches of mulch for moisture retention.

The ticket is to get them in the dirt, any sort of moist dirt, ASAP after you dig them. Make sure you dig them before they break bud. You can lean them to one side or just plant them straight up as I have done. You can deal with the actual planting in a bit as long as the dirt is moist and the roots are covered up well.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 7:28PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

If it's the bed prep that's slowing you down you may want to consider buying a load of topsoil and spreading that out as a nursery bed. Like others have said, the less time out of the soil the better and this way they are planted as soon as you bring them over.

Six inches of topsoil would kill most turf grass it covers, it's easy to plant in and much easier to prep than removing sod, rototilling, etc. If it's weedy turf, you could spray roundup to kill that off first before spreading the dirt..... I guess this is pretty much the same idea as Dave's, just minus any tilling and digging turf.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 8:12PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

first.. i moved about 1650 pots ... to my house ... we are talking experience here.. not speculation and theory ...

i dug all summer.. and moved about 1/1 ... and i was glad NOT to have garden work for the first 4 months.. while i put the house together ... your first mistake is presuming you will get the keys to the new house.. and immediately have nothing better to do.. other than planting a garden.. it doesnt work that way ...

so the first thing you need to do.. is shoot for planting at the next PROPER PLANTING TIME .... which will be next fall ... you need time to move in.. set up the house.. and build beds for the new plants ... so pot timing being of the essence... you will need at a minimum.. 6 months time in the pot ...

so... first things first ... you need the pots ... used to be.. nurseries had recycle bins .. and you could scrounge them for free ... otherwise.. you will have to mail order them from some place like .... you dont mention size.. so i cant recommend such ... and big pots take a lot of media.. and it can get very expensive.. very fast.. filling a big pot with media ... so the biggest stuff.. might have to stay.. it might become cheaper to buy a new one.. rather than mess with a big one .. i would suggest nothing over 2 feet ... or a 5 gal pot ...

next.. you need.. potting MEDIA ... no soil/dirt/mother earth ... we can not predict what such will do in a pot ... as in drainage .. which is paramount ... you dont really want a pot full of mud with a conifer in it ... there is something called Al's gritty mix.. or some such thing [which is all over GW].. or i use 50% commercial peat media.. cut with 50% mini bark chunks ... both available from a good nursery .... you want water in the top.. which nearly runs out the bottom .. that is all a tree needs ... and i do NOT recommend a mix with fert already in it ....

then you need to decide.. whether they should be near bare rooted .. and put into just media.. i have run into big problems ... when i have a soil ball.. with a packing of media ... it can work short term [weeks] .. but it becomes a problem long term ....

while TOTALLY DORMANT .... consider bare rooting and prophylactic root pruning .. into the proper media ... and you should be in good shape ...

now.. lets presume you get past all that .. i suggest.. you move them in advance to a good friends house .. and store them in full shade ... it is way to complicated.. on moving day.. to be messing with this foo foo stuff ... if you can move them a week ahead.. and leave them somewhere .. for a month .. while you set up house.. and then move them to the new house.. its just so much easier ...

AND NEVER LEAVE A BLACK POT IN SUN .. you will cook the roots ...

and then.. come next sept/oct ... with the beds all made.. the design all set.. plant them properly ... which would again involve bare rooting them to get rid of the media ....

make any sense???

heck right now.. you dont even know the soil type at they new garden.. and dont know if you will be able to plant them directly .. or have to mess with clay ....

since they are all mini's .. it should not be overwhelming ... but it isnt going to be easy, nor cheap ...

any questions??


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 8:59AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

What a hilarious post. Is Forest Gump lurking in here some where.?

Why in the world would you want to dig and pot? Buy potting media and care for all those transplants through the whole growing season. You will loose a few for sure.

Dig a trench put them in it, cover up and water. Make it a quick transition ...have all your holes dug for permanent placing before hand. Early spring is a good time to transplant. Late fall being the best time. In your case go for it. I think I said all this once. Pardon my redundancy.

Moved 1650 pots and dug all summer and put them in pots.

What a long dissertation. Nothing complex about you Ken. All kidding aside your plan has merit if time and money are not a factor.

Chinnend...I guess the choice is yours. Your live in Z.4 so you will have some time to mull it over.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 1:18PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

dave did you miss the part where he has to move them 60 miles .. sell/pack a house.. move the house and the plants...

are we to presume you would just have the little woman do it all while you played in the new garden??? my guess is, not knowing her at all .. is that we would find you buried out behind the garage .. with a pile of dead conifers on top..

he wants them dug.. prior to the house sale.. so he has to hold them long term.. then sell the house.. then move.. then setup the house ... then plant ... and if anyone of those variables stalls.. and they are not properly potted.. he may lose them all ....

UNLESS!!! you could dig and move them to the friend i mentioned.. and heeled them in for this summer.. and planned for the PROPER PLANTING in fall ..

BTW.. the vast majority of my pots were hosta.. much more forgiving than conifers/trees ... cant overwater those ...

i know dave was messing with me ...


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 4:02PM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

"i know dave was messing with me"

Yep! Cabin fever.

"buried out behind the garage .. with a pile of dead conifers on top".. Cheaper that way and who would care.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 4:27PM
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I think it also depends what zone you are in. I moved about a year and a half ago, and went from a really hot climate (Nor Cal in the valley), to the PNW (home of the conifers :). I plucked many of my favorite conifers from our old house late summer/ early fall and had no problems. Drove my entire plant collection including maples and cactus/succulents in a U-Haul 800+ miles. In fact I still have a handful in containers/ black pots awaiting planting. Lots of good advice already given, so my 2 cents is you'll keep a lot and loose some, don't stress, you can always get more. Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 10:38PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I plucked many of my favorite conifers from our old house late summer/ early fall and had no problems. Drove my entire plant collection including maples and cactus/succulents in a U-Haul 800+ miles.

===>>> i think the short version in the story above was PROPER TIMING ... late summer/ early fall is perfect planting time.. [to overcome the shock of the rest of the story ..] which sounds just perfect for the destination in the PNW ...

but i am trying to picture conifers hanging out the back window.. tongues a flapping, tail wagging .. going down the road.. lol ... but i digress


    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 8:07AM
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chinnend(z4 WI)

You guys are too funny and I really enjoyed reading all the comments. I guess I should clarify a bit. I'm getting married in late May and am moving to a house that my fiance' is already in. We're going to dig and get the beds ready as early as we can. I will have a large number of plants to plant so will need to keep them in pots for a week or so before I can get them into the ground. I'm moving the house stuff gradually and am more worried about the survival of the plants rather than getting the house in order..(spoken like a true gardener)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 12:03PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

We're going to dig and get the beds ready as early as we can.

Hopefully he/she knows this!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 4:20PM
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