Transplanting a mature Hydrangea

Mariea(5)March 13, 2012

HELP! I have a very mature Hydrangea (snowball bush) its about 12 years old and was transplanted when it was small about 8 years ago. It is now very large (approx 3 ft high and 3 feet around) it is beautiful and has both purple and pink blooms on it. The location must be perfect because it thrives every year giving me 75-100 blooms. Just a little bit about my background-Im not a "gargener" and dont know much about plants and dont do well with them most of the time, but this bush is georgous. I dont believe I have ever gave it a serious pruning but I cut off the brown blooms each year before its ready to bloom again. OKay now for my question.. Unfortunetly I have to dig it up because of some drainage problems with our home. I will be putting it back but I have to remove it to repair our home issue, How do I dig it up? Do I have a good chance of it surviving? Once I dig it up what can I do with it until the ground is ready for me to put it back. I live in WV and I believe things will start budding in a month. HELP. ANy information that you can give me will me so appreciated!

Thank you so much Mariea Golden

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Actually, 3'x3' is not "very large" for a hydrangea at all so moving it shouldn't be an issue. Depending on how long its going to be away from its permanent planting location, there are a couple of ways you can approach it. If only a matter of a few weeks, you can simply dig it up and store it in a large garbage bag. Make sure you get as big a rootball as you can manage, keep the plant in a protected and relatively shady location and keep the soil around the rootball moist (not wet). Poke a couple of holes into the bag so excess water can drain. If it's going to be an extended length of time follow the same instructions but place in a large container - big enough to hold the rootball snugly but comfortably. A large plastic bucket like used for kid's toy storage works well if a 5G HD orange bucket or the like not available or too small. Make sure there are drainage holes......

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 5:02PM
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You can transplant this shrub right about now while it is still dormant. You will need a large planter or plastic tub with handles (for tub) about two and half to 3 feet in diameter and depth. A planter should have holes at the bottom a plastic tub you will need to drill some. Some muscle or a wheel barrow to transport the plant.

Place the planter/tub where you want it fill the bottom of the tub with an inch of gravel. Add an inch of peat hummus on top of the gravel. Now you are ready to transplant your shrub.

The roots on a hydrangea are a fibrous ball easy to dig up. For a 3 foot wide shrub you should try to get about two feet of root ball width and depth. Use a fulcrum to lift the shrub up from the bottom of the root ball out of the hole. Try not to handle the shrub by the base of the canes.

Transport the shrub to its new location; fill in excess space in the planter/tub with peat hummus. Top the planter with a thin layer of mulch about an inch.Fertilze with osmocote as directions suggest. Water well never water the leaves always water the soil. Cut the shrubs canes by half this will ensure there are not more leaves than the root ball can support.

When it is time to put the shrub back simply use the contents of the planter. Place the shrub back in the original hole or a new one. Drop in the plant; back fill the hole with mix from the planter and native soil. Add a layer of mulch make sure the plant stays watered well for the first year.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 5:11PM
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Sorry - no gravel at the base of the tub or bucket and I wouldn't go to any special effort for soil either. What came out of the ground will work just fine for a temporary container situation. Gravel doesn't improve drainage - it impedes drainage. And no pruning is necessary either - shrub is likely still dormant at this time of year and even if it were not, pruning to transplant is no longer recommended. The plant needs all that leaf growth to support the root growth, not necessarily the other way around.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 5:30PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I agree, no need to prune it back - pruning could be detrimental. When you replant, try to put it back at the same depth it was originally growing and not any deeper...

If your hydrangea is healthy you should be successful with your temporary move. I've had a maintenance project that required moving several plants out of harms way too, and after a few weeks (it turned into more time than I had imagined), I had very little damage and only to a handful of perennials, none of the shrubs. Shade and attention to water, I think you'll be fine....

You can feel confident trusting Gardengals advice, if I'm not mistaken she moved an entire garden not too many months ago ;)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Awesome! Thank you all for your much needed advise!!!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 8:05AM
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I will have to do the same with three old and beautiful lt blue and purple mopheads. I have to replace my cesspool this fall and unfortunately they are in the work zone. I'm told the work will just take a day, so they won't be out of the ground that long. Cesspool guys said they'd just "toss them" to the side (lol, there will be no "tossing" of my precious hydrangeas!!) What is the best way to remove for a day or two? Should I just lay them to the side under shade and keep root ball moist, or should I put root in a garbage bag with drain holes? Is fall a bad time of year to do this? We chose fall so that the soil can settle over the winter before we reseed the lawn.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 11:35AM
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lovinli, if they will only be out of the ground for a day or two, you can just shift the shrub, rootball intact, into a shady location and keep sufficiently moist. I would try to get the largest rootball you can manage and make sure the plants have been thoroughly watered well and deeply before attempting the move. As long as they are not allowed to dry out, you keep them in a somewhat protected location and you replant ASAP, you should be fine. And fall is an excellent time of year to attempt this.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 2:04PM
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I was searching for guidance on how to move my mature hydrangea, and found this thread - I realize it's an older thread so if I should post elsewhere, please let me know. I'm in a similar situation the above poster had - I have to move a 15 year old hydrangea that's about 5' x 5' due to our walkway needing repair, and the hydrangea has basically grown over it. We are in L.I., NY, and weren't sure if we could move this safely. I'm feeling hopeful after reading this thread, BUT, can someone tell me when the best time to do this is in my area? Should we wrap it in burlap to protect it first? Should it be cut back at all beforehand, or is it more likely to survive if we leave it as is and just dig it up and replant it in a new location? Any guidance will be most welcome, as this is one of the few shrubs in our yard that has done very well and I don't want to damage it. Thanks in advance for any help!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 9:22AM
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Corry, Is this a mop head hydrangea (the one with pink or blue flowers)? Typically August is not a good time to move plants due to the hot weather. However this year some states have mild summer so moving it now may be ok. If you can wait, I would recommend you move it in September when it is a little cooler. Hydrangeas are tough plants so far I have not failed to kill any. I have moved several of them to a different house and they all survived.

You can follow the recommendations posted in this thread. But try not wait for too long to re-plant. A few days are fine if you keep it in the shade and keep it moist. I would dig as big a root ball as you can (may need two people). If you need to hold it for a few days before replant, follow the instructions that Gardengal provided.

After you replant it, treat it like a new plant for watering. With transplanting in September, the watering need is less as the temp is cooler. With a big plant like this, you want to water the root area thoroughly everytime you do it, using a dripping hose may be easier. You may see the leaves wilt but wait until the next morning. If the leaves do not straighten up, you need to water the plant.

Good luck

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 10:26PM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

I have a similar situation but with a H. 'Little Lamb' that must be moved sometime in the next few months. It has seriously outgrown its current location (poor siting decision on my part when I bought it four years ago!) I want to swap it with another shrub so it has more room. I know I should wait until it is more reliably cool here in north central Connecticut (so late September?) but have two questions: (1) how LATE in the fall can I transplant it and (2) just to confirm previous posts, NO pruning, right? I would normally cut flowerheads for drying at some point in the early fall and assume that is still fine, but no major pruning post-transplant, right? (It will be dug and replanted the same day.) Thanks in advance! This hydrangea has put on an impressive show the last few years -- so much so it HAS to move to a bigger spot!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:27AM
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Vivian, thank you so much for responding... I didn't realize there was a response to my post until today. My hydrangea is a mophead, and after giving this a lot of thought, we realize that the only place to which we can move this beautiful shrub is a spot in our front yard that gets late afternoon sun. I know they love the shade, but our neighbor has a massive black walnut tree that towers over most of our property, and has made gardening here a challenge. I appreciate the help, and when we move the plant (probably late Sept., as it's already cooling off nicely here on L.I.) we will be replanting it the same day. Thanks again for the response!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2013 at 4:46PM
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