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Transplant root ball and trunk only? Will it grow?

Posted by toonces74 9 (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 14, 08 at 0:48

Last year I watch in horror as my neighbor cut down a fairly large rhody (at least 15 years old) which was growing too close to the house. (She was painting the exterior and it was in the way.) The rhody was cut, leaving no branches. Well, in just a little over a year, her rhody has come back and is about 2 ft tall and bushy.

So now I am wondering if I could do the same. I have two rhodies that are over 15 years old, probably circa 1970s. They are leaning out away from the house. There is no growth on the back sides.

I'd like to whack them off AND THEN transplant the root systems, and grow them in an area with plenty of room for them to grow symmetrically. I will be here for several years and don't mind waiting for the plants to resestablish themselves. But do you think it would kill them?

What time of year do you think would be best?

At least one will have to be moved due to a remodel. That particular one has damage at the base of its trunk, it was full of termites at one point. I think it would break off if moved intact, which is impossible anyway since it is soooo big. It's taller than me and about 6 -7 feet wide.

The other one has 3 or 4 branches that have sprung up at its base. I'm thinking that they might serve as the foundation for the "new plant" if I cut the top part off.

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RE: Transplant root ball and trunk only? Will it grow?

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 14, 08 at 16:12

I can't give you any guarantees. While rhododendrons are often successfully moved/transplanted, and healthy, established plants will often recover nicely from cutting back severely, you are considering doing both at the same time and are increasing your chance of failure. Best case scenario would be to cut back one year and move the following year if that's possible. It takes approx 10 weeks for dormant growth buds under the bark on main stems to begin to grow, sometimes longer with very old wood.

Keep in mind too that reducing the top growth considerably will not change the size of the root ball and it's going to be large, at least as wide as the branches extend pre-pruned. While you can cut a somewhat smaller rootball (recommended is "as close in diameter that would equal 2/3 the rhododendrons height", and again pre-pruned), you will still need help and will want to drag on a tarp to avoid damaging those fine surface roots.

RE: Transplant root ball and trunk only? Will it grow?

Thanks, I will try it in stages. After all, I am not in that big of a hurry.

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