Winter is good time to move plants around in landscape
By Sid Mullis| Correspondent
Friday, January 22, 2010

We all make landscaping mistakes. My most recent one resulted in me having to move a dwarf crape myrtle about a foot because I had planted two of them too close together. Fortunately, winter is a great time to correct landscaping mistakes.

January and February are good times to move plants. If you do it right, there is no reason they shouldn't thrive in a new spot in the landscape. You'll still be able to enjoy them, and you can put a more appropriate plant in that spot.

When moving plants, you cut off a large portion of roots, so you have to prune back the top to compensate. You might need to remove one-third or more of the canopy.

However, if you have to remove more than half the canopy and have to cut back large stems, you might as well prune the plant all the way back to the ground. Otherwise, it might look like a shrub on legs when it begins growing again in spring.

Most broadleaf shrubs can be severely pruned, but never cut back junipers, pines, spruce or other conifers, because they won't form new growth.

Boxwoods are slow to grow after severe pruning, especially English boxwood, so prune them conservatively when you move them.

If you can avoid pruning back large shrubs such as azaleas when you transplant them, they will still flower in the spring. You can reshape them with pruning after they bloom.

When you dig up a large shrub, save as many roots as you can. Most of the roots are in the top 12 inches of the soil. So get as much of the surface roots as you can.

The width of the root ball should be 12 inches plus an extra 2 inches for each foot of height above 2 feet. In other words, a shrub 4 feet tall would have a root ball at least 16 inches wide -- 2 (feet) times 2 inches plus 12 inches.

Carefully cut underneath the ball and place a piece of cloth, such as burlap, under it. If the shrub is large, it might take two people to carry or drag it to its new location.

Time is critical. Before you dig up the plant, have the new hole ready. Roots die quickly when exposed to sun and air.

Make certain the shrub is planted at the same level it was growing in the previous location.

As soon as you plant, water thoroughly. That should be all you have to do.

Just don't let the roots dry out. Keep the roots moist, not saturated, and it should do fine. During the winter, you might need to water every 10-14 days in the absence of rain.

Do not water every day or several days during the week. If you do that you are sure to kill it.

Pay special attention to watering needs this summer. Hand water it and don't expect a sprinkler to give it the thorough drenching it will probably need from time to time.

WATERING HOUSE PLANTS: Sometimes it can be hard to know how often certain houseplants need watering. Some plants obviously need it more often than others, but here are a few principles to keep in mind:

- Clay pots have to be watered more often than plastic pots.

- Small pots need to be watered more often than large pots.

- On bright, sunny days, you have to water more often than on cloudy days.

- Pot-bound plants must be watered more often than plants that have plenty of room in the soil.

- Plants in active growth require more water than dormant plants.

- A coarse, loose soil mix must be watered more often than a fine, tight soil mix.

- Cacti and succulents usually require less watering than other plants.

Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.

From the Friday, January 22, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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