Moving established plants is risky because you lose the majority of
the fine feeder roots responsible for absorbing water and nutrients
from the soil. Root pruning is one way to encourage the plant to
grow new feeder roots in the future root ball, prior to the move.
Root pruning reduces transplant shock and increases the likelihood
of moving the holly successfully. Plan to dig the largest root ball
you can manage, at least six inches of root ball per foot of
spread of the holly. The minimum recommended root ball for such
a plant is 16 inches in diameter, but the bigger you make it, the
more feeder roots you preserve, and the more likely it is that your
holly will re-establish happily in its new location.
Moving a holly this large would be a major project, mostly due
to the size and weight of the root ball
Root pruning is
best done in early fall, to prepare for moving the holly the
Broad-leaved evergreens such as hollies are best planted and
transplanted in spring. Unless there is another urgent reason for
moving it this spring, wait until next spring so you can root prune
it properly in advance.
There are different methods for root pruning. The simplest is called spading. Simply push a
into the soil all around the circumference of the holly, making sure
to create a large enough root ball. Push the spade in 12 – 15
inches deep. Spading is sufficient for small plants and plants that
have not been growing in a site for too long. It should be fine for
Trenching is a more involved method of root pruning,
and is usually reserved for larger trees and shrubs, or those that
have been established in a spot for a longer period of time. This
method involves creating an eight to twelve-inch wide, twelve-inch
deep trench around the circumference of the shrub. The outer edge of
the trench will become the outer edge of the root ball. Backfill the
trench with a soil mixture of two parts good topsoil to one part
compost. The idea is that feeder roots will fill the trench by the
time you transplant the holly in spring.
Whichever root pruning method you use, prune the roots and leave the
holly in place until the following spring. Be sure to provide
supplemental water when we have dry weather between root pruning and
digging. A two or three inch
layer of mulch will
help conserve soil moisture and moderate soil temperatures and
create a favorable environment for new feeder roots to grow. Avoid
allowing the mulch to physically contact the stems or trunk of the
Hollies are dioecious. It's the female
plant that has the red berries.
spring, dig the new hole so that it is no deeper than the holly is
growing in its current site. Make the hole at least twice the
diameter of the holly’s root ball.
Water the root ball
thoroughly before you move the holly to help it remain intact
while you dig. Carefully dig the root ball out of its current site.
You can wrap it in natural burlap and secure the burlap around the
stems or trunk with twine to help hold the root ball together until
you get it to the new planting site. Remember that even though a
good-sized root ball is heavy, it is also very delicate. Handle
it like a newborn baby! Always handle B & B plants by the
root ball, never the trunk or stems. There is a strong
possibility that the plant will die if its root ball is broken or
Lifting a heavy
It will help to use a wheelbarrow, dolly or garden cart to get the
holly from the original planting site to the new location you have
chosen. Settle it into the new planting hole, and make sure it is
no deeper than it was growing before. Do not use any kind of
fertilizer in the planting hole because it can burn tender new roots
that should begin to grow quickly once the holly has been replanted.
Backfill with the soil you removed to dig the new planting hole.
Water it in thoroughly and mulch with two or three inches of mulch,
but do not allow the mulch to physically contact the stems.
Pay careful attention to watering throughout the following year.
Check for soil moisture by sticking your hand under the mulch and
feeling the soil. If the soil is dry two or three inches below the
soil surface, give it a good soaking. If not, wait a few days and
check it again. Although you never want the newly transplanted holly
to dry out completely, you also do not want to kill it with kindness
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