I moving an arborvitae now instead of Fall.

Asked April 2, 2019, 10:26 PM EDT

We have a arborvitae hedge (9-10 ft.) in front of our house; currently, one arborvitae died, it is about 3 years old and 8 ft. in height. Desiring to replace it with an arborvitae from the side of the house because a shed will be blocking it. We wish to transplant the one (9-10 ft.) from the side of the house to replace the dead one in the front now. Have read the desirable time to transplant is Fall, but won't have access to the live arborvitae in the Fall because of the shed's location. What are the needed precautions if we transplant the arborvitae now? Thanks!

Clackamas County Oregon

1 Response

Hi, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert in regards to transplanting your arborvitae in early spring and summer.

How to Lessen the Shock of Transplanting

  1. Water the plant to be transplanted the day before you plan to lift it out. This ensures that the whole plant will be hydrated, roots, leaves and all when it's actually time to transplant. Make sure that it is a good, deep soaking so the roots can take up as much water as possible. (This will also make it easier for you to dig.)
  2. At least one day before you dig out your existing arborvitae dig a hole in its new location and fill this new hole with water. This hole should be adequate in size to accommodate the arborvitae’s root ball.
  3. Dig and/or transplant when it is overcast or during the cooler evening hours. This will give the plant the entire night to get adjusted in its new spot before being exposed to the heat and bright light of day.
  4. Dig around the root ball of the arborvitae with a spade. Cut the roots with a hatchet, maul or axe when the spade does not go through. Arborvitae that are 10- to 15-feet tall need a root ball of at least 3 feet in diameter.
  5. Water the plant again immediately before digging or removing from its spot. You want the soil around the root ball to be well saturated so that the soil will adhere to the roots when it is dug from the garden. This prevents the roots from being exposed never leave the roots exposed to sun, heat or wind. Once again water the hole before you place the transplant into it. You want the soil so saturated it turns to mud. This is sometimes referred to as puddling.
  6. Place the transplant into the hole, fill it halfway with soil and then water again. Allow the water to settle the soil around the roots and then finish filling the hole.
  7. Lightly firm the soil around the transplant. You want to close any air pockets in the soil, but you don't need to press so hard that you compact the soil. Let the water settle things rather than stomping with your foot.
  8. Once again, water the whole plant, leaves and all. This probably sounds like too much water, but you would be surprised how much water can evaporate during the planting process. If you are working on a cool, still, overcast day, you can get away with a little less water, but never skip the final watering once the plant is in the ground.
  9. If possible, shield the new transplant from direct sunlight for 3 to 5 days. Use a floating row cover.

How to Care for the Plant After Transplanting

Check the plant daily for the first couple of weeks. Transplants may need watering every day, if not more. Depending on the weather and the plant, you may need to water twice a day until it becomes established. The larger the plant and/or the fewer roots to top growth ratio, the more water will be needed. Check the soil for dryness a few inches below the surface to determine if more water is needed. If the plant is wilting, water it immediately.

All of this may seem extreme, but the shock of being uprooted is stressful to plants any time of the year. In the heat of spring and summer, this extra precaution is vital to easing the transition for your transplants.

Good luck and Happy Gardening.