Jackie French tells how you can take your beloved plants with you to your new home with some care and forward planning – even established shrubs.
shrub shifting and what to plant
Pack the cat in its cage, secure the china, but how do you take your garden when you move? Legally, plants rooted in soil are a fixture, like an in-ground pool. Yet, with the new owners’ permission, a beloved shrub can come with you to your new home.
Step 1. Be realistic. While you can buy fully grown trees, these have been grown above ground so their roots stay intact until they reach their new home. So stick to shrubs no more than 2 metres high to move.
Step 2. Begin as soon as you put your home on the market. Dig a trench at least 60cm deep – the bigger the shrub, the deeper the trench – around the “drip line” of the plant (where drips fall from the outermost branches). This encourages the main roots to form “feeder” roots to replace any that are damaged when you move.
Step 3. In your new garden, dig a hole wider than the drip line and as deep as it is wide before moving the plant.
Step 4. Back at the plant, place a large plastic sheet at least four times as wide as the drip line on the ground. Water the site well, then dig out the shrub, being careful not to cut into tap roots.
Step 5. Lift the shrub and as much undisturbed dirt as possible onto the plastic sheet. Wrap the roots and soil firmly, tying the plastic sheet to the shrub’s trunk loosely but securely.
Step 6. Move it swiftly to its new home and plant at once. Water for at least an hour to settle soil against the roots.
Step 7. Prune small branches right back to the main trunk. If possible, reduce the size of the shrub by at least half, but this will depend on the kind of plant. Long trunked palms, for example, will die if you cut them right back – remove their leaves instead.
Step 8. Spray with a foliar spray for at least a year after transplanting and water often.
Step 9. Don’t despair! Some plants stay dormant for years after moving. Patience and care are needed.
Moving your pot plants
Line a cardboard box with newspaper or magazines. Place one large pot or several smaller ones inside; pack firmly with scrunched up newspaper, both between each pot and all the way to the top, to stop earth spilling out and exposing the roots, or the plant’s stem or branches breaking. Label box “this side up”. Unpack your plants as soon as possible after moving and then water well because they will be dry and also to repack the earth around their roots.
Left: When moving your plant into its new home, plant it at once and water well.