How to - Techniques

Three transplanting techniques

Karen York
Photography by
Emilie Simpson (illustrations)

Moving plants is one of the rites of spring; play horticultural musical chairs without skipping a beat

Shifting plants about is a constant task, whether it’s because they’re overcrowded, unhappy in that particular spot, or would simply look better elsewhere. Spring is perfect for transplanting because, like the gardener, plants are raring to go. They have broken dormancy and are full of growth hormones so, if moved properly, they’ll hardly notice the change. Even with spring’s cool temperatures, it’s best to transplant on an overcast, rather than sunny, day. Prep the new location before uprooting the plants so you can transfer them immediately; don’t leave them sitting around. If there is a delay, set the plants in the shade and cover the root balls with moistened burlap. Always keep plants at the same soil level when transplanting and water regularly afterward.

transplanting-pottedplants.jpgTechnique #1: Transplanting potted plants
Many plants can grow in pots for several years but eventually they will need larger quarters, either a bigger container or in the garden. In the case of the former, don’t make the new container too big – 5 to 8 centimetres larger across is fine – as too much soggy soil around the roots can rot them. Put 5 centimetres or so of fresh soil in the bottom of the new pot. Slide a long knife around the potted plant to loosen the root ball. Carefully tip out the plant, holding the top of the root ball and keeping it as intact as possible. If it’s reluctant, pull the plant gently. Check visible roots and snip off any brown or damaged ones. Place the plant in the new pot, adjusting soil to get the correct height. Fill sides with fresh soil, firming as you go, and water well. If the plant is being moved to the garden, dig a hole the same depth as the root ball and at least twice as wide. Set the plant, firm the soil around it, mulch and water. (For trees in very large containers, see Technique #3.)


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