Most rhododendrons and azaleas in the landscape, even large ones, can be moved using proper care. In favorable climates the transplanting can be done at almost any time when the plant is not in soft growth, except at the very hottest times. In cold climates early spring transplanting is recommended. In hot climates very late summer to late fall transplanting is preferred so that the root system has a chance to become established during the fall before next summers heat. Deciduous azaleas are best transplanted in their dormant season.
Rhododendrons and azaleas growing closely among trees or large shrubs may not be possible to move successfully if they have been in their location for a long time and the roots of the various trees and shrubs have become intertwined. In this case it is better to purchase or propagate new plants. If your plants are going to be bulldozed where they sit, you might consider trying to dig them, getting as many roots as you can, cutting back the tops somewhat, and giving them very good aftercare. Most rhododendrons you may wish to move are probably not in such a location and are not too difficult to transplant.
Deciduous azaleas, especially our native deciduous, may have sparse and widely spread out root systems. Care must be taken when moving them to get as many roots as possible, and if the root systems are small, the tops should be cut back drastically to within six to eight inches of the ground. Smaller deciduous azaleas are usually more successfully moved than larger ones.
Evergreen azaleas and large leaved rhododendrons have shallow fibrous root systems and should be dug with as large a root ball as possible. The dug root ball will likely not need to be too deep to get most of the roots, but it should be wide. Take your time in digging the plant so you can feel or see where the roots are and dig a root ball so as to get as many roots as possible. The planting hole should be prepared before you dig the plant you are moving when possible. (See Planting.) A cart can be used to move a large plant, or a tarpaulin can be used to slide the plant along the ground to its new location. If you need to transport the plant by open truck, it helps to protect the leaves from the drying winds by covering it with a tarpaulin.
It is best to plant your newly dug rhododendrons right away, but if you are not able to do so, the plants can be heeled in with a good mulch, such as pine bark soil conditioner, or even potted up in very large containers using good potting medium, such as the pine bark soil conditioner. In cold climates they should be planted before winter to keep the roots from dying from extremely cold temperatures. Plants can be held this way until you are ready to place them in their new location. Careful attention to watering will be required for plants heeled in or potted up, and also for the plants once they are transplanted.
Index of Contents
Pruning & Spent
Insect & Disease Control
- Azaleas on the Move
- Transplanting Azaleas
- When Can I Transplant Azaleas: Tips On Relocating An Azalea Bush
- When Can I Transplant Azaleas?
- How to Move an Azalea Bush
- How to Transplant Azaleas, Rhododendrons and other Small Shrubs
- Make a Move: How to Transplant Your Encore® Azaleas
- Fall is an ideal time to transplant Encore® Azaleas
- How To Transplant Azaleas
- Ask Mr. Smarty Plants
- When to Transplant Azaleas
- The Right Time
- Choose Your Spot
- Getting Ready
- Transplant With Care
Azaleas on the Move
Orchestrating a springtime concert of color is a snap, especially when you anchor your plantings with the season’s virtuoso performer–the azalea. These blooming beauties rate as one of the region’s signature plants, an all-time favorite among Southern gardeners.
Undoubtedly, the reason azaleas are so wildly popular is the sheer showstopping power of their flowers. And where one azalea looks good, you can bet that five will look even better. The secret to staging a springtime extravaganza is grouping azaleas that bear blossoms of the same color.
Ideally, the first step in creating swaths of a single color is purchasing shrubs when they are in bloom. Then you know for sure that you’re getting plants of the same color. When it’s not possible to buy them in flower, select azaleas based on the named selection on their tag. If it turns out that blossom hues don’t match their tags, you can dig up the plants and move them.
If that task sounds daunting, don’t waste a moment worrying. We offer advice to help get you started. After some digging and rearranging, you can compose a harmonious planting that sings of spring.
If you purchase an older home, the yard may be filled with a variety of azaleas, creating an unattractive polka-dot effect.
For more impact, relocate the plants for a solid-color sweep of blooms. You can solve two problems at once by massing them under large, mature trees, where it’s difficult to grow grass.
Always get help when moving larger plants, as they can be heavy and cumbersome. With help, larger root balls can be dug, which will increase the chance your transplanted shrubs–and your back–will survive. One good thing about moving these shallow-rooted plants is that, even with large azaleas, you won’t have to dig too deeply.
Remember the following tips when moving your azaleas.
- The size of the root ball you dig will vary, depending on the size and growing conditions of your plants. Newly planted azaleas (1 to 5 years old) should be easy to dig, while established plants will be more difficult.
- Dig as big a root ball as possible. A good rule of thumb is that the root ball should be half the diameter of your azalea. For example, if your shrub measures 36 inches in diameter, your root ball should measure 18 inches in diameter.
- If your shovel blade is dull, use a steel flat file to hone a good cutting edge. Sharp shovels will slice through small roots, making digging easier. A long-bladed nursery spade comes in handy for cutting hard-to-reach roots underneath the shrubs.
- Once you have dug your azaleas, get them back in the ground as soon as possible, or they will dry out quickly. Water thoroughly after planting.
- Mulch plants heavily to help hold moisture in and to keep loose soil on and around the root ball from washing away. Azaleas are acid-loving plants, so pine needles, bark, or leaves work well as a mulch because they acidify the soil as they break down.
- Keep transplants damp the first few weeks, watering every couple of days. Slowly wean them until you’re watering only as needed. Plants will tell you when they need water — they’ll wilt.
- Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball.
- Mound soil in the hole; set plant on top of the mound, making sure the root ball is 4 inches above the original soil line.
- Add soil around the plant, packing it lightly. Top with 2 to 3 inches of mulch. Water thoroughly, soaking the root ball and the soil around it.
- With a round-point shovel, cut a circle around your shrub, digging to a shovel’s depth. Don’t pry against the root ball with the shovel at this point because you will loosen soil around the root ball, causing it to fall apart.
- Dig 6 to 8 inches of soil from the sides of the root ball.
- Cut underneath the azalea with a nursery spade. Do this all the way around the shrub, and then place a shovel under it. Rock the shovel up and down. Loosen the soil underneath the root ball until you can lift it up.
I want to redo a flowerbed on the side of the house I bought. I have two viable azalea bushes in red that get burned by the southern exposure they get. I want to clean out the bed for flowers so it matches the one on the other side of the door. How do I move the azaleas with out killing them. I have heard azaleas have deep roots and are very difficult to remove…I am not that strong and have no help. Can they be attached to a Jeep Liberty Sport and pulled up? Would it hurt the Jeep?
Transplanting Azaleas, particularly mature specimens is not an easy task. You have to be very careful and you certainly need some help if they are big plants!
The best time to transplant azaleas is during the winter. To do a good job you need a sharp spade. Cut around the azalea with the spade and push the spade against the root ball gently before pulling it out of the ground again. Try to get as far under the plant as you can. Once you have dug around the plant try to lift it out gently and put in onto a sheet of plastic or something similar. Carefully move the azalea plant to its new place. The goal is to leave the root ball intact and not have it falling apart!
Prepare the new planting hole. It should be about twice the size than the root ball. Add plenty of ericaceous (lime-free!) compost or peat to the soil and replant the azalea bush at the same hight as it was before. Water the roots in well with lots and lots of water! Very important is to keep your newly transplanted azalea well watered during the season until it is established.
If you feel that the plant has lost a lot of its roots in the process cut back the shrub as well to balance the root to the shrub.
I would not recommend to pull the plant out with the Jeep if your aim is to transplant your azalea bush successfully. You won’t be able to uproot the plant with an intact root ball which is critical for success.
When Can I Transplant Azaleas: Tips On Relocating An Azalea Bush
Azaleas are a favorite perennial for many gardeners because of their long lives and reliable flowering. Since they’re such a mainstay, it can be heartbreaking to have to get rid of them. It’s much more preferable to move them if at all possible. Keep reading to learn more about how to move an azalea bush and the best time for relocating azaleas.
When Can I Transplant Azaleas?
The best time for relocating an azalea bush really depends upon your climate. Azaleas are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, which is a very wide range as far as temperature. If you live in a lower numbered zone with cold winters, the best time for azalea transplanting is early spring, before new growth has started. This will give the roots a full growing season to become established before the bitter cold of winter, which can really damage a weak, newly-transplanted bush.
If you’re growing in a hot climate, you have the opposite problem. The best time for transplanting azaleas is late summer or early autumn. Instead of bringing possible frost damage, winter provides safe, mild temperatures for your roots to get nice and established before the harsh heat of summer.
How to Move an Azalea Bush
Before you begin to move your azalea, you should find a new site for it and dig a hole there. The less time your plant has to spend out of the ground, the better. Pick a site that’s partially shady, moist, and well draining, with a pH that’s slightly acidic.
Next, dig a circle 1 foot (30 cm.) out from the trunk. If the shrub is really big, dig farther out. The circle should be at least 1 foot (30 cm.) deep, but probably won’t have to be much deeper. Azalea roots are shallow. Don’t worry if you cut through some roots – it’s going to happen.
Once you’ve dug your circle, use your shovel to lift the root ball out of the ground. Wrap the root ball in burlap to keep it moist, and move it to its new hole immediately. The new hole should be the same depth as and twice the width of the root ball.
Set the root ball inside and fill it in so the soil line is the same as in its old spot. Water thoroughly and keep watering at a rate of about 10 inches (25 cm.) per week until the plant becomes established.
How to Transplant Azaleas, Rhododendrons and other Small Shrubs
- Dig your new hole about 2 feet deep, and 1 foot wider each way than the full spread of the root ball of the plant (this larger hole will benefit the rapid regrowth of the roots).
- Mix in a generous amount of peat moss and compost and a handful of transplant food to the soil you have removed.
- Fill the hole with water.
- Take a sharp shovel, and cut a circular narrow trench (cutting the roots cleanly) at the drip line of the plant you are going to move, making your cuts as vertical as possible, and about 12-18 inches deep.
- If possible, get some help, and using 2 or 3 shovels positioned evenly around the plant, simultaneously apply lever pressure to the shovels. The plant should “POP” up out of the hole.
- Get some help, and remove the plant from the hole, and into a wheelbarrow, or tarp. Transport it to your prepared hole.
- Set the plant into the hole, adding or removing soil so that the plant is as close as possible to the depth at which it was previously growing.
- Turn the plant in the hole so that it presents its best side toward the area it will be viewed from.
- Again, fill the hole with water, and then begin to add the soil to the hole. Yes, you will have a muddy mess, but this will insure that there are no air pockets around the roots.
- Apply a mulch if desired.
October 31, 2015
When are the best times to transplant established Azaleas. I want to give three plants a new home that will face more sun (west) over very little sun now. They are good plants but I just want to show them off. I did transplant 1 of 4 plants from the same area (taking a chance) late spring, cool early summer. It survived the summer and dry fall even though at times it seemed touch and go but now it’s prospering.
You have some options. I would not do so as we are heading into winter, since we have had some winter damage even on well-established azaleas the past two winters. You can move them at the end of winter, but it could impact their spring blooms. Waiting until immediately after bloom is another option, but there will be more stress on the plants since they will be actively growing. As long as you are willing to water and pamper them a bit, they should be fine with both of the last two options.
I have a couple of encore azalea plants that I would like to move to different spots in my flower bed. Is now the time to transplant them or is there a better time? I’ve heard that fall is a good time for planting but I didn’t know about transplanting. The azalea bushes have several years’ growth on them so they are not new plants. Also when is the best time to prune azaleas?
Fall is a great time for planting hardy trees and shrubs, but more tender plants I prefer to wait until winter weather is over before transplanting or moving. If the site they are in is really bad for the plant, I would take my chances and move them. If you just need to relocate them, I would wait until spring. Azaleas can struggle in a particularly cold winter, and will be hardier with an intact root system. If we could only look in the crystal ball and know what kind of winter we will have, it would make life easier. Last year they would have thrived with a fall planting since we had no winter, but you just never know.
I finally found out what my purple berried plant was from reading your article. I have a beautyberry or French mulberry, but it is growing in a bad location. When is the best time to move it?
Callicarpa americana or beautyberry, is a tough native. It can be moved anytime from November through February. Make sure you water it and mulch, and it should come through fine. If it has multiple crowns, you could also divide it when you move it to increase the number of plants you have.
I have an azalea bush that I would like to transplant. Would it be alright to transplant it now or should I wait until spring?
If we could look in a crystal ball and predict what kind of winter we were going to have, it would make the decision a whole lot easier. My preference is to wait until late winter or early spring to get through the bulk of the winter. Azaleas are shallow rooted plants and would be more winter hardy with an intact root system. If it is in a poor location that could lead to death if not moved, then go ahead and do so. If you can wait, then do so. The dormant or transplant season is considered from November through February, but plant hardiness does need to be considered.
A friend is giving me some large hydrangea shrubs which I must move to my location. When is the best time to transplant them? They are huge! How much of the roots must I dig up? Send me all the information I need on transplanting.
Unless the friend is moving and you have to move them now, wait until the bulk of winter has passed and then move them in late February through mid March. They will be more winter hardy now with their roots intact. When you move them, get as much of a root ball as you can manage to move and get them in their new soil as soon as possible, planting them at the same depth they are currently growing. Make sure that you plant them where they get full morning sun and afternoon shade, or filtered sunlight. They won’t bloom in heavy shade and they will wilt daily with full sun. You may have to thin them out a bit during the move, but remember that flowers are set and if you want blooms this first year in your yard, you want them as intact as possible. Water well the entire first year, and as needed thereafter. No fertilizer in the planting hole, but if you want deep pink flowers mix lime into the planting soil. If you want deep blue, mix in some wettable sulfur.
I live in Maumelle and have about ten loropetalum shrubs. They have been planted for four years. I want to move two of them. The two that I need to move are about six feet tall and about six feet across. They are growing into our tulip tree. I could prune one or the other, but I believe I planted them too close together and this will be a recurring problem. Have I waited too long to move them?
I would prefer you wait until fall or early next spring. We had a glorious spring this year but we are heading into our warmest months, and moving a plant now will be stressful to the plant. If you absolutely must move them do so as soon as possible and water, water, water. The plants will wilt daily for probably a good two to three weeks or more until the roots begin to re-establish themselves. As large as the plants are it will be hard for a severed root system to keep up. If you can move them while they are dormant, the roots have a chance to re-establish themselves while the tops are not actively growing.
I’d like to know how and when to transplant two Rose of Sharon bushes I have in my front yard. They are at least 5-7 years old. They are in a pretty shaded area and I have an area out in the back that gets more sun and I’d like to put them there. Can you tell me when is the best time to transplant, and are there any specifics I need to know about?
If at all possible, try to transplant existing trees and shrubs during the dormant season—November through March. While it is possible to move plants during the growing season, it puts more stress on them and takes a bit longer to recover. I prefer to move hardy plants (such as the Rose of Sharon) in the fall, since this gives them all winter and spring to get their roots established before summer kicks in. For less winter hardy plants like gardenias, azaleas, camellias etc, get them through the bulk of winter and then transplant.
I have several very old azaleas that I want to move from one flowerbed to another. When is the best time to transplant and what is the best way to transplant?
Azaleas have very shallow root systems, compared to many other shrubs. This makes them somewhat easier to move. You have two options. One is to move them at the end of this month, getting as large of a root ball as you can manage. You may lose some of your flowers by doing it before bloom, but it can be done. The other option would be to move them immediately following flowering. If you need to do any pruning, it could be done before you move them. Try to match the conditions they are currently growing in. If you move them after bloom, don’t be surprised if they wilt badly for a few days. Keep them watered and mulched and they should bounce back as the roots begin to take hold. No fertilizer in the planting hole, but do try to plant them in a well drained, well amended soil.
I’d like to know how and when to transplant two Rose of Sharon bushes I have in my front yard. They are at least 5-7 years old. They are in a pretty shaded area and I have an area out in the back that gets more sun and I’d like to put them there. Can you tell me when is the best time to transplant, and are there any specifics I need to know about? They are in full leaf now and do bloom a little every season, but I think would be showier in more sun.
Transplant season is best done while the plants are dormant—between November and February. Althea or Rose of Sharon is a tough plant and probably would survive a summer move, but if you have the option, I would hold off until this fall. Spend some time now preparing the site, removing grass and weeds, amending the soil with some compost and mulch. Then in November, dig and replant. This way, they will have all fall, winter and spring to re-establish roots and should be ready to grow and bloom next season. You can prune them back as much as you want when transplanting, since these plants bloom on the new growth.
I have three Sasanqua camellia plants that are 5′ to 6′ that are located on the north side of our home. They have outgrown their space and need to be moved to the east side of the house. When would be the best time of year to move them, and what should I do to prepare the new planting area?
I would move them now. Try to get as much of a root ball as you can. Replant in a well drained location and plant at the depth they are currently growing, or slightly more shallow. Water and mulch. If you damage any branches during the move, now is an ideal time to prune them as well. No fertilizer in the planting hole, but if you can amend the soil with compost that would encourage root spread. Don’t be alarmed if they look puny for a month or so after the move, but they should bounce back quickly.
I have a friend who would like to give me part of her Hydrangea bush. When is the right time to dig it up and transplant?
You basically have two choices. Wait until fall when the weather cools off, mulch well and water. It might get winter damaged, but it should survive. It may not bloom the next season however. The other option is to wait until the bulk of winter weather has passed in the spring, and move it then. Dividing and transplanting now would not be advisable. This is typically the hottest, driest part of summer and hydrangeas would struggle.
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It happens to all gardeners eventually: A favorite perennial or shrub is in the wrong place, and needs to be moved. Transplanting azaleas is no different.
If it’s an azalea, you’re in luck because azaleas have shallow roots, are easy to dig up, and recover quickly from the stress of moving. Even mature azaleas can be moved if you are careful to minimize damage to the root systems. Read on if you are interested in learning how to transplant azalea bushes.
Prune the azalea roots a year before transplanting for best results
The best time to move a shrub – any shrub – is early in the morning or late in the afternoon on a cool, cloudy day in early spring or fall.
Avoid transplanting azaleas or any shrub during extended dry periods, or when daytime temperatures are above 80°F.
The single most important thing you can do to insure success when transplanting is to root-prune a year before the move.
(If you’re careful, you can move an azalea successfully without prior root-pruning, but it will recover quicker if you plan ahead and prune those roots before transplanting.)
How to Prune Azalea Roots
Dig a donut-like trench all around the azalea 8-12 inches out from the trunk. This will sever all the shallow outward growing roots. Make the trench about six inches wide and about a foot deep. Fill the trench back in with the same, now loosened, soil. Soon, new fibrous roots and root hairs will grow into the soil within the trench.
Most of an azalea’s roots are shallow, not deep. When it comes to digging one up, wider trumps deeper. The wider, the better.
Transplanting the Azalea
Prune the azaleas leaves back by 1/3 before transplanting to encourage new growth when it is planted in its new location
When you are ready to move the azalea (ideally a year or so after root-pruning), prune the top back by about one-third. Read more about Basic Pruning for Shrubs in this blog.
Dig the new hole. Free the azalea by slicing a circle just outside the original root-prune trench, and 12-18 inches deep. (If you didn’t root-prune, make the cut 12-18 inches out from the azalea’s trunk.) Water thoroughly.
Force the shovel all around and up under the root mass and lift it up, keeping as much soil as possible in contact with the roots. (Any of the fibrous, hairlike roots that get dry will die.) Slide a tarp under the root ball and wrap it up the sides before moving it.
The root ball must be kept constantly moist and the shrub shaded until it is transplanted into its new hole.
Leave the root ball in tact when transplanting azaleas
The new planting hole should be a foot or two wider than the root ball and about the same depth. Do not put fertilizer in the hole as this can damage tender roots. Use the tarp to slide the azalea to its new location.
Drop the root ball into the hole and refill with the same native soil, stopping to water a few times to make sure the soil settles in around the roots and there are no air pockets.
Be sure the shrub is set no deeper in the new hole than it was in its original location.
To Do Post Transplanting
Watering every day for the first 2 weeks is essential to keep your azalea healthy
Water thoroughly to settle the soil in around the roots. Build up a dike around the trunk a few feet out that will hold water over the root zone so it percolates into the soil rather than running off.
Cover the ground around the trunk out to a foot or so beyond where the roots ended with an organic mulch 3-6 inches deep. Keep the mulch or organic matter an inch or two away from the trunk. You can use hay, straw, pine needles, dry leaves, bark chips, or well rotted compost. Azaleas are acid lovers, so don’t use a mulch that has a basic pH. You can always amend your native soil with our Acidic Potting Soil if your soil is not acidic enough after performing a pH test.
Once your azalea is in its new position, it will need to be babied for several months. If it doesn’t get an inch of rain per week, you will want to supply the difference. Water thoroughly and deeply once a week or when the soil gets almost (but not completely) dry. Do not keep the soil around the roots constantly wet, because that will prevent air from reaching the roots and lead to rot. Transplanted shrubs are more at risk for dying of dehydration or disease so watch your azalea plant closely.
Gorgeous azalea bushes will bounce back after being transplanted in no time with a little TLC
When it comes to landscaping with azaleas, you CAN change your mind and transplant at the right time of year.
Check out the Azalea Grow Guide for more information on growing these beautiful flowering shrubs and having them flourish for many years!
Tags: azaleas, pruning, shrubs, transplanting
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Make a Move: How to Transplant Your Encore® Azaleas
Fall is an ideal time to transplant Encore® Azaleas
Are you suffering from an unbalanced landscape? Maybe you planted your Encore® Azalea in the shadiest part of your garden and realize it could benefit from a sunnier location. Or, your Encore® Azaleas are in a poorly- draining area of your landscape or suffering from overcrowding by other plants.
Never fear. Autumn is an excellent time to transplant shrubs, and if you act now, your Encore® Azaleas will thank you by offering season after season of beautiful blooms for years to come.
Here are some tips for making the move a success.
Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor with thriving Encore® Azaleas that bloom again and again.
For more garden ideas, click here.
To browse the full Encore Azalea collection, click here.
Encore Azalea is the best azalea you’ll ever plant. Encore Azaleas are the world’s best-selling re-blooming azalea with rich, colorful blooms in spring, summer and fall. Encore Azaleas have 31 varieties of bloom colors and sizes to choose from and thrive equally well in high filtered shade or sunny locations – unlike any other azalea in the world. Find a retailer near you at www.encoreazalea.com.
How To Transplant Azaleas
When it comes time to move an azalea in the garden, don’t panic. The obvious first thought is that spring is the best time to move azaleas, but it isn’t necessarily so. The fall is actually the preferred time to transplant an azalea. Here are some considerations and basic steps to follow.
Step 1 – Transplanting When The Weather Is Cool
In many parts of the U.S., the fall brings needed moisture in the form of rainfall. Although rain also falls in spring, the azalea plant, with its fibrous root ball, needs to become well established. Transplanting in the fall, therefore, gives the plant’s roots the additional time to acclimate into their new surroundings and get a head start on the next growing season. In any event, according to the U.S. National Arboretum, it’s best not to transplant an azalea when rainfall drops off and daytime temperatures reach the low 80 degree Fahrenheit mark. If absolutely necessary, make sure there’s adequate irrigation.
Step 2 – Transplant In Early Morning
Minimizing transplant shock is the objective. To do so, move the azalea plant to its new location in the early morning. Late afternoon also works, whichever time is the coolest.
Step 4 – Prepare New Hole
Before digging up the azalea, prepare the hole in the new location. Be sure that the hole is the same depth as that of the azalea to be transplanted, and wider than the root ball.
Step 5 – Dig Up The Azalea Plant
Using a shovel, dig a hole about 12 to 18 inches around the trunk. Remove some of the soil underneath the roots, and then tap the shovel at the bottom to begin disengaging the roots from the soil beneath. Work the shovel back and forth until the entire root ball can be lifted up. Be gentle, as preserving the root ball is important to the survival of the transplanted azalea. Lay the root ball on a tarp for transporting to the new spot in the garden.
Step 6 – Planting In New Location
Transplant azalea immediately (or wrap in moistened burlap until transplanting is possible). Set the root ball into the new hole and cover it with soil. Do not mound up soil against the trunk of the azalea plant. Tamp soil around the roots using hands and press out air pockets.
Step 7 – Water And Mulch
Thoroughly water the transplanted azalea using a garden hose. Water slowly, allowing it to percolate into the soil. This will expose any areas that need a bit more soil. After transplanting, water weekly for the first few weeks. Apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch over the root ball, using pine needles or bark, oak leaves or wood chips. The idea of the mulch is to permit as much air and moisture to get through to the azalea as possible.
If transplanting occurs in the spring, sun may cause the newly-transplanted azalea flowers to wilt. Give the plant an additional watering and it should soon perk back up. If transplanting in the fall, be aware that prolonged dry spells during the winter will dry out the azalea. Give the plant thorough watering just like during a summertime drought.
The transplanted azalea will soon be firmly at home in its new spot, gracing the garden with colorful and beautiful blooms and foliage.
Ask Mr. Smarty Plants
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Azalea in Bloom
June is an excellent time to prune your azalea if needed. Prune with a definite purpose in mind and unless a sheared look is desired, try to maintain the natural shape of the shrub by using hand pruners rather than hedge shearers.
QUESTION: Is now a good time to prune back and transplant my azalea? — Joan.
ANSWER: Yes and no. Now is an excellent time to prune your azalea if needed. Prune with a definite purpose in mind, and unless a sheared look is desired, try to maintain the natural shape of the shrub by using hand pruners rather than hedge shearers.
Try to finish major pruning to azaleas by early July. Extensive pruning after that time can remove flower buds and reduce flowering next spring.
This is, however, a terrible time to transplant azaleas, or any hardy tree or shrub for that matter. When temperatures are high and shrubs are drinking water rapidly from the soil, they are very intolerant of any damage done to their root systems.
The chances of successfully transplanting trees and shrubs are greatly reduced during the summer. Wait until November or early December if you can. At that point the azaleas are dormant and that, along with colder temperatures, make transplanting more successful.
When to Transplant Azaleas
Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), which include both evergreen and deciduous varieties, may flower at any time from spring through summer, depending on the cultivar. Azaleas grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, depending on the specific variety. Moving and transplanting an existing plant or a new nursery plant at the right time helps ensure continued healthy growth and abundant blossoms.
The Right Time
Although you can transplant new azaleas at any time of year, fall is the best time because the shrubs have time to establish a healthy root system before being exposed to summer heat the following year. If you are moving and transplanting an existing azalea from the garden, do so in winter when the plant is still dormant. Dormant plants suffer less transplant shock and the roots will establish when growth resumes in spring.
Choose Your Spot
A spot in dappled shade with well-draining soil is the right place for an azalea plant. The mature size of the azalea depends on the variety, so make sure the site provides enough room for the shrub to reach its full size without crowding from buildings or other plants. Azaleas require a soil pH 4.5 to 5.5, which you can determine through a soil test. If the pH is too high, lower it with a sulfur amendment. It’s unlikely you need to raise the soil’s pH for azaleas. For example, soil with a neutral pH of 7.0 requires 1 1/2 pounds of aluminum sulfate per 10 square feet to lower it to a pH of 5.5. Before you plant, till any necessary pH amendments and a 5-inch layer of compost into the top 12 inches of soil.
Cutting back existing azaleas to 6 inches tall before you dig them in winter forces them to develop healthy roots before they divert energy to the foliage and stems. Wipe the shears with a rubbing alcohol-soaked rag before you cut into the plant to avoid transferring diseases and pests. Loosen the soil around the roots to an 18- to 24-inch depth, and then lever the root system out of the ground with a spade. If any roots appear dead or damaged, prune them off with the disinfected shears before transplanting. Pot-grown azaleas only need to be removed from their pots, but they may be root-bound. If you see roots encircling the entire root ball, slice through the root with a disinfected knife before you plant.
Transplant With Care
Both newly lifted and pot-grown azaleas require the same transplanting care. The planting hole should be the same depth as the root ball or nursery pot, but two or three times as wide. Set the azalea in the hole, gently spreading out the roots, so the plant is at the same depth as it was in its former location. After filling in the hole with soil, water until the soil settles and is moist throughout the root zone. Mulching with a 2-inch layer of pine bark right after transplanting helps keep the soil moist, but pull the bark back so it doesn’t rest against the azalea’s trunk. Water the newly transplanted azalea two to three times a week for the first two months after planting. Apply about 1 inch of water at each watering.