Transplanting Hydrangeas

Learn the ins and outs of moving hydrangeas in your landscape.


From: Desperate Landscapes

By: Julie A Martens

Tackle the task of transplanting hydrangeas with confidence by covering the basics. It’s not too difficult to shift small hydrangeas around a yard, but when you’re transplanting hydrangeas that are larger and established, you can improve your chances of success by following a few simple tips.

Wondering how to tell if you should be transplanting hydrangeas? For some gardeners, hydrangea shrubs have stopped flowering as maturing trees have created shade that’s too deep. In other cases, landscaping may not have included the best planning, and mature hydrangea shrubs may be outgrowing available space. In most cases transplanting hydrangeas is, a one-person job, provided you have the necessary muscle to lift plants from soil.

As with any deciduous plant, the best time for transplanting hydrangeas is when the shrubs are dormant and there aren’t any leaves present on plants. If you wait until no leaves are present, once you finish transplanting hydrangeas, the plants can direct all energies toward root formation and not “worry” about supporting leaves.

In Southern areas and zones with warmer winters, put transplanting hydrangeas on your to-do list from late fall to early winter. That might mean from late November to late December in areas that receive hard freezes during the course of winter. In areas where the ground doesn’t freeze, try transplanting hydrangeas from late December through February.

Start the process by digging just outside a hydrangea’s leaf canopy. Roots will extend somewhat beyond this point, but by digging in this spot you’ll capture most of the roots. A hydrangea has a fibrous root system. When you dig the plant, you’ll be moving a large soil clump with it. That clump will be filled with embedded roots.

Work your shovel into soil around the circumference of the hydrangea, plunging it into soil so that it angles in slightly toward the plant. After making your way around the hydrangea, use the shovel to start rocking the shrub until it’s free underneath. You may need to work the shovel into soil beneath the center of the shrub to loosen it completely.

Once the plant is loosened and you can lift it free from its planting spot, you may want to shift it onto a tarp to make moving it to the new planting location a bit easier. With a small hydrangea, you can just lift the plant with its rootball intact and place it gently into a bucket or wheelbarrow. If you’re dealing with a larger hydrangea, you might want to enlist a friend or family member to help you hoist the plant onto a tarp and drag the tarp to the new location.

Tuck the hydrangea into the new planting spot. Work plenty of compost into the soil you use to fill the hole around the shrub. After transplanting hydrangeas, water deeply once. You may need to water occasionally throughout winter if soil is dry. When warm weather arrives, plan to water newly transplanted hydrangeas through the first and second summer.

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