Where your plants live in your garden obviously impacts the aesthetic value of your landscaping. But it also affects the health, beauty, and longevity of each individual plant. That’s because different plants have different needs in terms of things like sunlight, soil type, soil acidity, and humidity.

There are many reasons why you might want to transplant (relocate) some of the plants in your garden. Maybe you notice a plant seems to be struggling in its current location. Maybe it doesn’t have enough space to grow to its mature size. Or maybe you just think it would look better in another spot.

But can all plants be transplanted? Are some too fragile to move? When is the best time of year for transplanting? We’ll answer all these questions and more in this article, so keep reading!

What is Transplanting?

Transplanting is the process of moving a mature plant or seedling from one location to another. While transplanting can be beneficial for the health and appearance of your garden, it’s important to do your due diligence before jumping in. 

Unearthing and replanting incorrectly can do more harm than good. Transplant shock can cause root failure, wilted or rolling leaves, and more. That’s why understanding how to transplant plants without killing them is essential to maintaining a healthy garden.

What Plants Can Be Transplanted?

Most plants can be transplanted successfully with enough care. In fact, some plants, including many perennials, need to be moved and/or divided to thrive long-term. 

Established trees, shrubs, and deep-rooted plants can be too risky to move as it’s easy to damage feeder roots and cut the plant off from essential nutrients. If you need to move extremely fragile or otherwise risky plants, it’s best to call in a professional to assess your garden and help you with the process.

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Reasons for Transplanting Plants

Here are some of the main reasons you might want to transplant one or more of the plants in your garden.

Prevent Overcrowding Issues

Over time, plants that are too close together can encourage the development and spread of diseases, impede fruit and flower production, create nutrient and moisture issues, and increase the risk of insect and other pest problems. Strategic transplanting can help prevent these issues from occurring or worsening.

Maximize Plant Health and Growth

Even the most low-maintenance plants do best when they’re planted in their ideal conditions. Wilted or brittle leaves, dropped needles or flowers, very slow growth, brown splotches, and unusual color patterns can all be signs that a plant is struggling. 

While it’s rarely a good idea to suddenly move a plant at the first sign of issues, in some cases transplanting can help maximize the health and growth of certain plants!

Improve Plant Arrangement and Aesthetics

Ideally, you want to maximize the health AND the beauty of your outdoor spaces! At Blessing Landscapes, we’ll take into account factors like color, foliage, soil conditions, humidity, plant hardiness, wildlife, and so much more when we create a landscape design. We’re also mindful of how you plan to use the spaces. Smart transplanting choices can help increase the value of your entire property.

Ideal Seasons for Transplanting

Transplanting can be done at any time throughout the year. But experts tend to agree that fall is the ideal time to move most plants, in part because the cooler and wetter months ahead will give their roots the best chance of reestablishing successfully. Spring is also a great time to transplant, especially if you’re working with delicate plants, since the milder weather will help prevent damage.

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Preparing for Transplanting

In many ways, preparing to transplant is just as important to the success of your plants as the actual process of moving them.

Choosing Tools and Materials

The tools you’ll need depend on the plant, its current health, and the surrounding environment. Here are a few tools you may need for the transplanting process:

  • A spade or shovel
  • A yard cart or wheelbarrow for large plants
  • A garden fork
  • A watering can
  • A pruner
  • Fertilizer
  • Compost

Getting the New Planting Site Ready

If you want your plant to survive and thrive, you need to make sure its new home is healthy and stable. It’s often a good idea to dig a larger hole than is actually necessary before replanting. Encourage healthy, soft soil by gently loosening it with a garden fork and applying a few inches of compost to the site.

Steps for Successful Transplanting

There are two stages of transplanting: 1) removing a plant from its existing location and 2) replanting it in its new home. 

If you’re not sure how to move a plant in order to preserve its health and maximize the beauty of your garden, Blessing Landscapes is here to get the job done! But here are some tips and tricks to follow if you’re planning to DIY it.

Removing a Plant

Here’s how to successfully remove a plant from its current spot:

  • Carefully dig around the plant: It’s important to go slowly and try to keep your shovel vertical rather than at an angle, to avoid cutting the roots.
  • Gently lift the plant out of the ground: Be as slow and purposeful as you can.
  • Take care of the root system: The goal is to remove as much of the plant’s root system as possible so it can more easily reestablish itself in its new home.

Planting in a New Location

Here’s how you can set up a transplant for success in its new home:

  • Dig a hole with appropriate depth and width: You’ll want the hole to be the same size (or slightly bigger) than the hole left in the plant’s old location. At Blessing Landscapes, we add mycorrhizal fungi to the hole before placing the plant in order to provide additional nutrients and moisture.
  • Place the plant in the hole: Try to make sure the plant sits at the same level as it did in its old spot, with all its roots below ground level.
  • Fill the hole with soil and gently tamp it down: Cover the plant’s root ball completely, but don’t pack the soil in too tightly.
  • Water the transplanted plant: Give the plant a good long drink of water and then continue watering it for a few days afterward to help limit transplant shock.

Blessing Landscape - how to transplant plants

Post Transplant Care

Any plant is going to experience some level of stress after transplanting. Here’s how you can care for your plants and minimize shock after they’ve been transplanted.

  • Water them generously to maintain the soil.
  • Monitor them closely for the next week or two and adjust the watering schedule accordingly.
  • Be patient (it’s normal for plants to drop a few leaves or take a while to recover).
  • Prune to remove excess or dying branches and leaves.
  • Add additional nutrients with fertilizer or compost tea.
  • Protect transplants from harsh weather conditions by offering temporary shade and/or adding a protective layer of mulch.


Blessing Landscape - How to transplant potted plants

Let Blessing Landscapes Design (or Re-Design) the Garden of Your Dreams!

Whether you’re looking to relocate just a few plants or you’re completely redoing your outdoor spaces, we’re here to help! Our incredible landscape designers know how to create beautiful gardens and outdoor living spaces in a wide range of styles. We also provide the highest quality installation and maintenance services you’ll find anywhere in the PNW.

Call us at (503) 284-3557 or contact us online to get started!