Would it pay to have a nursery transplant this rhododendron?

cadillactasteMay 6, 2013

I have always admired this rhododendron at the summer cottage near our place. We recently purchased it. Eventually we plan on adding a garage on the side this shrub is located. So it will need taken out. Which really saddens me...can we move it or is it to well established to do so?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

your root problem ... see what i did there.. lol ...

is that you could only dig half the rootball .. presuming you cant dig inside the garage ...

i just dont know if i would spend the money ....

but.. if you can hire relatives.. for beer.. why not give it a go in the proper digging season ....

and if its cadillac MI .... WAG there .... i would suggest mid september or so ...


ps: you bought the plant.. or the cottage????

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 6:30PM
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Thanks! And I did get your joke...lol

Okay...I see your point. Now when we dig the area for the garage...shovels only to dig the rootball...or can he get so far near it and loosen the dirt for us with his equipment? (Or was that what you were trying to say)

Figured we could use the equipment digging the area for basement to drag it up to the yard. It is worth a shot. It is a buddy/contractor who'll help us.

He is great like that...helped find the biggest rocks/boulders for our backyard waterfall. I was going to have a rock with water falling over it...into a vanishing waterfall system...

Instead I got this photo I am attaching...

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 7:57PM
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It's hard to tell from the rhododendron picture, but if the garage has a foundation or is built on a slab, all of the rhododendron's roots will be outside of the garage. The root mass will be largely three sided with very little extending toward the garage itself. In the case of a rhododendron even as large as this one, the roots will be quite close to the surface. Start digging well away from the plant on the right and left sides as well as the side away from the garage and gradually pry up until you can slide it onto a tarp or the contractor can get under the root mass with his equipment. Don't let the roots dry out while transporting or for the summer/fall in its new home and all should be well.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 5:33AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if you dont want the garage damaged ... no matter how much of a backhoe artiste' he is.. i would consider it a hand dig job ....

but again ... for a $20 small replacement ... i dont understand why you would risk the garage .... but i dont do vegas either ... lol ...

you didnt answer.. cadillac MI????


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 7:58AM
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Needs a new foundation...so it will be dug out anyways. Also a garage being built attached to this side of cottage where it is.

I just like it looks like a tree. We have a few already in the yard...but none pruned like this.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 9:07AM
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Cadillactaste in Ohio...sorry about that. Just love this and how it is pruned...I've always loved it. Now that is us ours I would hate not to try and save it.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:30PM
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Cadillactaste in Ohio...sorry about that. Just love this and how it is pruned...I've always loved it. Now that is us ours I would hate not to try and save it.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Rhododendrons - even well established, large ones - are remarkably easy to transplant. Rhodies have a very flat root system, almost like a large pancake. Dig around the drip line, slide the shovel evenly underneath and pop that puppy out!! Not a great time of year to do it now, but something that could easily be done in late summer or early next spring.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 4:03PM
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Gardengal thank you so much for this information!!! I have high hopes for a good transplant now!!! The rootball was scary to think if how large it maybe...hearing it is flat like a pancake is wonderful news!!!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 6:06PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I would hate not to try and save it.

===>>> well of course try ...

you asked .. in your title.. if i would pay to have it done ...

no.. i wouldnt ...

do it yourself..

or have your backhoe artiste' do it ...

it should have been done in very late winter ... or in mid fall ..

but you do what you gotta do.. when the plan allows ...

your major problem.. will be.. with that giant sailboat canopy ... how to stake it into the ground.. so it doesnt keep falling over .... good luck with that ...


ps: you know.. i am a cheapskate ... if the budget allows.. do pay to have it done .. with the full understanding.. it might be a total loss ...

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 7:54AM
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lola-lemon(5b East WA)

I'll chime in that I would love to have a big tree Rhodie like that and I hope that the move of this big guy goes well for you. It seems like a keeper to me!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 1:27PM
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Well we're not planning on doing anything this year to the place...next year is our goal. Just was curious if it would pay to do it now and not have it in the way later...so it is moved at the appropriate time to give it a better chance.

I'll take and show the nursery a photo and ask them about cost though...it maybe not as high as the trouble to move it unexperiencedly.

You mention the giant sailboat canopy...we plan on putting it up against our vinyl picket fence where it has an angle that follows the stairs up from our drive. Not sure if the canopy would rest on it at all...something to seriously consider...may get nursery's opinion of how to stabilize it. Worst case we plant it elsewhere against the landing that serves as the first part of our deck...and tie it to the railing. The top should reach that area...

Good points every last one of them! Thanks for helping me think of key things to consider.

Lola...I've always admired this rhodie...so I know where your coming from. Wish I hadn't planted the rose of Sharon on the corner of the house two years ago...or this would have went there. But we had no idea the place was going to go up for sale...family still didn't want to sell...but had to. Felt sad for them...her parents built the place. But they had no income to repair it and it needs a lot of repair.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 8:27PM
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Coming from the land of rhododendrons - it IS our state flower - moving even quite large, well-established rhodies is a very doable DIY project. Personally, I'd enlist the help of a couple of friends to dig and shift and save the nursery expense in favor of buying them a beer once the job completed!! Have moved numerous large rhodies myself with a couple of extra pair of hands. Dig the plant out, place on a plastic tarp and haul to new home.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 2:00PM
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I would have responded earlier but I thought that you had it moved by now :)
Why not make it a project for this weekend and follow this tutorial, let us know how it turns out.

Here is a link that might be useful: hand digging tutorial

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 2:51PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I'm a little late to the party, but if I could add a couple of tips...

while these are not difficult shrubs to move, I usually tell people the chore can be accomplished any time the ground is not frozen, or the rhody is not in active growth. That's not to say you cannot successfully move them in active growth, but you run more risk of shock to the plant at that time - and the period of active growth is immediately following bloom, likely soon, or now.

Do you have this years foliage buds elongating and beginning to open in your climate indicating actively growing?

Expect the root ball to be at least as wide as the widest stems. If you can't get all of it, you can safely take smaller but if possible aim for minimum diameter equal to 2/3s the plants height.

Have the new site prepared in advance, be careful not to plant deeper than it was originally growing. If you've done any extensive spading in the new site, plant a little high to allow for settling. Then mulch over the root zone when finished to keep roots cool and conserve moisture, keep watered especially the first year -

Not difficult, just heavy :)

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 3:28PM
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Thanks everyone...no hurry to move this prematurely. I'll wait for fall...Morz your right it is in the growing stage right now. Though for some reason everything here at the lake blooms later than 3 miles down the road. You sound like you've moved a fare share of Rhodies in your time.

Sam that was a helpful link! Thank you!

Gardengal...you suggested a plastic tarp...over say a bucket of a bobcat?

Thanks again everyone...I feel somewhat prepared now when fall comes to move this shrub!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 5:09PM
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The chances of success go up if you do your digging in the evening, using a flashlight if necessary. There should be no wind, and light, misty, rain. The transplant should be timed so that overcast weather rolls in and hangs around for 2 or 3 days. In your situation, I would be transplanting the rhody myself.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 11:44AM
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If you're able to keep the rhododendron watered as needed over the summer, I think I would move it now rather than waiting until the fall. Zone 5 winters are tough on even the hardiest rhododendrons. Moving it now will provide it more time to settle in and establish before cold winter weather sets in.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 5:52AM
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Before the blooms open...really. We do have harsh winters. Shoot we had a bit of snow and ice pellets just yesterday! (Weather in Ohio)
Now when we put on our addition my dad took dogwood trees and moved them out of season. He put a PVC pipe into the ground next to the rootball. And watered it through the pipe. Both trees made it! Look beautiful at his place.

Would any suggest doing the same with the rhodie?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 4:39PM
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Well...seems the husband was down scoping out the rhodie. Anything special other than topsoil and peat moss mix for the hole?

It is in full bloom...immediately following full bloom . So maybe not a good time to move it!?! Is it considered in active growth now? Confused...

With two milestone birthdays in May the husband didn't have time to move it. I was shooting for Fall. But zone 5 winters concern me as one poster mentioned.

Should we wait for July?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 6:27AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Transplant in spring or your wasting your time.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 8:44PM
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I'm gonna go with the previous comment about moving it now, provided you are able to monitor the watering carefully during the summer. Rhododedrons have a very flat, surface-oriented root system and I'd be leary of winter issues with lack of the root system re-establishment if moved in fall.

As long as your soil is sufficiently acidic and drains properly, you don't want to add anything to the planting hole. Indigenous soil is far preferrable to heavily amended soils, particularly for individual planting holes. Just dig a wide, shallow planting hole, backfill with removed soil, water in well and mulch. Mulch thinly/lightly close to the trunk, gradually thickening the layer as you approach the dripline. This should provide some temperature insulation for the roots as well as retain soil moisture.

Make sure you provide slow deep waternigs throughout summer and into fall (if weather is dry).

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 5:58PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

nothing.. and i mean NOTHING!!!! gets moved in july and august in the midwest ...

this is not the soggy wet PNWest ...

unless you are willing to roll the dice on a Yahtzee on one roll.. good luck with that ....

if your dig a little 2-3 foot ball.. what is going to feed it water in july/august ..????

sept or october.. for me in MI ... or april ...

it the project dictates.. so be it.. do it whenever.. and expect all the leaves to fall off.. but with proper watering.. that MIGHT be overcome ... or not .. YAHTZEE!!!!!! ... lol


    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 6:39PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Ken, you're a little confused about our weather/climate here, we aren't soggy or wet in August or September, I pay a water bill just like you do those weeks.

Once the 4th of July celebrations have been rained on, we may get no significant rain at all, nothing that would be considered root soaking or helpful until October.

Last year we went 48 consecutive days without rain, then got a bit of drizzle second week in Sept. It wasn't enough to help plants, but did end the technical 'days without' count :)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 8:17PM
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I just cannot agree with gardengal48's advice on replanting into unamended soil. A wide, shallow planting hole is absolutely correct, as is acidity and excellent drainage. Rhododendrons, however, need a highly organic - 25 to 50% - soil that will hold moisture but allow abundant oxygen to reach the shallow roots. If your native soil meets those conditions, by all means use it without any supplements.For most of us our native soil, even if it's acid and drains well, is too lacking in organic matter to provide good growing conditions for rhododendrons even though it may be fine for many other plants.

Do not use the dry peat moss dust sold in bales. It's too fine and once it dries out it's almost impossible to rewet. It does far more harm than good. Instead, use partially decomposed conifer bark, evergreen needles, anything that's coarse, acidic and will last for awhile.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 5:40AM
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Easy to move...as long as it is done correctly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Moving a large rhodo in Halifax

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:33AM
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Thanks everyone! Well for soil I have no idea. :O/ we had topsoil brought into our backyard...clay soil for the most part around my neck of the woods. For the life of me I can't recall if we had topsoil brought into the front.

Thanks on the advice of peat moss...decomposed conifer bark...sold in stores I take it? I'll look some up.

Now what about planting a pipe in the hole? My dad did that when he moved dogwoods and had great success!

I'll also remember the mulch trick.

Now we will be gone 10 days at the end of June and into July on a mission trip to Honduras. We do have a person coming in three times a day for our animals. She can water it if it needs it.

Planning a move on this Friday evening or Sunday afternoon. If our schedule holds up.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 11:58AM
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Best place to find partially decomposed bark is one that sells bark mulch in bulk form. Bagged products, even though they are not partially decomposed, are ok, too, but you do need to be careful. Make sure it says "pine bark mulch", or something similar. There are many bagged products which consist of ground and dyed construction debris with misleading names like "natural forest product".

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 5:44AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

one last thought.... aftercare ... watering to be precise ...

isnt this your cottage .. will you be there to check soil moisture every few days???

i NEVER amend soil ... and question why.. if moving it on the same property ... the native soil in one spot ... where it is just so happy .. needs to be amended in a second spot.. a few yards away ... you are complicating your life.. IMHO ....

good luck ...!!!!!


    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 7:59AM
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Our home is catty corner to the cottage...I would imagine similar soil though.

The cottage was bought to keep riff raff from destroying our peace and to use as a shop/garage for my husband. We live at a private lake association. We have a ravine on one side of us...the lake in the front. And this cottage diagonal from our lots.

So we're home every day. Except the very end of June and into July for a missions trip. But do have a care taker coming in three times a day. To le our dogs out and play with them and stuff.

Think I should do that pipe trick in the ground my dad did for his dogwood tree? To help get water to the roots...

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 6:20PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

With the exception of just a few larger anchoring roots, you will find most of the (feeding) roots of your plant in a pancake pattern extending wide and shallowly out from the trunk. If that's hard to visualize, you'll understand when its been llfted from the ground. I think you'd be better off watering over the root zone from the top, for long enough periods the water can soak down in, I don't see any advantage to inserting a pipe for deeper watering for a shrub with this rooting habit.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 6:45PM
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Should be interesting to see how this goes!

It's possible that the rootball will be so big that it's hard for a few people to lift it and move it.....

So here's my story in case it gives you some more ideas...

I moved a large mature Forsythia a year and a half ago.... I first dug a trench around it a week or two, as deep as I could. Then I pruned a lot of the extra growth to make it easier to manage.

Then I put a chain as deep as I could into the trench, and attached the ends to the hitch of my beater Land Rover. I pulled, and the chain sank deep under the Forsythia, but did not go all the way through.

I then disconnected the chain, and reconnected only one end to the hitch, then pulled with the Rover to help it "saw" through the roots as it was pulled free.

I then set the chain deep again, attaching both ends to the hitch, and this time it pulled through and left the bush tilted on the edge of the hole.

I then wrapped a tarp around the roots as best as I could to minimize soil loss and let it slide better. Then wrapped the chain around it connecting to the hitch again, this time to drag it to my back yard.

Last summer with the drought, the Forsythia wasn't very happy, but this year the it's coming back very well.

First picture is before pruning....

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 11:28PM
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Now here it is, pruned and upended on the edge

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 11:30PM
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Being dragged around...

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 11:32PM
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Oh my! I am hoping that since this is a tree formed shrub we won't have to go to the point of attaching a chain!

But your explaining the root system and as others described it as pancake form...it does make no sense then to water deep when the roots are close to the top of the surface.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 11:42AM
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Yes, hopefully you won't have to join the chain gang! But it gives you an idea of how you might be able to transport it if it's too heavy or too hard to get a good hold on to lift. I've tied ropes around a rootball wrapped in burlap or a tarp so I could pull it because I couldn't get a good handhold.

The roots will probably not be quite as flat as a pancake, but also not straight down, either. Watering deeply means to get enough water to the roots at the bottom instead of only at the top. Often the leaves and branches shield some roots from getting a good watering. This is why heavy rains are helpful to plants besides grass.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 1:03PM
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Well today the weather wasn't cooperative...but we measured the tree. 6 foot across...that is one HUGE hole. We decided to call in back up for sure. Neighbor has a machine...to dig with.

My husband suggested buying me a rhodie at the nursery...I explained this liked like a tree. Not a shrub.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 8:59PM
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