Transplanting Rhododendrons: 

When and How to Do It

Rhododendrons are popular evergreen shrubs known for their vibrant colours that can enhance any garden during spring.  However, to ensure their continuous growth and beauty, these shrubs may need to be transplanted or moved from time to time.  Many customers have inquired about the best time and proper technique for transplanting rhododendrons.  In this article, we will outline simple steps to guide you, along with a helpful planting YouTube clip.

When to Transplant Rhododendrons:  The ideal time to transplant rhododendrons is autumn, although early winter is also suitable.  During these seasons, the plants experience less stress since they have passed the heat of summer, and regular rainfall helps keep the soil moist. As rhododendrons have a shallow root structure you do not have to dig too deep, as their roots are wider rather than deeper.

How to Transplant Rhododendrons:

Selecting a new site:  Choose a location with well-draining soil and partial shade.  Keep in mind that yellow, orange and apricot rhododendrons require dappled shade and protection from the intense afternoon summer sun due to their softer leaf structure.

Digging the hole:  Prior to removing the rhododendron from its current location, dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball.  Store the excess soil in a wheel barrow and mix it with peat or soil conditioner for use as the back fill.  The rationale for mixing the two soils together is that it encourages the roots to push through the existing soil structure.

Removing the plant: carefully dig around the rhododendron, attempting to lift as much of he root ball as possible.  Once the plant is free, transfer it to the wheel barrow and transport it to its new destination.

Planting in the new location: Reposition the rhododendron in the new hole and back fill it using the soi from the wheelbarrow.  Sprinkle a light amount of slow-release acidic rhododendron fertiliser on the surface around the drip line of the plant, and water it thoroughly. Mulch over the pre dug area to discourage weeds, and to assist in insulating the root ball in winter and keeping the moisture in the soil during the summer.


Additional Tips:

Moving large rhododendrons: In some cases, large rhododendrons can be successfully moved using equipment such as tractor buckets and or diggers.  This method proved effective for many individuals relocating the cherished rhododendrons after the Canterbury earthquakes.

Minimizing stress on the plant:  Consider using an antifungal root drench to eliminate undesirable fungi and stimulate beneficial fungi in the soil, particularly if you have moved the plant from a damp position.  Consider feeding your plant a fortnight before transplanting with a with a foliar feed to supplement, as this gives the plant extra energy and does not disrupt the established fertilising program. You can also give the plant a foliar feed straight after planting as well, any excess can be poured onto the root ball to stimulate root growth.

Transplanting rhododendrons may seem challenging, but by following the proper steps and guidelines, you can ensure the success and continued vitality of these hardy beautiful shrubs in their new location.  Remember to perform the transplant during the dormant season and adhere to the planting instructions to give your rhododendron the best chance of thriving.

Rhododendrons love to be moved around your garden.