Transplanting Trees

tree transplanting

tree transplanting

Q: I have a potted Japanese maple that is 8 years old and 6 feet tall. I would like to transplant it to my yard and need advice as to when this should be done, where I should locate it and what fertilizer I should apply.
Also, I have a hydrangea in a large pot that seems to be withering on the outside, while the inside stays somewhat green.
It has good drainage, and I make sure it gets watered. I use Miracle-Gro occasionally. When it is cold at night (like it is now), I move it into a sheltered patio.
— Venida Korda,
Van Nuys
A: The best time to transplant your Japanese maple is just prior to bud break, which in the Valley occurs in middle to late February.
Because of our unpredictable weather, which includes the possibility of suddenly warm days followed by a cold snap, it is best to wait to plant trees and shrubs. In general, any procedure that stimulates new growth, such as transplanting, pruning or fertilization, should be avoided for another six to eight weeks. Where transplants are concerned, warm days might bring about a sudden burst of new growth which could be killed in the event of subsequent frosty nights.
You should try to place your Japanese maple in a location that is similar to where it is currently situated, with the same amount and quality of light. Make sure the soil is well- drained.
As for fertilizer, you can sprinkle some around the root ball as you backfill the planting hole, which should be twice the root ball’s diameter and equal to its depth.
Some people say that when transplanting 6-foot or taller trees growing in containers that are 15-gallon-size or larger, it is not necessary to put amendments, composts or fertilizers into the planting hole. The reason for this is that such growth encouragers, while helpful for smaller plants, may actually hinder acclimation of larger specimens.
With hydrangeas, at least in our climate, there are no easy prescriptions for successful growth. As a rule, it seems they grow better near the coast than in our hot interior valleys.
From my experience, I would say that in the San Fernando Valley, they require good light while abhorring direct sun, even if that sun shines on them directly for only one hour a day. If possible, give them a north-facing, partially enclosed location of a patio or alcove. Such a location will protect from both hot sun and our occasional freezes. Do not even think about pruning hydrangeas until they become absolutely huge.
Q: Can you suggest a tree that grows quickly in the shade?
— Bruce Redack
A: Typically, plants that tolerate shade are slow growers. If you need a shade-tolerant tree to fill a gap or provide privacy, I suggest you find the largest containerized specimen you can afford.
Japanese maples certainly tolerate shade and eventually grow to 20 feet or taller. You should also consider laurel cherry (Prunus lauracerasus) and Carolina cherry (Prunus caroliniana), evergreens with attractive sprays of white caterpillar flowers.
Bear in mind that their fruit contains prussic acid (cyanide) so they should not be planted where children — or adults! — might be tempted to taste their purple-black fruit. Some arboreal hollies (Ilex sp.) can reach 40 feet with a minimum of light.
Viburnums, while generally thought of as shrubs, can reach 30 feet in partial shade. Finally, those large yellow-green gumdrops known as arborvitae (Thuja sp.) are also shade tolerant.
TIP OF THE WEEK: If you have the determination to create an acidic soil environment, try planting a shade-tolerant dogwood (Cornus sp.).
This favorite tree in gardens along the East coast, where the soil pH is low, is seldom seen in the West due to our alkaline soil chemistry. However, you could certainly try growing dogwoods in containers, where you could give them a soil mix consisting of half peat moss and half sand. Dogwoods are known for their spring flower pageants and colorful barks. Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) can grow up to 35 feet tall in the shade of oaks and pines.

Photo credit: davidwhitedesign / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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