Transplant Those Shrubs with Care

Master gardener offers advice for moving plants to new locations in your landscape
Freshly Planted Trees
Photos by Berezko / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The quiet of post-holiday winter makes for an excellent time to complete some necessary tasks, including transplanting shrubs and bare-root fruit trees.

Transplant shock, frequently resulting in the plant’s death, is much less likely to occur when the subject of the relocation is seasonally dormant.

If moving a shrub or a rooted branch, take as much as possible of the surrounding soil and roots. Place the plant in a location suitable to its mature size so that it can grow to its full potential.

Dig the hole about twice the size of the root ball, but be sure the transplant’s above-ground portion is sitting about an inch above the soil line. If planted too deep, the shrub will ultimately decay and die.

Fill in around the root ball with a blend of topsoil, peat moss and composted cow manure. Mulch the root zone with about four inches of leaves.

Water as necessary to keep the root zone moist but not saturated. An easy way to determine the need to irrigate is to test with a finger. If the soil feels dry, it is time to water.

Bareroot fruit trees are established the same way. Select a tree with a straight trunk and a robust root system. If a cross-pollinator of the same species is required, place it in the same area.

Bare Spots in the Lawn

Another mid-winter task is seeding bare spots in the lawn. This can be done easily with little expense. Reading the seed tag attached to the bag will make product selection easy. Check to confirm the seed has been tested for germination within a year. This is a State of Florida law, which assures the best possible outcome. Also, be sure the grass species will grow in Florida. Sometimes generic lawn seed mixes will contain fescue, bluegrass, orchard grass and other turf types, which will not survive in North Florida. While they may germinate, their use will only ensure weeds get established for another year.

Winter Color

In shady spots under trees, unexpected color may appear. The native blue violets are blooming, offering a stark color contrast to the leaf litter and pine needles it thrives in. This delicate herbaceous plant is an early season bloomer with inch-wide blooms that are usually bluish-purple. These violets are self-pollinating perennials and flourish in the filtered light under tree canopies. The heavy mulch layer in flowerbeds and under trees in home landscapes provides the consistently moist soil and ample organic matter for successful growth. Seed heads form in the late summer and early autumn, and seeds are scattered by birds, animals and weather events. Carolina geranium (Geranium carolinianum) is an annual plant in the same genus as the popular porch shrub. Although not producing as many or as large blooms as its ornamental cousin, this native plant is striking in its own right. The minute pinkish to purple flowers appear on the end of this herb’s stems. The plant is highly adaptable and will grow, sometimes aggressively, in a variety of environments.

Mean Worms

When adding a potted plant to the home landscape, confirm it has come from a reputable production nursery, which has passed state inspection. This is the best way to avoid introducing an invasive species. One of these problem species is the hammerhead flatworm. Classified as a land planarian, it makes its presence felt out of the sight of most homeowners. Land planarians are carnivorous, and most species are active predators, including Bipalium kewense Moseley as the local variety is scientifically known. They are frequently found in and around potted plants, which are surrounded by rich soil and are home to earthworms, their favorite meal. The hammerhead flatworms actively track their prey. The earthworms’ slow pace and obvious trail make them vulnerable. Once the planarian captures the earthworms, it uses the muscles in its body, as well as sticky secretions, to prevent escape. The secretions also contain a neurotoxin employed to subdue its prey. Earthworms are a critical environmental link in soils. They aerate the dirt counteracting compaction and convert vegetative materials into a form plants can use. The hammerhead flatworm does none of these.

Les Harrison is a retired University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Wakulla County extension director.

Categories: Gardening