Conifers and evergreen shrubs are best moved or planted in September if your garden has sandy soil that dries out in summer.  September is also a good time to move conifers and evergreens that are growing too big for their containers into larger pots. If your garden soil is heavy and wet in winter, wait until April to move these plants - and if you miss the chance on drier soils, April is a good time for you too.


Conifers and evergreen shrubs add shape and year round interest to gardens and patios. Sometimes they are in the wrong place: move them! Sarah Buchanan

How to move conifers and evergreen shrubs

1. When you dig up a conifer or evergreen shrub it is important to keep as large a ball of roots as possible.

Because conifers' roots are likely to be wider than they are deep, don’t push your spade close to the trunk or the centre of the shrub. Ideally dig down at least 20 cm (1 foot) away from the centre, and even as far out as the furthest branch or leaves. If you hit lots of thin and fibrous roots, move further out. These thin roots are the ones that really matter in settling your tree or shrub in its new place.

2. After you have dug right round the plant, run your spade underneath it. Gently lean the plant to one side. If it won’t lean you need to dig deeper, all round.

3. Lifting the root ball is tricky, and heavy, as you need to keep as much soil with the roots as you can.

Open up an old garden compost sack or find a large piece of plastic or sacking and slide an edge well under the root ball. Lean the plant the other way and pull the plastic under it so the root ball is sitting on top, and roughly central.  Loosely tie the plastic round the root ball, and get help to lift it into a wheel barrow for the ride to its new home. If you can’t lift it, or it's not moving far, carefully pull the plastic to the new site. There, dig a hole at least 15cm (6 inches) larger all round and deeper than the root ball.

4. Put the wrapped root ball in the hole, and slither the plastic out from under it.  Make sure the plant faces the same direction it did before you moved it (these plants don't like change much!). As for any new plant, firm the soil around it with your foot, water well and spread about 5cm (2 inches) of compost or mulch over the hole you have dug, keeping it off the trunk.

5. Drying winds are the big worry for your newly planted conifer or shrub. Add protection for the winter with a temporary screen of purpose made wind shield or hessian.



Choose and plant evergreen shrubs to make the most of year round interest. Sarah Buchanan

How large a conifer and evergreen shrub can I move?

Moving plants is essential if they outgrow a space, you change your mind or garden design. And if a plant can't stay where it is - moving it gives it the chance to start again. It is not fail safe and, like newly planted trees and shrubs, take good care of the ones you move for at least a year after the move.

Be reasonable: if you aren't going to be able to lift or move the plant it is clearly too big to move.

If the plant, or you, don't like where it is, and you don't mind if it dies, moving a large tree or shrub is worth a try.


1. Dig a trench as wide as a spade and about 30-45 (12-18 inches) deep all around the tree or shrub in a circle under the furthest point that the leaves or branches reach.

2. Fill the trench with good old garden compost, or the contents of old grow-bags to help thin and fibrous roots grow into the soil that you can lift easily with the root ball.

3. Alan Titchmarsh suggests that, about two weeks before you move the conifer or shrub and weekly after you have moved it, you spray the leaves/needles with the sort of spray that keeps the needles on indoor ‘Christmas trees’.

4. On moving day - follow the guidance above. If the move is in April be sure to protect the plant from drying out in the summer: water regularly and add a temporary wind break.

Prepare now for an April move, or in April for a September move.


Evergreen shrubs offer so much to gardens and patios: choose for leaf colour, berries and shape. And if it grows too big - move it! Sarah Buchanan