How to save money by moving plants
The time for moving plants round your garden is between October and March (deciduous). Or in October or March (evergreen).
Have you got a spot in your garden that you want to spend money on?
I’ve been looking for some affordable box or yew balls for either side of the bench for ages – I wanted big ones. And I saved £450 by finding them in my own garden. We’ve also been moving trees and grasses in a low-cost re-design of the main bed.
Check your borders – are some too full?
Firstly, – before you buy new plants – check your overgrown beds to see whether you already have what you need.
How I saved £450…
Ten years ago I took two box balls out of pots and planted one on the corner of the terrace, and the other at the other corner.
However, the second corner turned into a bit of a jungle – instead of neat sculptural mounds of box and Osmanthus ‘delavyi’ to offset the frothy lace heads of Hydrangea Arborescens ‘Annabelle’, they all grew into each other.
We dug up both the Osmanthus ‘delavyi’ earlier this year, one of which has survived in its new place and one of which has died. This was probably because we put it too close to the wall and I forgot to water it enough.
Water recently moved plants more often
If you move plants you have to water them more, because their root growth has been disturbed. Two weeks ago, we decided to dig up the box ball, and its partner at the other end of the terrace. They now have a new lease of life on either side of the bench.
The bit of the bed they came from doesn’t even look empty – with any luck I have created a ‘planting opportunity’ – but in reality the bed was over-crowded and I hadn’t noticed it. Plant growth creeps up on you.
Is it worth moving plants?
Ask yourself how much money you’ll save by moving a plant rather than buying new. ‘If you can buy plant for around £10, it probably isn’t worth the bother of moving it and then risking it not growing,’ says Andy McIndoe of online gardening academy My Garden School.
‘Life is too short to move plants like rosemary and lavender around – they may not like it and they’re very cheap to buy new.’
But the plants I was looking for – something fairly sculptural and evergreen for either side of the bench – were always going to be expensive. I’d found 70cm buxus balls on the internet for £225. That would have been £450 for the two.
So moving them was well worth the effort, even if you have to pay someone to do the digging. Andy McIndoe confirms that box and topiary will move very well: ‘You’ve been pruning it into shape all along, so that helps.’
Which plants can you move?
‘If an evergreen plant is reasonably long-lived, still fairly young and it hasn’t been in one spot for too long, then you can probably move it successfully,’ says Andy McIndoe. ‘That includes Japanese maple, dwarf conifers and evergreen shrubs with a good rootball.’
I asked him if our stipa gigantea would do well after moving. ‘You need to lift and divide a stipa every few years anyway,’ he said.
Any perennials that need lifting and dividing will move well. It’s generally considered that roses don’t like being moved, and that plants which are well established don’t either, but recently Posy Gentles dug up a 1970s rose in her front garden and gave it to me, and it’s been absolutely fine.
Or swap with friends…
We all hate discarding plants. But plants often out-grow their situation or your taste changes. A few years ago, Posy asked me if I wanted some nepeta. I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with it, but I thought it might be useful somewhere. She dropped it off in the front garden while I was out. I never got round to planting it. So it took root where it was, and looked so great that I’ve now planted nepeta (lifted and divided from elsewhere in the garden) all along the front beds.
How to move a plant
The RHS have good advice on this. You dig a trench round the established plant and then work your spade under it, cutting any very stubborn roots. Slide the plant out on some hessian sacking and put it straight into a prepared hole. I have to say that I’ve never treated our plants quite as well – they’ve been dug up any old how and not an inch of hessian has ever been seen.
When will moving plants be most successful?
The RHS also say that October to March is a good time for deciduous plants because they’re dormant, while evergreens should be moved in either October or March when the soil is warm enough for them to get established.
I must admit that I’ve usually moved plants when I want to move them, and most have survived. But if a plant is precious, move it at the right time.
You might as well risk it
When we re-landscaped the garden five years ago, we dug up quite a few plants and kept them in pots while the work was going on. Not all survived – a very pretty standard lollipop variegated holly turned up its toes. However, an elderly philadelphus was absolutely fine after a bit of sulking. Day lilies and iris were fine, too.
Generally, plants want to survive, so you might as well give moving them a go. Gardeners do warn against digging up whole gardens if you’re moving house, though – it’s not very friendly to your buyers. Take cuttings instead.
Which plants have you moved successfully? Or do you have a ‘moving plants’ disaster to share? Do tell us here or on the Middlesized Garden’s Facebook page. And if you share this using the buttons below, thank you!