How to Pull Up Shrubs

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A common feature of many yards, shrubs are known for their hardiness. Many types of shrubs produce new growth quickly and spread over time, which can make them too large for a certain area or encroach on other plants. You cannot simply pull shrubs up as you would a weed because they can have thick, woody roots. Also, if you plant on transplanting the shrub elsewhere, damage to the root system should be avoided.

Things You'll Need

  • Hedge trimmer
  • Pruning shears
  • Shovel
  • Flat shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Use a manual hedge trimmer to cut back leafy growth and gain access to the woody, thicker part of the shrub.

  • Use a pruning shears to cut back woody branches to a manageable length. Many types of shrubs can regrow and fill in even after being cut back to half their original length or less--cut back the woody growth enough so that you can easily access the soil around the plant for digging.

  • Use a flat shovel to dig a circle straight down around the shrub. The radius of the circle should be at least a foot--larger for bigger shrubs. Your goal should be to cut through as few roots as possible. If you feel the shovel hitting roots often, move back and make the circle larger.

  • Use a normal curved shovel to pry the shrub's root clump free. Insert the shovel into the circle you cut with the flat shovel and and apply pressure at the end of the handle to pry up the shrub. You may have to pry at it from several different spots around the circle to fully loosen the plant.

  • Place the pulled up shrub in a wheelbarrow so that you can move it easily to a transplant site or for disposal. If you plan to get rid of the shrub, you can cut it down further and get as much of the dirt out of the roots as possible.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you intend to destroy the shrub you are digging up, cutting the growth down as far as possible will make it easier to work with. You also can afford to cut off more roots when you dig it up, although it is a good idea not to leave too many buried roots if you plan on planting something else in its place.
  • If you intend to transplant a shrub after digging it up, it is important to maintain as much of the root system as possible to keep it healthy.

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