How to Dig Up Old Azalea Bushes

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Healthy azaleas are covered with blooms each spring.
Healthy azaleas are covered with blooms each spring. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

From old azaleas that are diseased or no longer thrive, to mature azaleas you want to transplant to another area, knowing how to dig up old azalea bushes properly can simplify the task and leave transplant azaleas as stress-free as possible. While azaleas can be dug up no matter the age of the plant or the time of year, transplanted azaleas tend to have better success if they are moved in the early spring or fall on cool or overcast days.

Things You'll Need

  • Flour or outdoor marking spray
  • Tape measure
  • Burlap
  • Scissors
  • Shovel

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Walk to the outermost reach of the azalea branches, called the dripline. Leave a line of flour or spray a line with outdoor safe marking spray in a circle all the way around the plant. Measure the diameter of the circle with a tape measure. Cut a square of burlap to this size.

Dig down into the ground 1 foot deep all the way around the azalea on your marked dripline. This trench doesn’t have to be wide, but the depth is important.

Push the blade of the shovel from the 1-foot depth toward the base of the azalea to slice the soil toward the plant and slightly downward. Do this all the way around the plant to form a wide cone of soil under the plant. Continue until the azalea can be rocked back and forth.

Knock off excess dirt from around the base of the plant, working from the outermost portions of the cone inward until you reach the roots.

Roll up the square of burlap halfway. Have one person tilt the azalea away from you and hold it in place. Stuff the rolled portion of the burlap under the plant as far as possible. Tilt the azalea in the opposite direction and unroll the burlap so the square is under the plant.

Bring the corners of the burlap together near the base of the azalea. Tie the corners together as tightly as possible to secure the roots. Lift the azalea from the hole by grabbing the burlap. Don’t grab the stem or limbs of the plant to lift.

Tips & Warnings

  • Transplant the removed azalea as soon as possible, if you intend to replant it, otherwise tend to the plant every day with a slow but thorough watering to keep the roots from drying out.
  • Avoid feeding any replanted azaleas for the first year and water them as though they are potted plants with attention paid during periods of excessive heat or dry spells.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeve shirts, pants and boots, as well as protective goggles while working to avoid scrapes or pokes from limbs.

References

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