When a plant is not thriving or needs to be relocated for other reasons, you may decide to move it elsewhere. Transplanting holly bushes (Ilex, USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9) and other similar types of shrubs needs to be done carefully; otherwise, the plant can suffer transplant shock and die. It is vital to consider the type of plant and the root system as well as the type of soil, watering and sun they need to survive.
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Transplanting Holly Bushes
There are approximately 480 different kinds of deciduous and evergreen holly species, included long-stemmed woody vines, trees and shrubs. The best time of year for transplanting holly bushes is in the early spring. Since it rains more during this time, the roots can stay moister. Without enough moisture, the roots can dry out, and the leaves can be lost. The second-best time for transplanting holly bushes is in the fall, but you may lose some more leaves.
Holly bushes do best in moist, well-drained, acidic soil ranging from a 5.0 to 7.0 pH. Choose a spot that gets full sun or partial shade and prepare to dig out the appropriate-size hole for the transplant. Make sure it is deep enough for the roots to fit inside comfortably.
You will want to move the holly into its new spot quickly after it is dug up, so dig the new hole to the size you think will be large enough. Go to the holly bush and dig out 6 inches outside of the perimeter of its leaves and down about a foot. Keep working carefully until you are sure that you have completely loosened all the roots. If it is too heavy to carry, gently place it on a plastic tarp or moving blanket and have someone help you drag it to the new location.
Replanting the Holly
The new planting hole for your holly bush should be as deep as the holly's root ball and two to three times as wide. Be sure to add in some of the soil from where you dug out the holly to make it feel more at home. You can also add some bagged topsoil, planting mix, compost or peat moss.
Place the holly plant into the hole with the top edge of its root ball at ground level or slightly below. Holding the plant straight up, add in more soil as needed to achieve the right planting height and tamp it down to get rid of excess air pockets. Do not place soil right on top of the root ball.
Caring for the Holly Plant
You can soak the root ball when you're halfway through adding the soil. Once the remaining soil is in, deeply water the entire planting area to a depth that equals the root ball's height. Some gardeners add in root stimulator when planting or transplanting holly, so this can be done at this point if you like.
Adding a few inches of pine straw or chipped or shredded wood mulch will also help as long as you use materials that have been cured for at least six months. Never place mulch right up against the base of the holly, as this could cause bark rot or other diseases.