When it comes time to move an azalea in the garden, don't panic. The obvious first thought is that spring is the best time to move azaleas, but it isn't necessarily so. The fall is actually the preferred time to transplant an azalea. Here are some considerations and basic steps to follow.
Step 1 – Transplanting When The Weather Is Cool
In many parts of the U.S., the fall brings needed moisture in the form of rainfall. Although rain also falls in spring, the azalea plant, with its fibrous root ball, needs to become well established. Transplanting in the fall, therefore, gives the plant’s roots the additional time to acclimate into their new surroundings and get a head start on the next growing season. In any event, according to the U.S. National Arboretum, it’s best not to transplant an azalea when rainfall drops off and daytime temperatures reach the low 80 degree Fahrenheit mark. If absolutely necessary, make sure there’s adequate irrigation.
Step 2 – Transplant In Early Morning
Minimizing transplant shock is the objective. To do so, move the azalea plant to its new location in the early morning. Late afternoon also works, whichever time is the coolest.
Step 4 – Prepare New Hole
Before digging up the azalea, prepare the hole in the new location. Be sure that the hole is the same depth as that of the azalea to be transplanted, and wider than the root ball.
Step 5 - Dig Up The Azalea Plant
Using a shovel, dig a hole about 12 to 18 inches around the trunk. Remove some of the soil underneath the roots, and then tap the shovel at the bottom to begin disengaging the roots from the soil beneath. Work the shovel back and forth until the entire root ball can be lifted up. Be gentle, as preserving the root ball is important to the survival of the transplanted azalea. Lay the root ball on a tarp for transporting to the new spot in the garden.
Step 6 – Planting In New Location
Transplant azalea immediately (or wrap in moistened burlap until transplanting is possible). Set the root ball into the new hole and cover it with soil. Do not mound up soil against the trunk of the azalea plant. Tamp soil around the roots using hands and press out air pockets.
Step 7 – Water And Mulch
Thoroughly water the transplanted azalea using a garden hose. Water slowly, allowing it to percolate into the soil. This will expose any areas that need a bit more soil. After transplanting, water weekly for the first few weeks. Apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch over the root ball, using pine needles or bark, oak leaves or wood chips. The idea of the mulch is to permit as much air and moisture to get through to the azalea as possible.
If transplanting occurs in the spring, sun may cause the newly-transplanted azalea flowers to wilt. Give the plant an additional watering and it should soon perk back up. If transplanting in the fall, be aware that prolonged dry spells during the winter will dry out the azalea. Give the plant thorough watering just like during a summertime drought.
The transplanted azalea will soon be firmly at home in its new spot, gracing the garden with colorful and beautiful blooms and foliage.