Most rhododendrons and azaleas in the landscape, even large ones, can be moved using proper care. In
favorable climates the transplanting can be done at almost any time when the plant is not in soft growth, except at the very
hottest times. In cold climates early spring transplanting is recommended. In hot climates very late summer to
late fall transplanting is preferred so that the root system has a chance to become established during the fall before next
summers heat. Deciduous azaleas are best transplanted in their dormant season.
Rhododendrons and azaleas growing closely among trees or large shrubs may not be possible to move successfully
if they have been in their location for a long time and the roots of the various trees and shrubs have become intertwined.
In this case it is better to purchase or propagate new plants. If your plants are going to be bulldozed where they sit,
you might consider trying to dig them, getting as many roots as you can, cutting back the tops somewhat, and giving them very
good aftercare. Most rhododendrons you may wish to move are probably not in such a location and are not too difficult to
Deciduous azaleas, especially our native deciduous, may have sparse and widely spread out root systems.
Care must be taken when moving them to get as many roots as possible, and if the root systems are small, the tops should be cut
back drastically to within six to eight inches of the ground. Smaller deciduous azaleas are usually more successfully
moved than larger ones.
Evergreen azaleas and large leaved rhododendrons have shallow fibrous root systems and should be dug with as
large a root ball as possible. The dug root ball will likely not need to be too deep to get most of the roots, but it
should be wide. Take your time in digging the plant so you can feel or see where the roots are and dig a root ball so as
to get as many roots as possible. The planting hole should be prepared before you dig the plant you are moving when
possible. (See Planting.) A cart can be used to move a large
plant, or a tarpaulin can be used to slide the plant along the ground to its new location. If you need to transport the
plant by open truck, it helps to protect the leaves from the drying winds by covering it with a tarpaulin.
It is best to plant your newly dug rhododendrons right away, but if you are not able to do so, the plants
can be heeled in with a good mulch, such as pine bark soil conditioner, or even potted up in very large containers using good
potting medium, such as the pine bark soil conditioner. In cold climates they should be planted before winter to keep
the roots from dying from extremely cold temperatures. Plants can be held this way until you are ready to place them
in their new location. Careful attention to watering will be required for plants heeled in or potted up, and also for
the plants once they are transplanted.