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How to transplant a large camellia

Updated February 21, 2017

Camellias are evergreen shrubs that bloom in the late fall or winter. The plant is native to Asia, and thrives in all of the British Isles. Camellias are a common ornamental landscaping shrub, and some species produce tea leaves. Larger camellias can reach between 3.6 and 7.5 m (12 and 25 feet) tall, and are difficult to transplant because of their size and level of establishment in the existing environment. Transplanting a large camellia plant takes up to one year.

Use a garden tiller to dig a shallow trench 7.5 cm (3 inches) deep around the camellia plant. Follow the drip line when digging the trench, which is the widest part of the foliage. Do this in the late winter or very early spring.

Deepen the trench with a shovel, digging down and in toward the base of the plant until you begin encountering roots throughout the trench.

Fill the trench with equal parts peat moss and sand. Wait one year. This encourages the larger, established camellia to begin generating new feeder roots in preparation for transplanting.

Select a new site for the camellia that has partial shade, which is four to six hours of direct sunlight daily. The site should also have well-draining soil.

Dig the peat moss and sand out of the trench after one year of waiting. Continue digging the trench down and in toward the trunk of the camellia, increasing the downward angle whenever you encounter roots. Once you dig out most of the roots, cut any taproot with gardening shears.

Have helpers assist you in lifting the camellia out of the hole and moving it onto a large tarpaulin. Lay the bush onto the tarp. Use the shovel to knock the loose soil off the root ball. Measure the width and depth of the root ball with a measuring tape, then wrap the root ball in canvas or burlap and secure it around the base of the shrub by tying the edges of the fabric with rope.

Dig a hole in the new planting site that is twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball. Use the shovel to create a mound in the middle of the hole that comes up 1/4 of the height of the hole. Place a brick on top of the mound.

Drag the tarpaulin with the camellia on it over to the new location, or hire professional tree movers to move it for you. Remove the canvas or sacking around the roots. Lift the camellia upright with the help of your assistants, and lower it onto the brick in the middle of the new hole. The brick will keep the camellia from sinking too far into the new soil. The top of the root ball should be 2.5 or 5 cm (1 or 2 inches) above the soil surface.

Fill the hole with a mixture of two parts pine bark mulch and one part coarse sand. Water until the mixture settles. Continue watering whenever the planting medium becomes dry to the touch.

Cover the planting site with a 10 cm (4 inch) layer of pine needle mulch.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden tiller
  • Shovel
  • Peat moss
  • Coarse sand
  • Gardening shears
  • Tarpaulin
  • Measuring tape
  • Canvas
  • Rope
  • Brick
  • Pine bark mulch
  • Water
  • Pine needle mulch
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About the Author

Based in Richmond, Va., Dawn Gibbs writes about topics such as history, fashion, literature, crafts, alternative medicine and healthy living. Her work has appeared on GreenDaily.com and several style websites. Gibbs holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Virginia Commonwealth University.