How to Dig Up Rhododendron Plants

A rhododendron shrub can grow for years in a sunny landscape, providing a showy display of colourful blossoms in the spring and attractive foliage throughout the growing season. Because rhododendrons can become quite large, transplanting them may be difficult. When you need to dig up rhododendron plants, use care if you plan to transplant it elsewhere in your landscape to preserve the root system. Find some willing helpers to get the shrub out of the soil.

Water the rhododendron shrub deeply with the garden hose to loosen the soil and make it easier to dig up the shrub. Spread the tarp near the shrub to hold the rhododendron after you remove it from the soil.

Push a shovel into the soil just outside the drip line of the shrub. Drive the shovel blade down into the soil as far as it will go and then pull it back out again. Reposition the shovel blade along the drip line again and push it back into the soil. Continue digging a trench completely around the rhododendron with the shovel. As you push the shovel into the soil, you should feel roots that you are severing at the drip line.

Get some assistants to help you -- everyone needs a shovel. Position shovels evenly around the rhododendron, spacing them about every 12 inches and push them into the soil as far as possible.

Push down on the handles of the shovels in a lever-like technique to pry the rhododendron from the soil. You should hear an audible burst as the roots sever from the soil. Continue levering the shrub from the soil using all of the shovels simultaneously to dig it from the soil.

Lift the rhododendron from the soil using all of the shovels together and transfer it to the tarp.


Dig a rhododendron shrub from the soil for transplanting in the spring prior to blossoming if you live in a cold climate. If you live in a warm climate, dig a rhododendron for transplanting in the autumn. If you are transplanting the rhododendron, dig the new planting hole before you dig it from the soil to prevent the roots from drying out. If you are digging a rhododendron without transplanting, cut the growth back to soil level to make the shrub easier to manage.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Tarp
  • Four or five shovels
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.