Tips for Transplanting a Mountain Laurel

A mature mountain laurel is a sizeable and heavy object – not to mention awkward to handle. The amount of manpower and machinery available will have a lot of influence upon the success or failure of the transplant. The following provides some tips to help you transplant your mountain laurel.


Trees like the laurel are dormant in the winter, making it the best season to move one. Although it would be tempting to remove a lot of the branches, it is important for the health of the tree that it is able to produce foliage quickly after the transplant. This will feed the through photosynthesis. Some branches can be removed, but as few as possible.


The first problem you have to overcome is deciding the size of the root ball you need to dig up. The mountain laurel has a lot of horizontal roots and you don’t want to cut those too close to the shrub. Digging a trench two feet away from the shrub will help you define the size of the root ball. If the soil is well packed, it is possible that you will be able to dig down about eighteen inches and then dig towards the shrub and start to undermine it.


Moving a crane adjacent to the shrub is the easiest way to prevent a tree from falling.Set a plastic sling around the main stems of the shrub. Be aware that you should not work alone when the shrub is secured in this manner. As you dig around the shrub and cut the roots from underneath it, the tree could swing and trap you.

Lift the Shrub

Once the roots are severed, lay a very large sheet of sacking next to the hole and lift the tree onto it. Bring the sacking to the shrub trunk and make a tight ball of the roots and soil.

Transport and Transplant

Transport the shrub to the new site and lower it into the transplant location. The shrub can be lifted into the hole with the sacking in place. It will rot away eventually but protect the roots in the mean time. Adding mycchorizal inoculants to the root ball could help the roots get reestablished. If the location is windy, brace the shrub to prevent it from being blown over.


Keep the shrub well watered until the first frost. Once danger of frost is over, start watering it again. The shrub will be slow to recover, so don’t do any pruning for at least two years. Keep watering it regularly for the first year then see how it winters.

If the shrub can get through the first winter in its new position, it has probably taken properly and will continue to improve and thrive.