Hydrangea Transplant Guide: A Simple Approach for Success

One of the best things about hydrangeas is their ability to add color to a shady corner of your summer garden. Unlike many garden favorites, hydrangeas thrive in part-shade gardens. Because of this, many first-time gardeners make the mistake of planting hydrangeas in full sun, only to find they don’t do as well as they could. If you’ve fallen into this (or other common pitfalls) of hydrangea gardening and need a transplant plan ASAP, you’ve come to the right place. 

how to transplant hydrangeas the easy way

When to Move Hydrangeas

A hydrangea bush in full bloom with colorful pink and blue flower heads

Although all types of hydrangeas can technically be moved or propagated any time of year so long as the ground isn’t frozen, there are certain times of year that are better for transplanting than others. In cooler climates, the best time of year to move a hydrangea is in late fall, when the plant has gone dormant (the best time to cut back hydrangeas as well). In warmer climates (where the ground doesn’t freeze), transplanting can be done as late as February. 

Of course, you can’t always choose when a plant is unhappy; in some cases, moving it might even be its best chance at survival. If this is the case, you should move your hydrangea regardless of the time of year. Remember that the hotter it is, the harder it will be for your hydrangea to re-establish itself. 

If, for example, you’ve determined you need to move a hydrangea in late spring, you’re much better off moving it ASAP rather than waiting for the long, hot days of summer. 

Reasons For Transplanting a Hydrangea

A close shot of a mature, established hydrangea plant in bloom with soft blue flowers and deep green leaves

Although it’s pretty apparent when a plant isn’t happy, it isn’t always as clear what to do about it. If you’re questioning whether or not to move a hydrangea from one spot to another, take some time to observe the plant first.

Hydrangeas tend to thrive in part-shade gardens, with a preference for morning sunlight, which is less dehydrating than the afternoon sun. Hydrangeas need regular watering and space to grow. If your hydrangea seems crowded or is getting too much (or less likely— not enough) sunlight), these are all excellent reasons to consider moving it to another location. 

How to Move Hydrangeas Step by Step

A person transplanting a small hydrangea cutting to a newly dug hole in a garden

Moving a hydrangea will take some time and elbow grease, like anything else in the garden. Here’s our step-by-step guide to getting the job done right. 

Pick the Right Spot

The first step in successfully transplanting a hydrangea is choosing the perfect new spot for your plant. Ensure you fully understand why you’re moving the plant and optimize the new spot to correct whatever was wrong with the old one. 

For example, if your hydrangea was getting too much sun, you’ll want to move it to a shadier part of your garden (rather than another equally sunny spot). This may take a bit of time and observation, but it’s a worthy investment to make. Since moving a plant will put extra stress (and risk) on its survival ability, it’s best to get it right first. Be sure you’re moving the plant to a spot where it can thrive and not just a different spot where you’d like it to be. 

Dig a Hole

Once you’ve chosen the perfect new home for your hydrangea, it’s time to dig a hole. Since you never want to leave an exposed root ball out in the open for any longer than necessary, it’s a good idea to dig your new hole before digging up your plant. This is especially true if transplanting in the summer. Roots can dry out quickly if left in the hot sun. 

Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the root ball of your hydrangea. If the soil in your new spot isn’t very rich, consider amending it with compost and other natural fertilizers. Hydrangeas like moist, well-draining soil, so spend some time working the soil in the new spot before adding it back in your transplant. 

Carefully Dig Up the Root Ball

With your hole prepared, it’s time to dig up your hydrangea and move it. Use a shovel or digging fork to loosen up the soil around your root ball. Start by digging several inches away from where you imagine your plant’s roots would end. The goal here is to dig up the entire root ball completely intact— which will help ensure you don’t damage the plant more than necessary. Use a wheel barrel or large plastic pot to move your root ball from the old spot to the new. 

It’s worth noting that hydrangeas are considered toxic, so it’s prudent to wear a pair of gardening gloves throughout the process.

Transplant Your Hydrangea

A person patting down soil around a recently transplanted hydrangea plant in a garden

Now’s a great time to give your plant an organic boost. Add a bit of Yum Yum Mix to the hole, mix it in, then place your hydrangea on top. Fill in the hole halfway with your amended soil, then water in the roots (filling up the hole) with a diluted mixture of root stimulator (via Amazon). Once the water has fully dried, fill in the rest of the hole with your amended soil. 

Water and Mulch Your Hydrangea 

Anything that’s been recently planted always needs a bit of extra TLC, and your transplanted hydrangea is no exception. Spread some extra mulch around the base of your hydrangea to help it retain moisture, and be sure to water it regularly— every other day to every third day is best (depending on how hot and dry it is). You never want to let newly establishing roots dry out, so be sure to stay on top of your watering regimen at least for the plant’s first season in its new spot. 

How to Transplant Hydrangeas FAQs:

Can you dig up hydrangeas and move them?

Yes! Hydrangeas can easily be moved from one spot in your garden to another. Prep a new hole first, then use a shovel or digging fork to carefully extract the root ball of your plant and move it to its new location.

What is the best time of year to move a hydrangea?

Autumn, once the plant is dormant, is the best time of year to move a hydrangea. While you can technically move a hydrangea any time of year, it’s best to avoid doing so during the hottest summer months.

Can I dig up my hydrangea?

Yes! Digging up a hydrangea and moving it to a new spot in your garden is relatively easy. Start by picking a new location for your hydrangea and digging a wide enough hole. Amend your soil if needed, then carefully relocate the hydrangea using a shovel or digging fork.

Do hydrangeas like sun or shade?

Hydrangeas typically like part-shade gardens, with morning sun and afternoon shade. Depending on where you live, your hydrangea might need more or less sun throughout the day, although it’s generally best to err on the side of less sun when it comes to keeping hydrangeas happy.

The Final Word

Transplanting hydrangeas isn’t hard, but it will take a bit of thought and energy to get it right. Start by choosing the perfect new location and prepping the hole. Do everything you can to keep the root ball intact and avoid letting it dry out. If you follow these steps, you’ll likely have a happy healthy hydrangea adorning a new corner of your garden for many years to come!

Contributing Editor | larissa@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Larissa is a writer, gardener, and herbalist living in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. Her writing has been widely published in lifestyle and personal finance publications all over the country, and she's also the creator of the weekly newsletter @rootedintribe.

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