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Crocus Cyclamen coum Hellebore 'Merlin' Snowdrop Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Transplanting a Fatsia

Transplanting - I really hate it but it is a task that I find myself doing more and more these days. It always fills me with dread anytime I have to move a plant. It is a stressful event for the plant as well as myself but fortunately I have found that the mild climate here generally favors a good success rate. Still, larger plants can be problematic. 

For most plants (and there are always exceptions), it is best to move a larger plant right before the roots are beginning to grow. So, late winter or early spring is ideal. Fall is also a good time but allow time for the plant to grow a bit before the first freeze.

Of course, I never follow that logic. Case in point, the Fatsia (Japanese Aralia) (you can see it right in the lower center of the photo) was planted in too much sun. I'm not sure what I was thinking but I must have assumed that the Photinia would shade it and wasn't considering how much the sun moves to the north in summer. I meant to move it at the appropriate time but did not get around to it until late May.

Here are some pointers that I have learned along the way. First, water the plant really good the day before you plan to dig it up. Get your new location ready so you can get the plant in quickly. When ready to dig, try to get as much of the root ball as you can and hope that it will stay intact. If the roots are long, some root pruning may be needed. In this case, the Fatsia roots were very short.

I had no idea how large a Fatsia rootball would be but apparently it isn't that much -

If the plant is too large to move to a wheelbarrow, use a tarp to slide it along the ground to its new location. After replanting - water the plant well and continue to do so every day until you know it has made the move okay. Do not fertilize! 

Some plants may need cutting back (like roses) before transplanting and some may not. I usually play the "wait and see" game to determine if I need to trim back. In this case, never having moved this particular plant before, I did not cut it back. As expected, the leaves wilted (the following photo was taken the next day after moving). 

After frequent watering, however, they started to perk up again and about a week later, it started to look good again. A few months later and it is looking great.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy



  1. Interesting. I wouldn't have anticipated it would be possible to move a fatsia and am surprised how small its root turn out to be.

  2. This plant looks like it hardly missed a beat. You have another successful transplant made.

  3. Mission accomplished. I'm relieved (as I'm sure you are) to see how well it bounced back. After all, this is still a pretty young plant which probably helped in making the transplant successful.

  4. It does look great again, and will be much happier in the shade. I'm surprised at the small size of the root system compared to the top growth!

    Transplanting is my least favorite thing. (Except day lilys--they are ridiculously easy.)

  5. Well done! I once moved a large camellia in mid-August because of construction. I handled it much as you did your fatsia. I had deep reservations, to say the least, but the plant, like yours, settled in nicely. Now it is at least triple its size when transplanted! I think it liked the new location even better than the original.

  6. Thank you. This was really helpful. We might have to move our Fatsia now 1.5 metres high. I hope we don't have to but your article has been so helpful. The reassurance of the photos. Better to attempt to move it than chop it down.

  7. Thank you. Your article was very helpful and reassuring. Especially the photos. We have a fatsia that might have to be moved. It is 1.5 metres high. Your article has given us the confidence to move it if necessary. Better to move it, even if unsuccessful, than just chop it down.

  8. Ditto comments about tiny root ball. Yesterday I took a chance and dug a 4 1/2 tall fatsia. The root ball wasn’t even a foot across, and I’m pretty sure I got it all. Moved it to a massive 2 ft square terra cotta planter in the shade. If it does well, if will be a stunning focal point. Hoping our cool weather will prevent it from drooping.

    1. I hope it does well - mine is still looking great!

    2. I am in the process today of doing exactly this so thank you for the advice!

  9. I have to move two fatsia’s from the front yard to the back and was dreading it because they are doing so good. Now I have hope! I still don’t like moving plants either but sometimes it’s necessary. Thanks for telling me how to do it right.


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