En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - April 18, 2009

From: Argenta, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Vines
Title: Transplanting honeysuckle bush in Illinois
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Want to transplant 3 honeysuckle shrubs 10 to 12' tall this month, although not the best time. Please advise.


We found one plant, Diervilla lonicera (northern bush honeysuckle), that is native to Illinois, but is described as a mound-shaped deciduous shrub to three feet tall. We found two others, Lonicera morrowii and Lonicera mackii that are taller, but are considered invasive. Hope you have unusually tall native bushes and not the non-native invasives.

It really doesn't matter, what you are transplanting are woody plants. This is not such a bad time to transplant in Illinois, because it's still pretty cool there. It's getting a little late for transplanting in Texas, but you should still be fine. 

First, prepare the hole you are going to transplant into. Do not dig up the shrub until you have completed the preparation of the hole; you don't want the roots to dry out. We recommend choosing a good spot and digging a hole bigger than you think you will need.  Mix some compost or other organic material with the native dirt. This will help to make nutrients available to the roots and keep them from standing in water, as the amended dirt will have better drainage. As these bushes are pretty big, we would recommend you trim them down quite a bit in order to handle them. They should still be semi-dormant there, and it will certainly help you when you move them.

This About.com:Landscape article on Transplanting Trees and Shrubs gives good instructions for deciding on rootball size, cutting through roots that are beyond what you can manage, and transportation to the prepared hole. Because the shrub is probably  not much out of dormancy, it should be able to withstand this without too much damage. Once you have returned the amended soil to the hole and your shrub is either supporting itself or staked upright, stick a hose in the soil and let water drip in slowly until water stands on the surface. If there is regular rainfall, you shouldn't have to repeat this more than twice a week or so. 

If the shrub begins to show signs of stress, like wilting or loss of leaves, you may need to trim off about 1/4 to 1/3 more of the foliage to compensate for the root loss below the ground. This is transplant shock and is not uncommon when a woody plant is being transplanted. Keep up with the deep watering, meanwhile making sure that the roots are not standing in water, that the hole is draining well. Don't fertilize-any plant in the process of transplanting is stressed, and you should never fertilize a plant in stress.

Pictures of non-native Lonicera maakii

Pictures of non-native Lonicera marrowii

Diervilla lonicera





More Compost and Mulch Questions

Damaged oaks from Hurricane Ike in League City, TX
August 25, 2009 - After hurricane IKE, one of our oak trees (in front yard) was partially uprooted from the ground. We did place it back, and tie it down with supports. Further, we inserted fertilizer spikes, and give ...
view the full question and answer

Encouraging native grasses to flourish
August 23, 2007 - We have been trying to restore the yard around the house with native grasses and forbs for the last two years. The soil is clay and nothing seems to grow. We have distributed 5 truck loads of mulch, p...
view the full question and answer

Replacing mature Arizona Ash trees in Austin
August 26, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I have 2 very large, very old Arizona Ash trees in my yard. I want to remove them and replace them with something like Cedar Elm or Chinquapin Oak. The problem is that they are t...
view the full question and answer

Removal of live oaks leaves on lawn in Austin
October 11, 2011 - We have about a half inch or so of mostly live oak leaves still on the ground which I thought was good root protection and also holds in moisture. There is a small group of people in our condo subdi...
view the full question and answer

Proper watering of cedar elm trees in Sachse, TX
August 15, 2008 - I've just planted two Cedar elm trees in clay soil, each about four inches in diameter, and I want to water them correctly. I'm aware that too much water can be bad as well as too little water. I ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center