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Mr. Smarty Plants - Transplanting large Silverado Sage bushes from Mesa AZ

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Monday - August 19, 2013

From: Mesa, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Transplants, Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Transplanting large Silverado Sage bushes from Mesa AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We just bought a condo with three Silverado Sage, each one is 6-8 ft tall, trained to grow as "trees" with bare branches for the bottom 4 feet or so, and beautiful flowering branches on top. They are probably 15-20 yrs old according to the neighbors.But we need to move them because they are about 5 feet from our back yard wall, taking up the only usable space for a table, chairs, etc. in our very tiny back yard. Can we move them back 5 feet without killing them? We want them to stay TALL because they currently provide lovely privacy from adjoining condos. They just need to be against the wall instead of the middle of our "backyard".

ANSWER:

Silverado Sage is a trade name for Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo). Sometimes they are called Texas Sage or Barometer Bush, and most are selections of those plants for better color or longer blooming. According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, it hasn't even been reported as growing anywhere but in Texas, but obviously it grows in Maricopa County, AZ. If you follow our plant link (above) to our webpage on this plant, you will find these growing conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky, well-drained soils. Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: According to legend, cenizo tends to bloom in conjunction with rainfall. Cenizo is easy to grow so long as it has good drainage. Though this species is the most irrigation-tolerant of the genus, it is susceptible to cotton root rot if soil does not have good drainage and remains moist. Humidity and high night temperatures are lethal. Cenizos should not be fertilized or over-watered. Drought- and heat-tolerant. During very cold winters, may lose a few leaves."

It can bloom year-round, depending on the rains. We have actually never seen one pruned up into tree shape; most gardeners in Austin apparently prefer to leave them unpruned for the sake of the gorgeous blossoms. However, it sounds like it has been properly treated and pruned and is a wonderful idea for a privacy screen.

However (you knew there was a "however" coming, didn't you) we really would hate to see you mess with such lovely trees, with the danger of losiing them outright. Some suggestions:

1. Don't even consider moving it before cooler weather, like November to January. That would almost guarantee transplant shock and quick death.

2. Read this article from Clemson University Cooperative Extension on Transplanting Established Trees and Shrubs.

3. Now read this one from Popular Mechanics on having it done professionally. This might be easier on your back, maybe even easier on the tree, but it will be expensive and, frankly, we are not sure the type of equipment necessary will even go into your small yard.

4. Finally, IF the shrub survives, have you considered how the roots and the wall you mentioned are going to affect each other?

 

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