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I have a plant (not sure what species) that was badly positioned when it was planted. Because of heavy wind, it is constantly injuring the neighboring pepper tree, and vice versa.

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It is about 50 cm (about 1'8") tall.

Can I transplant it with a reasonable chance of success?

How would I go about it, how should I dig?

I'm nervous because I've ruined plants this way before.

  • I'd also appreciate if someone could help me name the plant! I suppose that's important info when determining whether it can be transplanted. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Mar 8 '15 at 19:04
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    I see that you are in the Canary Islands. That is not a cactus. I'm sure other readers can identify it. How long has it been in the ground? – kevinsky Mar 8 '15 at 21:46
  • @kevin thanks! I do not know how long it has been in the ground, but it must have been a couple of years at least. I moved here last summer and it was roughly the same size. These seem to grow very slowly. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Mar 8 '15 at 22:08
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    Did you note the small offspring? That could be a good candidate for moving... – Stephie Mar 9 '15 at 11:06
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in addition to the above answer, your best time to transplant is in the fall and winter. If you have to do it now, that will likely be fine, but do it NOW, not in may or june.

  • I suppose that the reason transplanting is said to be more effective some times of the year is likely because stronger sun is bad for plants without a good root system (such as cuttings), or perhaps also plants with disturbed root systems. Therefore, shading the transplant area for a while could make transplants more successful in the hot months. I could be wrong about the reason, but the logic of it seems true with what I've attempted. – Shule Mar 11 '15 at 8:09
  • For instance, if you try to root a tomato cutting in direct sun it will wither the first day. Shaded, it will not. Young English walnut trees when dug up will wither quickly if transplanted into direct sun, while they may live days if pulled like weeds and put on top of the dirt in the shade. – Shule Mar 11 '15 at 8:09
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I'm not sure exactly what plant it is, but I'd take an educated guess its one of the Agave or Aloe varieties. I can't tell if its got thorny tips, they seem a bit dehydrated and wilted, but there does appear to be some serration along the edge of the leaves.

You can separate the pup (offset), but in order to do this, you still need to loosen the soil around the mother plant. If you want to try moving the mother plant (you can separate the pup when you do), then take a garden fork, not a spade (though you'll need a spade later), and loosen the soil around the plant, starting a foot or 18 inches away. Insert the fork and gently move it upwards a little, do this all the way round, then go back in where you started and loosen more, continue this all the way round, working gently inwards. If you meet fibrous resistance, it will be quite hard to tell whether its the roots of this plant or the one behind, but eventually, you should be able to tell where one plant's roots are by excavating the loosened soil carefully (with the spade) so you can see what's there. I'd usually get down on my hands and knees and insert my hand close to the plant once you've got to this point, feeling around to try to find any deeper roots which may be coming from the plant, then dig a bit more if necessary to loosen those. If this plant is an agave, it will likely have a large taproot - you must not break this root, and it may go down quite a way.

If you manage to extract it from the ground more or less intact, then deal with the pup - wiggle it gently from side to side to loosen it slightly - you need to have some roots present on the pup itself, it needs those to keep growing once separated from the mother plant, so if you can't see any roots attached to it anywhere, it's better to replant the mother and pup and wait a bit longer to detach it. When you do detach it, either pot it up so you can give it the necessary tlc (tender loving care) until its big enough to plant out, or, if it has a good root system already, replant in the ground somewhere.

If you intend to replant elsewhere, its best to prepare the area you've chosen by digging it over well before starting the process described above - once you've got the plant out, dig a hole in the prepared area that's large enough to accommodate all roots without cramping or bending them, and without the base of the plant's topgrowth being lower or higher in the ground than it was before. Backfill with the soil you excavated, gently press it down all round with your foot, then water in well.

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