I'm going to be moving 30 minutes away soon and there's an azalea bush in my yard that is very important to me. I'd like to transplant it and bring it with me. However, I live on Long Island in NY, so it's already late in the season.

I'm probably going to move in early to mid-December. The ground usually freezes in late December here, and we've had our first frost but lately it's been warmer. What can I do to ensure the plant survives?

  • 1
    Where are you moving to, and about when does the ground there freeze?
    – Jurp
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 22:49
  • Moving about 30 minutes away, also Long Island, same temps.. Ground freezes maybe late December. We had first frost a couple of weeks ago, but lately it's been warmer, not much frost.. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:24
  • In similar situations I have taken and propagated a cutting from the plant before I attempt to transplant, so that I can still have that if the mother plant dies.
    – MackM
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:13
  • If the plant is in the ground and if you've already sold the house (assuming you're not a renter), then you cannot legally move the azalea unless it was explicitly excluded from the contract of sale.
    – Jurp
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:28
  • @MackM thanks, maybe I'll give that a shot too, although I'm no green-thumb so propagating a cutting is a tall order.. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Given that any plant transplanted in December in your area won't be able to grow roots before the ground freezes, such plants will be susceptible to frost-heaving, which could easily kill it outright. Here's what I would do (assuming that you can legally move the plant).

  1. Get hold of a large pot - 10 gallon, minimum.
  2. Using a long-handled shovel, if you have one, dig around the entire shrub, a little wider than the width if the pot. Try to get under the shrub as much as possible (this is why I'm recommending a long-handled shovel–for better reach).
  3. Gently lever-up the rootball (another reason for the long-handled shovel).
  4. Place the shrub in the pot and add enough garden soil to fill it. Note that the pot will be heavy, especially after you've watered it, so don't water it yet.
  5. Place the potted shrub into a garage (unheated is best) and in an area that doesn't get any sun at all. This last bit is incredibly important - NO SUN EVER.
  6. Water the shrub.

When it's time for the move, move it to your new house's garage or a shed. Check it periodically throughout the winter to make sure that it's not dry. If it does get a bit dry and if you have snow on the ground, cover the top of the pot with a few inches of snow—as it melts it will water the plant. When spring arrives, take it outside and place in the shade and see if it wakes up.

This is roughly how we over-wintered shrubs in various nurseries I've worked in; it has a very good success rate for shrubs that have been in pots all season, but should still work with yours.

  • Thanks! Just out of curiosity since I'm not knowledgeable about these things - why not allow sunlight all winter long? Don't plants need sunlight? Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:56
  • Good question. The reason for the unheated garage or outbuilding (if possible) is that you want the pot to freeze solid and not thaw. This prevents frost heave. Because the shrub will be dormant, it won't need the sunlight; all the sun will do is allow the pot to partially thaw/refreeze (frost heave), which can easily break the roots, and dry out the roots, which will kill them. Ideally, the pot should stay frozen until early spring. If you have to store it in an attached garage, then the roots may still grow a bit, so it's important that you ensure that the soil stays moist, but not wet.
    – Jurp
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 17:38
  • Note that azaleas have wide but very shallow roots. Easy to dig up. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 18:43
  • 1
    @YosefBaskin Good point. It's possible for OP to go wider and then gently folder the outer roots into the pot. then unfold in the spring when planting.
    – Jurp
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 19:02

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