I mentioned before that I started a landscaping project that has definitely stalled because of lack of money. This has caused me to get a little creative about how I acquire plants. One thing I’ve been doing is wandering around my yard looking for plants that I can transplant — plants in places that aren’t ideal for their growth or are located where I can’t really enjoy them. Several potential transplants are “volunteer” plants, meaning that they grew up as an offshoot of another plant or otherwise seeded by themselves. Take, for instance, my aucuba japonica:
(Poor thing gets munched on every winter by the deer — just ignore the chewed on bits in the photo.) In front of the aucuba was a little volunteer, also munched on:
Well, it’s pretty clear that this little aucuba will never grow well in this spot, so I thought I’d move it to a place where it has more of a chance to survive and where I can enjoy it. So I researched what kind of conditions aucubas like: part shade to shade with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Got it. My backyard is pretty shady — it gets morning dappled sun — and although the soil is heavy clay, I can amend it. Also, my backyard is fenced in, so the deer won’t be able to get at the aucuba. Here’s what I did to transplant it:
- Choose a spot for the transplant. I deliberately chose a spot where there was no grass growing so I wouldn’t have to deal with removing grass.
- Dig a hole approximately as deep as and twice as wide as the root ball. Because I hadn’t dug up the aucuba yet, I just estimated this.
- Amend the soil. I needed to make our heavy clay soil drain more easily, so I added some leaf mold (that’s a fancy term for the shredded leaves that have been decomposing for the past year in my driveway) and a handful of compost and mixed it in with the soil I dug out of the hole.
- Dig up the aucuba. I dug quite a big hole around the little volunteer aucuba, being careful not to cut any roots I didn’t absolutely have to. I tried to dig up quite a lot of the dirt that the aucuba has been growing in with the root ball. It seemed to me that there would be less transplant shock if the aucuba could be moved with its own soil.
- Place the aucuba in the new hole. Keep the base of the aucuba level with the existing soil (that is, don’t plant it too high or too low). Fill in the hole with the amended soil, punching it down firmly so there are no gaps in the soil.
- Add some mulch. I put about an inch of leaf mold all over the area where I had dug the hole.
- Water generously. Also, water every few days for the next several weeks. Then I’ll probably just water once a week through the summer.
And here’s the aucuba in its new home:
Now I just have to cross my fingers and wait. Hopefully this little plant will make it. And if it doesn’t, I at least know that I didn’t spend any money on the aucuba and it never would have grown properly where it was located before. Also, I just learned that it’s easy to “root” aucubas so I might try that next if my volunteer aucuba decides it won’t survive.
The aucuba is doing great in its new location. It has about 8 large leaves and looks fantastic.