How to Transplant a Yellow Bird of Paradise

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Although it looks nothing like other bird of paradise plants, the yellow bird (Caesalpinia gilliesii), also known as desert bird of paradise, is a tropical evergreen shrub. It blooms in large yellow flowers on a shrub that can grow to 6 feet tall with an equal spread. Depending on the size and age of the plant, it could have a very long taproot that, if disturbed or destroyed, may lessen the chance of the plant surviving a transplant. You will need to perform a root prune of the lateral roots in the spring before buds appear and then transplant the yellow bird of paradise in the fall.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging


Things You’ll Need:

  • Flat spade
  • Shovel
  • Rope or twine
  • Flour
  • Tarp
  1. Water the yellow bird of paradise the day before you perform the root prune in the spring. Allow the water to puddle at the base of the plant and when it drains, water it again. Do this several times until the soil is wet to a depth of 12 inches.

  2. Dig a trench with the spade in the soil around the plant, cutting the roots. The best place to dig the trench is 10 to 12 inches away from the base for every inch of trunk diameter. Dig down 24 inches completely around the plant. Place the soil back into the trench when you have finished cutting the roots around the plant and water it until the top 12 inches of soil is wet.

  3. Water the yellow bird of paradise two days before you will transplant it in the fall. Soak the soil to a depth of 24 inches.

  4. Dig a hole in the area in which you will transplant the shrub. Dig it the same depth as the plant is now growing but three times the width. You may have to adjust the dimensions of the hole once the yellow bird of paradise is out of the ground and you can see the root ball. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain while you dig up the shrub.

  5. Tie rope or twine around the shrub to hold the branches together and out of your way. If the shrub is too large to carry, lay a tarp on the soil nearby so that you can drag the shrub to the new location.

  6. Mark the soil where you will dig. Flour from your kitchen is ideal for this purpose. Sprinkle it 6 inches out from the trench you dug in the spring.

  7. Insert the spade into the soil, 1 inch outside of the marked area. Dig deeply to include all of the roots.

  8. Dig under the root ball when you have completed digging around it, cutting through any remaining roots.

  9. Move the shrub to the new location and place the root ball into the hole. Fill the hole halfway with soil and then fill it with water. When the water drains, finish filling it with soil. Use your feet to press the soil firmly around the base of the shrub.

  10. 1Untie the branches and water the yellow bird of paradise until the soil is saturated.

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