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Hi, I was lucky enough to be offered a dozen or so laurel bushes, about 5ft high, and I though they'd be great to fill a 5ft gap for more privacy.

However, I have now read up a little and I am concerned I might have cut the roots too far back? There were planted in a friends garden and I cut around a foot square around each plant, chopped off the roots, and pulled out.

That was this morning, and so now I currently have ten plants sat in buckets of water as I dont want the roots to dry out.

Have I just killed off some perfectly good bushes? I was planning on replanting tomorrow (weather permitting). I'm aware they will need to be kept watered once planted so the roots dont dry out and to expect some of the leaves to die and fall away initially. Is there anything else I need to know?



You might be lucky Kevin but you have cut off the business end of the roots. I'd cut some top back to balance them up and keep them watered but not drowned. Speak to them very nicely and they may survive. If one of them does it will be more than enough for a 5 foot gap.

Yep, prune the top growth right now or u'll lose them for sure. They used to have the right amount of root to support the to growth, but not anymore! Don't worry - if they live, they'll grow back fine (and fast) next year. And get them out of the bucket or you'll drown them. Air round roots is just as crucial as water. Get them pruned and planted immediately (though I struggle to keep just one laurel to a 5ft 'ball'). Dont over water, or you'll rot off new roots. Just give em a soak if soill dry from about a finger-depth below surface. Good luck.

Thanks Nutcutlet and auntie betty

Just to clarify, I cut the roots at about 12-15 inches along as I was digging out - does this change any of the earlier advice? Perhaps not..!?



It's those fine roots at the end that take up water and nutrients Kevin. Have you still got  some of those?



And are they joined on to the bushes? 


Sorry - couldn't resist   I'll get my coat ....................

I see what you mean about the roots...

I've down to around 3ft high, should i prune leaves, take off half the branches? I'm thinking of ways to preserve water requirements to the main stem?


Thanks Doveformabove - just get another shandy and sit back down


Can you take a photo or 2 Kevin so we can see what you've got there?



You'll need to remove a lot of top to balance the lack of root. The roots won't hold that lot upright apart from the water loss problem. I'd cut them back really hard. Get them in the soil asap, their roots shouldn't be exposed to the air. Give them a good watering in but don't over water them after that. They won't be absorbing much because they haven't got much root and they won't be using much if you chop the top growth back. You don't want them to drown.



Not a huge expert, but from generations of farmers, so know a bit about hedges, (planting as well as uprooting ).  

You've not got a lot of root there for some quite large bushes.

 I would be very brave and cut the tops right back to about 18" from the soil level, then plant in really well prepared soil with some lovely compost/leafmould etc.  Don't let them get waterlogged, but also don't forget to water them.  If they survive (and they probably will) they'll shoot again from the bottom and you'll get a lovely thick hedge in a few years' time  - if they don't, well they probably wouldn't have done anyway so what have  you lost? 

Good luck 


Oh, had to leave mid-post to answer the phone - son needs ideas for fancy dress costume  so didn't see your post Nut - but totally agree 

Thanks all for the advice

So, amazingly I have received a message this morning that there are another 6 laurel bushes on offer...

So, do I try digging those out instead and replacing the 'butchered' ones? If so, do I dig 3 feet around and 2 feet under each? More? Less? What should I look for? For example, on the ones I dug up before they each had a stronger 'tap' root which was around an inch in diameter but spread out from the  bush horizontally, and as you now I chopped off at around 18 inches.

Should I dig all the root out? Might it be 3 or 4 feet long?


Thanks all for the advice

Thanks to everyone for the advice given to Kevin as I was about to try and move some common laurel bushes which are about 6' high to the opposite side of the garden. As they are against a fence the roots probably go into next door, so I think I will leave them where they are!!

Elaine C



Elaine - I moved a very large mature laurel last year. It was well entrenched beside a shed that I had to move and we had an almighty struggle to get it out. It was pruned right back to about 12 -18 inches and I moved it to the front garden near  my new hedge to fill a gap to provide a bit of a windbreak. It's now about 3 feet in both directions and I expect it to grow well next year.

If you have the time and energy, they can be successfully moved. 


But if Elaine lives anywhere near us  in East Anglia, currently experiencing very dry conditions, I wouldn't do it until autumn/early winter. 

It's OK for you up there in the land of the constant rain Fg - you can do these things all year round


True Dove! Although when I moved them we were experiencing a very dry summer.... hard to believe I know! 

Copious watering and a good mulch would help once replanted though - I could always rig  up a very long pipeline....

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