Separating tightly grown cedars

Credit: Joggingman08

Q: I have some 12-foot cedars in my front yard that were grown tightly together. Can I separate and successfully transplant them?

Unfortunately you’re not going to be able to separate the cedars. They have obviously been growing as a hedge in that spot for quite some time. Cedars have a very fibrous and matted root system. The roots will be so intertwined from tree to tree that they would be impossible to separate and cutting the roots to the extent that you would need to would undoubtedly kill the trees.

The other issue would be trying to piece the large and very heavy specimens back together so that the barren sides fit together. This is important as otherwise the hedge would look quite unpleasant.

Cedars grow quite fast when they’re young and slow in annual growth as they mature. They also will send out a flush of growth in the spring, go dormant for summer and then throw a second flush of growth in the fall. So annually you can see a substantial increase in their height. My advice would be to purchase new 6-ft. (1.8 m) plants as soon as possible and start fresh. I think that you would save money with the only drawback being that you’ll have lost some height for up to three years on their way to a mature 12 ft. (3.6 m).