When/how to move an established azalea

There is an established azalea (blooms white) that has grown into a lace-leaf maple tree. Both are over 10 years old and the tree is 4 feet tall. The azalea has just finished dropping its spent flowers and I want to move it to another location to give the tree and azalea more room. The summers here are hot and long, often with a drought in July. When/how should the azalea be moved to increase chances of survival? In zone 7, east TN. Thanks.
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I'd wait until the tree is dormant. Lace leaf maples ( I assume you mean a Japanese maple?) are very sensitive to disturbances in their root zone and that combined with the stress of a possibly hot and dry summer could have a very negative impact on the tree. The azalea will be much more forgiving and can be moved easily, but it is not usually recommended to do any significant transplanting immediately before or during the summer season because of the effects of transplant shock and the added need for moisture. If you have a long fall and not terribly severe winters, I'd wait until fall to make the move.
pam - gardengal
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On Sun, 23 May 2004 13:42:57 GMT, "Pam - gardengal"

Thanks Pam. I was thinking fall is a much better time. I did entertain the thought of moving the lace leaf maple tree, but the azalea transplants with higher success and I'd hate to lose this beautiful maple tree.

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Because the roots grow near the surface, a bed prepared especially for rhododendron and azaleas need not be more than 12 inches deep; deep planting or too much mulch in the growing season keeps the roots from getting the air they need. In fact, it is a good idea to set rhododendron about 1 inch higher than they grew at the nursery. Balled-and-burlaped plants may be transplanted in blossom but it is better to transplant them early in spring in areas where their hardiness is questionable, and in spring or fall if mild winter weather does not damage the shallow-rooted plants. Fall transplanting makes a plant more susceptible to frost heave in climates where freezing and thawing cycles are common. All except leathery leaved rhododendron transplant best in the spring.
When transplanting a large plant several steps should be followed. First, it is best to stimulate a tight root ball by root pruning the plants to be moved about a year before moving. This is accomplished by cutting a circle around the plant stem with a shovel to cut off roots that extend beyond this point. This radius is usually slightly smaller than half way to the drip line. Second, it is best to move when the plant is dormant and not stressed. This would be in the spring and fall when the plant is still dormant but the soil is not frozen. Moving in the fall before the ground freezes is preferable if you don't have a problem with frost heaving. Sometimes winter freezing and thawing cycles can actually lift a transplanted plant out of the ground where the roots are then desiccated and the plant dies. For this reason, it is safer to transplant in the spring after the ground thaws in climates where frost heaving is a problem. Third, take precautions to preserve the integrity of the root ball. Tie the ball together and support is so it doesn't fall apart. Finally, pruning the top helps match the demands of the top to the capability of the roots after they are stressed by the move. People have been known to cut the top off wild rhododendron before moving and the plants have come back with superior shape. This is drastic and not recommended for a plant you don't want to risk loosing. Rhododendron and azaleas have dormant buds beneath the bark which sprout to form new growth after severe pruning, hence severe pruning which removes 1/3 to 1/2 of leaf area is quite common when transplanting.
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Before buds swell in the spring would be ideal. If you have to move it after that try doing it during a week of rain, providing shade, using anti-transpirant. Late season moving in the fall may work but here in zone 6 it gets iffy. In any case get a good root mat with the plant and don't let them dry for a minute. Consider root pruning around the plant now to develop a fibrous root system closer to the plant.
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