Do Not Transplant A Madrone

A little over a month ago, when I was visiting my dad, we switched a small nandina in the back yard with a bigger hydrangea in the front yard. The nandina was small and wasn’t growing very well in the backyard location, and the hydrangea was getting too big for its location in the front yard.

Small nandina
A big(ger) hydrangea

But, in the process of switching those two plants, we noticed a volunteer madrone that had sprung up nearby. It was sandwiched between the newly transplanted hydrangea and an already established andromeda, and it was clearly not going to be able to stay there for very long. So, we decided to move it. (I forgot to take a picture of it before moving it, so this is my “photoshopped” version of the volunteer madrone tree near the hydrangea and andromeda.)

Hydrangea in the front right corner, Andromeda in the back left side of photo, madrone in the middle

We transplanted the madrone to an open spot at the edge of the property in what will hopefully someday be a privacy hedge of trees and shrubs between us and the neighboring school. We dug a nice big hole and filled that hole with plenty of fresh compost to ensure that the madrone would be happy in its new location!

Here’s the madrone in its new home!

Unbeknowst to us madrones don’t like to be transplanted, and furthermore, they especially don’t like nice new compost-enriched soil.

According to Linda McMahan, native plant expert and horticulturist with the Yamhill County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service, madrones don’t take well to tending by overly conscientious gardeners. They’re more likely to show up in rocky arid areas where other trees don’t survive, along an inhospitable roadside bank or in the middle of a dense Douglas fir stand than in a well-watered garden. …Madrones are notoriously difficult to transplant. Some authorities recommend buying seedlings that have been marked with north or south on the seedling tube so that you can plant the tree with the same orientation it’s been used to… If you can plant your madrone seedling in soil dug up from under a mature madrone tree, where myccorhizal relationships are already established, you might be able to give yours a head start.

Oregon State Extension


One month later, here are some photos my dad sent me:

It’s lookin’ a little dead. I guess the Madrone prefers a more daring lifestyle

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