Transplanting Evergreens in the Fall, and Removing Invasive Bushes


We have recently moved into a house with a very small backyard and there are 2 shrubs places in very awkward positions and need to be moved.
They are both about 6 feet tall. One is a weeping Nootka cypress and the other is an evergreen topiary shrub.
Can I move them at this point jn the fall. Today is October 20th.
Also in the yard are 2 buckhorn trees – each about 10 feet tall, and one tall winged euonymous, about 6 feet tall.
I know that these are invasive species and I would like to remove them but don’t know how to dispose of them properly.
I really appreciate your help on these matters.


Congratulations on moving into your new home. Thank you for your interesting questions.

To answer your first question, we consulted with a Toronto-based arborist. His answer is that even though deciduous trees and perennials can be transplanted in the fall, since they go into dormancy, it would still be better to transplant them by the end of September in case there is an early frost and there is not enough time for the roots to be established.

In the case of evergreens, like your Weeping Nootka cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’) and your evergreen topiary shrub, since they do not really go into dormancy, it would be better to wait until spring to transplant them. Late October is too late in the season for them to re-establish a root system to allow them to survive the winter. You may find this link interesting: When would be a good time to transplant an evergreen tree?.

For your reference for next spring, Landscape Ontario has an excellent guide to planting trees.

To your second question on removing your two problematic trees/bushes, it is worth noting that Toronto’s bylaws say that it is prohibited to remove any tree without a permit on private property which is over 30cm (about one foot) diameter measured from 1.4 metres (4.5’) above ground level. This requirement seems to apply to removing all trees, even if they are considered invasive. You can follow this link for more information on how to apply to the City of Toronto’s Tree Removal service. Also, this link will give you the Toronto Tree Removal bylaw.

The Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is considered invasive, whereas there are other buckthorns that are acceptable. One thing to note is whether you do indeed have the invasive Common buckthorn since there are other species that look very similar. For a more in-depth conversation about buckthorns, please look at this previous Toronto Master Gardener post.

However, if you are certain that you have the Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and the Winged euonymous (Euonymus alatus) growing in your garden, they are usually multiple-stemmed bushes/shrubs rather than trees, so it should be possible to remove them. Both of these species are described in this Ontario Invasive Plants brochure.

The removal of the buckthorn, in particular, is not going to be easy because of its horrible thorns, so dress up protectively. The most important thing to consider, is making sure that you contain and get rid of the berries. Do not put them in your compost; dispose of them in the garbage. Then try to get out as much of the root system as possible, since re-sprouting will be a problem. You may find these factsheets of the best way to manage the containment of the buckthorn from Ontario Native Plants useful:

You tell us that your Winged euonymous (Euonymus alatus) is about six feet tall. Since it is a shrub, you should be able to remove it. Purdue University’s extension has more information on the invasion of the Winged euonymous in the north-east of North America. The Ontario Invading Species Awareness Program also has quite a lot of information.

Control of any invasive species seems to come down to mechanical control (digging it up), biological control (if there are any known insects or organisms that are known to attack the species), and chemical controls. However, in the case of chemical controls, please be careful as to whether the website you are reading is Canadian or American, since the use of most herbicides is considered illegal in Toronto.

Once you have removed your two problematic shrubs, you may wish to consider some alternatives. Here is a link to a publication from the Ontario Invasive Plants Council that provides more information and suggested alternative plants to replace them. Grow Me Instead