I have 2 pieris japonica, 2 azaleas and 2 soft caress mahonias to transplant. I live in zone 7a. I read somewhere that January is a good time to transplant shrubs in my zone. Is it too early to transplant them? When would be the recommended time to transplant them?
Well, the best time to transplant evergreen shrubs would be when the danger of a hard freeze is over. Deciduous is good now. If the ground is frozen, it's not such a good idea. I just planted a Dogwood today and a bunch of Camellias but then again we have barely had any snow.
All of my shrubs are evergreen, but, of course, they are not conifers. We've virtually not had any snow, but we have had several freezes, primarily at night. The last 2-3 weeks, we've had 1-2 days of unseasonable highs each week alternating with average winter temps for our area. For example, the temp is 61 now and the high is predicted to be 75 tomorrow. Night temps for the rest of the week are predicted to be in the 30's but above freezing, except for Thursday when it is supposed to dip to 27. Day temps will be in the 50's and 60's except for Tues when it is supposed to be 48. The ground is definitely not frozen. Typically, we do not have freezes in April. Should I wait until then?
Well, I think you should be ok. The worst thing for an evergreen during the winter (other than a conifer) is the desiccating winds when it is below freezing. Freezing and thawing soil is hard on roots on a fresh transplant. If you know the plants came from a greenhouse or coldframe, you might want to keep them from below freezing temps and acclimatize them a bit.
If the shrubs are not too big (or you have really big pots) you can transplant them in the ground and then cover with a large pot to protect them from winter winds and minimize the temperature fluctuations that is so hard on the roots. Be sure to weight the pot down with rocks or bricks to keep it from blowing away.