How to Transplant a Tree

There's a saying that goes, "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now."

We plant trees for a number of reasons. We want to mitigate the effects greenhouse gases have on the environment. We want fresh fruit. We want to enhance the beauty and value of our homes.

No matter how much you value your tree, you may have to move it so it can grow strong in its own space. If you put the same care into transplanting your tree as you did growing it, you can maintain its value and beauty. In this post, we will outline why you would need to transplant a tree and how to safely do so.

Reasons You Need to Transplant Your Tree
There are quite a few reasons you may need to transplant a tree. If any of the following apply to you, it may be time to consider tree transplantation:

  • You want to rearrange the plants in your garden and your tree is in the way.
  • You realize you planted your tree too close to your house, but cutting and pruning may not be enough. It's easier to move and rescue a tree than keep cutting it back.
  • Your tree overgrew its space and is intruding on other plants and younger trees. Your established tree can pass along pests and disease that younger trees are ill equipped to handle.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, it may be time to uproot your tree.

How to Transplant Your Tree
To successfully transplant a tree is no easy task. You may want to enlist the help of someone with more experience if you feel uncomfortable. However, if you follow these steps you should be able to successfully transplant your tree.

Time the Move
Before transplanting a tree, you must think about your timing. The best time to move most trees is in the spring. When you move trees in the spring, they have a full season to familiarize themselves with their new climate.

If you move trees during the fall, they do not have enough time to adjust before winter arrives. This is especially true with evergreens. Also, avoid moving trees during the summer because heat puts unnecessary stress on trees.

Gather Tools
Once you pick a date to move your tree, make sure to prepare with the proper tools. Here's what you will need to transport a tree:

  • Pointed shovel
  • Loppers
  • Tree dolly
  • Tarp
  • Watering hose
  • Mulch

Select a Location
You don't want to transplant a tree more than once, so put a lot of thought into where you want to plant your tree. In general, a new location depends on what type of tree you move. Take note of the size and growing environment of your tree.

Select a place that is far away from your home so the tree won't grow into it. At the same time, make sure the location isn't too close to any property lines so you don't encroach on your neighbors. Next, see what kind of soil and sunlight your particular kind of tree requires and plan accordingly.

Dig a New Hole
Dig a new hole in your selected location. The new hole should be two to three times as wide as the root ball. Moisten the hole with your watering hose and loosen soil to reduce transplant shock. Loose soil makes it easier for roots to adjust and spread out.

Dig up the Tree
Once you have all the logistics in place, it's time to dig up the tree. Place your tarp close to the tree- eventually you will set the root ball here. Take your shovel and start digging about three feet away from the trunk of the tree. As you dig, you will be able to tell how big the root ball and root system are. For trees with larger root balls, you will need to cut through roots around the root ball. When you uncover the root ball, slide your shovel under it, lift it out, and place it on the tarp.

Plant the Tree
Move the tree to the hole using the tree dolly. Slide the tree into the new hole, but be careful not to damage any roots. Once the tree is in the hole, moisten the roots and gently move loose soil into the hole. As you fill the hole with soil, add water intermittently. When you finish filling the hole, spread on a layer of mulch. This will insulate and protect the tree.

Maintain and Care for the Tree
Transplanting can be quite a shock to trees. If they don't receive proper care and handling throughout the operation, they may die.

When you finish a transplant, make sure you water your tree often-about once a day for several minutes. You can also aid the health of your tree by keeping pests away with bug spray. It may take a while for new roots to form, but patience and water will guide this process along.

We wish you luck as you provide your tree a new home. If you need help removing a mature tree or want to learn more be sure to call an arborist to get an experts opinion.