How to Prepare to Transplant Fruit Trees


Moving a fruit tree can be difficult, particularly larger ones, but it is not impossible. Fruit trees will transplant easier if they are smaller. Larger fruit trees will need to be pruned a year before transplanting to prevent the damaging roots as the tree is dug up. Root-pruned fruit trees will exhibit more compact growth and their fruit sizes will be smaller during the year the trees are pruned.

Step 1

Time the root pruning session for one year before transplanting, if possible.

Step 2

Calibrate the size of the tree's root ball by measuring the diameter of the trunk at chest height with a pair of calipers. A tree should have a root ball with 10 to 12 inches of diameter per every inch of diameter in the trunk.

Step 3

Insert a spade into the ground in a circle around the tree's root ball. The circle should be as wide as the calculation made in Step 2, and at least 8 inches deep.

Step 4

Wait for a year before digging up the tree to allow the tree to form new roots.

Step 5

Water the soil two to three days before transplanting.

Step 6

Insert a shovel into the ground in a ring between 4 and 6 inches outside of the root-pruning ring that was made the previous year. Insert the shovel and tilt it back to lift the root ball out of the hole.

Step 7

Place the root ball onto a square of burlap. Bring the burlap up around the root ball and tie it with a string.

Step 8

Place the root ball into a wheel barrow to avoid damaging roots while moving the tree.

Step 9

Dig a planting hole that is twice as wide as the root ball, but no deeper. Unwrap the burlap from the root ball. Place the tree in the center of the hole and fill in the sides around the hole with dirt.

Step 10

Check the tree every two to three days and water to keep the soil as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Do not over-water.

Things You'll Need

  • Calipers
  • Spade
  • Garden hose
  • Shovel
  • Burlap
  • String
  • Wheel barrow


  • North Carolina State Extension: Growing Apple Trees In The Home Garden
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Extension: Controlling Growth of Apple Trees

Who Can Help

  • University of Tennessee Extension: Successfully Transplanting Established Trees
Keywords: transplanting fruit trees, root pruning trees, moving larger trees

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."