The Leyland cypress is the most common tree used for privacy and windbreaks in the United States. This evergreen tree grows fast and high, growing up to 4-feet a year when it is young. The problem arises when these trees are planted too close together in the beginning without consideration for how much growth there will be over time. Because of this, crowded trees may need to be moved. Moving a large Leyland cypress tree is a physical, time-consuming task that requires proper preparation.
Decide where you want to move the tree to. Leyland cypress trees need room, especially height, because they can grow up to 50 feet. Find a sunny location with good drainage.
Plan when to move the tree. Wait until early spring when the tree is still dormant and hasn't opened its leaves. This allows the Leyland cypress to form new roots in plenty of time before the first frost of winter.
Check the ground at the new location for thawing. If you can insert a spade halfway into the ground at several spots, the soil is ready to work with.
Dig the new location
Place a stake in the ground at one side of where you want to move the cypress tree. Hook a measuring tape to the side of the stake. Extend the measuring tape to 3 feet. Set another stake in the ground at this location. Walk back toward the first stake until the measuring tape is at 18 inches. Extend the measuring tape at an angle so that you are standing 3 feet from both stakes forming a triangle. Set a third stake at this location. Hook the measuring tape to this stake and extend it 3 feet across to a fourth location. Set a stake here. This is the perimeter for the new hole.
Use the spade to make a circle in the ground using the stakes as a guide. Put the spade into the ground halfway to one side of a stake and pull it out. Move to the side of the first cut and repeat the process. Continue the process, making a curved line to the next stake. Continue working around the stakes to form the circle 3 feet in diameter.
Use the shovel to remove the dirt within the circle to a depth of 2-feet. The root ball will need this space. Put the dirt in a pile along side of the hole. This will be the dirt used to back fill the hole and cover the roots.
Get the tree ready
Make a circle 3 feet in diameter around the tree. Measure from the tree 18-inches on four sides and set stakes at that measurement. Use the spade to dig a circle around the cypress tree.
Use the shovel to dig down to the root ball on all sides of the tree. You may need to cut through some roots that extend beyond the 3-foot mark. Cut as few roots as possible to avoid too much shock to the tree. Dig at a 45 degree angle to remove the soil under the rootball.
Lift the tree out of the ground by the roots. Set the tree on its side.
Wrap the root ball in burlap to protect the roots during the move. Wet the burlap to keep the roots moist. Secure the burlap with twine at the top.
Break down the cardboard box so that all sides are flat on the ground.
Move the tree
Set the cardboard alongside the tree.
Lift the tree onto the cardboard gently. Make sure the root ball is all the way on the cardboard.
Slide the tree, using the cardboard, to the new location. Slide the cardboard to where the root ball is next to the hole.
Plant the tree
Measure the depth of the hole at three different points in a line to get a good idea of the depth. Measure the height of the root ball from the trunk flare (where the roots meet the base) to the bottom of the burlap. Compare the measurements to determine if adjustments need to be made to the hole. The top of the root ball should be 3-inches above the top of the ground. Dig out, or fill in, soil until you achieve this.
Move the root ball into the hole. Stand the tree upright. View the tree from all sides to ensure the tree is straight and adjust as necessary.
Back fill the hole until it is 1/3 full. Pack the soil firmly around the root ball base. Cut the twine. Remove the burlap from the trunk and upper root ball. Let the burlap bag lay on the packed soil. You can cover the burlap over and let it decompose into the soil.
Add a few inches of soil to the hole. Tamp down the soil with the shovel. Fill in the remaining soil using this method until the hole is filled.
Add a 2-inch layer of mulch on top of the soil. Cover the new ground around the tree completely. Using more than this amount will cut off oxygen to the roots and retain more moisture than the tree needs.