How to Transplant a Live Oak Tree

Overview

The state tree of Georgia and the symbol of Southern strength, the live oak ("Quercus virginiana") is a large spreading tree. While mature live oaks do not transplant well, you can transplant small trees (one to two years old) and container live oaks. The best time of year to transplant live oak trees is the spring, after any frost danger has passed and before the tree begins active growth. Be careful when transplanting a tree, especially if it's heavy. You can easily injure yourself with lifting and carrying your tree.

Step 1

Choose a site for your live oak tree that will support the mature tree, ideally one that offers full sun. Live oaks are capable of reaching 65 to 85 feet in height.

Step 2

Prepare the new site before you dig up the old tree. Turn over the soil with a shovel. Then dig a large hole that's twice as wide as the live oak tree's root ball. If you're transplanting a sapling, you can easily tell this by the size of the container. If you're transplanting a yard tree, GardenLine suggests a guideline of nine to 12 inches of root ball per every inch in tree trunk diameter.

Step 3

Remove any sticks, rocks, weeds or debris from the site so your tree roots won't have to compete. Jab your shovel at the bottom of the hole to roughen up the soil. This will help the oak roots adapt to replanting.

Step 4

Dig up the live oak from its current site. Sink a flat spade or a shovel into the soil around the base of the tree, beginning at the outer edge of the root ball circumference (which you estimated in step 2). Slowly work the soil up to expose the roots. Continue to dig the tree roots out until they are mostly exposed and the tree is nearly loosened from the soil.

Step 5

Gather as many roots as you can. Cut the few remaining roots with pruning shears if the tree is almost all the way out, but stuck by a few roots. Carry the tree to the new site, or place it in a wheelbarrow and push it.

Step 6

Place the tree in its new hole so it's planted at the same depth. Spread the roots out. If you're planting a container tree, remove the tree from its container and break up the tangled roots with your fingers, then place the tree in the hole.

Step 7

Backfill the hole with soil. Water the newly transplanted tree to compact the soil, watering until the soil is saturated.

Step 8

Water the tree every 10 to 14 days to provide moisture.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Live oak transplant
  • Spade
  • Anvil pruners
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Water

References

  • North Dakota State University: Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
  • University of Florida: Live Oak
  • GardenLine: Moving and Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: live oak tree, transplant oak trees, how to transplant

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.