How to Transplant Fruit Trees


Garden fruit trees provide a good return on your investment of money and time. Very young fruit trees are generally transplanted as bare root specimens or as young potted trees. Occasionally you may need to move a small tree to a new location. When you transplant any fruit tree, you must consider dormancy, planting hole preparation, and the correct way to handle the roots.

Prepare the Planting Hole

Step 1

Dig the new planting hole at least 50 percent larger in diameter than the current size of the fruit tree's root ball. A tiller will break up the soil so it is easier to remove and to mix in fertilizer. Lay the tarp alongside the hole, and place the soil you remove onto the tarp.

Step 2

Dig the new planting hole slightly deeper than the current root ball. The tree will be planted at the same depth it was growing.

Step 3

Mix compost or tree-starting fertilizer with the fill-soil on the tarp. Backfill the planting hole with some of the mixture. (Backfilling simply means replacing the soil around the tree roots.) For bare root transplants, form a mound in the center of the hole so the tree can be placed at the same depth it was previously growing. For a root ball transplant, backfill a few inches in the bottom of the hole to maintain the same planting depth. Replacing loosened, amended soil all around the tree's roots will encourage new root growth.

Move an Existing Fruit Tree

Step 1

Dig a trench around an established young fruit tree at the dripline, an imaginary diameter on the ground as far as the tips of the branches extend. This is the size of the root ball.

Step 2

Push the shovel from the bottom of the trench so it goes under the tree. Lift the tree gently with the shovel. Do this all the way around the tree until it is loosened.

Step 3

Place the tarp alongside the trench. Tip the tree and roll it onto the tarp, moving as much of the soil with the root ball as possible. Wrap the tarp around the root ball, and move the tree to its new planting hole.

Set the Tree in the Ground

Step 1

Set a tree with a root ball next to the planting hole. Unwrap the root ball. Roll the tree gently into the prepared planting hole. Backfill around the root ball, pressing the soil firmly in place.

Step 2

Place a bare root transplant on the soil mound in the planting hole. Spread the roots on all sides of the mound so they will have good contact with the soil. Align the transplant so it will be at the same depth it had previously been growing. Cover the roots and press the soil firmly.

Step 3

Water the transplanted tree thoroughly. If the soil settles, fill in with more soil around the tree after watering until the soil level is correct.

Things You'll Need

  • Tiller (optional)
  • Shovel
  • Tarps or burlap
  • Compost or fertilizer
  • Water


  • Transplant Fruit Trees
  • Plant Fruit Trees

Who Can Help

  • Transplant Established Trees
  • Dormant Fruit Tree Planting
Keywords: transplant fruit tree, transplant bare root, transplant root ball

About this Author

Fern Fischer is a freelance writer with more than 35 years' experience. Her work has been published in various print and online publications. She specializes in organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles. Fischer also writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art.