How to Transplant Apple Trees in the East


An apple tree is the foundation of many backyards in the East. The cool winters and warm summers provide the perfect environment for growing apples. Many fall festivities are based on the harvesting of the many varieties of apples available. So if you want to transplant an apple tree in your yard, there are a few things to consider before you start digging.

Step 1

Purchase a small apple tree with a good-sized root system. It is a better practice to find a small 1-year old tree with a half inch stem than an older one with a fatter stem as far as successful transplants go. Of course, take the time to find a healthy tree instead of a bargain tree that might have some problems. The initial investment of buying a tree is paid many times over later as the tree starts bearing fruit.

Step 2

Find a suitable spot for planting your apple tree. It should be late fall or early spring before things have started to grow. Make sure it is a spot that gets full sun, is not a low area for air circulation or where water might accumulate during the rainy season. If you are planting a dwarf tree, you will need at least 15 feet of clear space while a regular apple tree should have more like 30 feet of space.

Step 3

Dig a hole for your transplant. This is the most important part of the whole process. So much of the future health of your apple tree will depend on how it gets started. Evacuate the hole at least 12 inches in every direction larger than the size of the root mass. Save the soil in a wheel barrow.

Step 4

Examine the removed soil. If it is hard and full of clay chunks, you need to add 50 percent humus and 25 percent sand to the soil you have. Work it thoroughly until it has a nice texture in your hand. If your soil is mostly sand, add enough humus so that it holds the sand in suspension. If you are blessed with a rich, dark and loose soil, just use it as it is.

Step 5

Unwrap the tree from its packaging or pot. Check to make sure the roots are not balled up and loosen any that are. If the soil is not moist, soak the whole thing for at least an hour before planting. Bare root transplants should also be soaked but for at least six hours before planting.

Step 6

Toss about a fourth of the prepared soil back into the hole and set the tree in on top of it. Spread the roots out, making sure they are not crossing over each other. Have one person hold the tree straight while you continue to add the dirt back into the hole. Keep an eye on the graft union as it needs to stay 2 inches above the soil line.

Step 7

Pack the dirt in solid around the tree to make sure there are no air pockets that might dry out the roots. Water the tree and the area 4 feet in diameter around it. Continue watering every few days if it is spring and then once a week in the summer. Fall watering only needs to be done until the ground starts to freeze.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Humus
  • Sand


  • N.C. Cooperative Extension Service: Growing Apple Trees in he Home Garden
  • AgriLife Extension: Home Fruit Production - Apples
Keywords: apple tree, transplant, fruit, orchard, garden

About this Author

Based in Maryland, Heidi Braley, currently writes for local and online media outlets. Some of Braley's articles from the last 10 years are in the "Oley Newsletter," "Connections Magazine," GardenGuides and Braley's college life included Penn State University and Villanova University with her passions centered in nutrition and botany.