Tropical trees usually spend their formative years in a pot, where they spend the summer months out of doors and freezing winter nights beside the window. Eventually they outgrow their containers and the house and need to take their rightful place in the soil in the back yard. If the growing conditions are right, tropical trees can be transplanted relatively easily. But to ensure success, transplant your tropical tree when it is between 1 and 3 years old and free of health or insect issues.
Harden off the tree. If your tropical tree has been spending most of its time indoors, it will first need to be acclimated to life outdoors before it is transplanted into the ground. Allowing it to slowly adjust will significantly reduce transplanting stress. Start a week before you plan to transplant the tree and set the tree outside in direct sun for a few hours during the day, and then bring it inside. Leave it out for increasing periods of time until, on the last day, it spends all day outdoors.
Choose the right day to transplant. The best time to transplant a tropical tree is between March and October. Try to shoot for the day after a rain when the sky is overcast.
Choose a good location for your tropical tree. Most varieties will need well-drained soil and full sun. If low temperatures in your area are a concern, plant your tree in a southern location near your home or other structure to provide it some protection from wind and winter chill.
Water your tropical tree until water flows out of the drainage holes in the bottom of its container.
Dig a hole that is three times as deep and three times as wide as the container that your tree is currently growing in.
Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain out.
Mix half of the excavated soil with an equal amount of aged compost.
Carefully remove the tropical tree from its current container, taking care not to damage any of the roots. Then loosen the roots by gently pulling them away from the root ball with your hand. Use a pair of sharp pruning shears to remove any roots that are damaged and those that have wrapped themselves around the interior of the container.
Plant the tree in the hole at the same depth that it was planted in the container. First, back fill the hole more than halfway with a mound of soil. Then gently nestle the root ball over the mound without bending or pinching any of the roots. Then back fill the hole the rest of the way. Do not cover the root ball with more than an inch of soil.
Erect a 4-inch-high berm around the planting area. Fill it with water from a slow-running hose and allow it to water the plant. A newly transplanted tropical tree should be watered whenever the top inch of soil dries out. Each time you water the plant, fill the berm in the same way and allow it to drain.
Fill the berm with a 4-inch layer of organic mulch or compost kept at least 1 foot away from the trunk of the tree. The mulch will not only help to keep the soil moist, but as it breaks down it will provide nutrition for the tree.