How to Transplant a River Birch Tree in Minnesota


River birch (Betula nigra,), commonly found along riverbanks and other moist areas, is one of Minnesota's native trees. They grow to a height of 60 feet and are often used as a focal point in the landscape and as shade trees for parks, golf courses and other large areas. Birch trees are widespread in the United States, from the Midwest to the Northeast and as far south as north and central Florida. The river birch prefers to be grown in full sun to partial shade on moist, acid soil, will tolerate occasional flooding, and transplants easily.

Step 1

Prune the birch tree roots, at minimum, one season (spring or fall) before transplanting. Measure the trunk stem thickness and draw a circle on the ground around the stem 10 to 12 inches out for every 1 inch of stem thickness. For example, a 1-inch caliper (measurement of thickness taken roughly 6 inches above the ground) tree would have a circle diameter of 20 to 24 inches drawn in the soil around the stem. Push the blade of the spade into the ground, as deep as possible, all of the way around the circle.

Step 2

Dig up the birch tree one season after root pruning. Dig down a few inches outside of where the root-pruning trench was dug the previous season. Pry the roots and loosen the soil while digging. Moisten the soil a day before to help the digging process.

Step 3

Slide the shovel under the roots or use loppers to cut any roots that may be growing downward. Lift the birch tree out of the hole and move the transplant from where it was growing to the new location.

Step 4

Cover the roots with wet straw or wood chip mulch and wrap with a tarp or plastic to keep them moist.

Step 5

Dig the new hole no deeper than the measured depth of the birch transplant's mass of roots. Plant the birch in its new hole and make sure the top roots are no deeper than the landscape surface. Fill the remaining open hole with soil.

Step 6

Water the area thoroughly and give the area 2 to 4 inches of mulch (do not put mulch directly against the stem).

Step 7

Water the birch consistently, sometimes every day depending on how hot the season is, the drainage of the soil and the size of the transplant. A hot and windy day is much more stressful to the newly established birch than a cool spring day. The soil should drain thoroughly between waterings, but the soil should not be allowed to dry completely.

Tips and Warnings

  • The bronze birch borer and birch leafminers are two pests to watch out for. Local county extension offices can provide helpful information about these pests.

Things You'll Need

  • Digging spade (shovel)
  • Loppers
  • Straw or wood chip mulch
  • Tarp or plastic sheet


  • Winona State University: Trees of Winona State University
  • University of Minnesota Forest Resource Extension: Seasonal Care for Trees and Shrubs in Northern U.S. Climates
  • Landscape Plants for Subtropical Climates; Bijan Dehgan; 1998
Keywords: transplant birch, planting birch, Minnesota birch transplant