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How to Transplant Red Cedar Trees

The red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a dense-leaved coniferous tree native to the eastern and central United States. Red cedar is an early successional species that often appears as the first woody plants to regrow in an abandoned field or pasture. Under ideal conditions, they can eventually reach 60 feet in height. Young red cedars can be easily transplanted from fields or from nursery starts to grow in more ideal locations for use as a windbreak, home-grown cedar fencing poles or landscaping specimens.

Select a site in full sun to permanently locate your red cedar. Dig a hole 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep. Remove weeds, roots, rocks and other debris from the soil. Mix the cleaned soil with sand. Fill the hole with water and allow the water to drain into the underlying soil.

Select a red cedar less than 3 feet high for transplanting. The North Dakota Cooperative Extension advises that red cedars about 1 foot tall are ideal.

Use a shovel to dig out the selected red cedar with a root ball about 2 feet in diameter. Place the red cedar immediately into a large bucket or set it on burlap. If using burlap, pull it around the root ball and secure it with twine. This helps preserve the root system.

At the preferred location, remove the red cedar from the bucket or burlap. Hold the red cedar so its base of its trunk is level with the surrounding ground. Shovel the soil-sand mixture underneath the red cedar root ball until it sits level with the ground.

Fill the rest of the prepared hole with the soil-sand mixture. Water thoroughly, then top off any settled soil with additional shovels of soil-sand mixture until the hole is level with the surrounding ground. Water the transplant as necessary for the next two weeks. This prevents roots from drying out until the tree becomes established in the new location.


Early spring or late fall are the best times of year to transplant red cedar, according to the North Dakota Cooperative Extension.


Cedar apple rust is a destructive fungus that lives alternately on junipers, such as the red cedar, and on members of the apple and crab apple family. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension recommends that you carefully inspect your red cedar transplants to make sure they are free of the fungus before transplanting them.

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