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How to Transplant a Tree

How to Transplant a Tree. For one reason or another, trees sometimes need to be moved. You can accomplish this task yourself if you do it when your tree is young and small. Follow these guidelines so that your tree survives the move.

Select the site. Allow enough space for your tree to thrive as it grows. Make sure that it will get its requirement of sun and shade in its new location, and that it's protected from wind. The soil type also must be compatible with the newly transplanted tree. Perform a soil test.

Dig the hole. The hole at your selected site should be 2 to 3 times larger than the root ball of the tree.

Wait until the tree is dormant. The ground must not be frozen, but the buds on the tree should not have begun to swell.

Mark the tree. When you transplant the tree, it must face the same direction in its new home to avoid being burned by the sun. Marking before moving is the best way to protect it.

Dig around the tree. Make sure it's had plenty of water for several days prior to digging. Tie any low hanging branches to prevent damage to them while the tree is being dug. Use a sharp shovel to make clean cuts in the root system to prevent further damage.

Remove the tree. Trees with trunks up to 1 inch in diameter can be moved as bare root or with a soil ball. Only move bare root trees in early spring. If a soil ball around the roots is used, it should be at least 2/3 the size of the spread of the branches of the tree. Larger trees require a soil ball. All roots must be cut before the tree is lifted.

Protect roots during transport. They must be protected from wind, cold and sunlight and kept moist at all times.

Plant the tree. The sooner your tree is transplanted, the better its chances for survival. Plant it to the same level that it was in its old location, or even an inch higher. Don't plant too deeply. Pack the soil firmly around the roots as you bury them, watering as you go.

Mulch the tree. Don't put fertilizer in the hole, as the roots can't take it in yet. A layer of organic material 2 to 3 inches deep surrounding the newly planted tree will provide protection and nutrients. Fertilizing may begin after the first year.

Keep it watered. For at least the first 2 years after transplanting, water deeply once every 2 weeks. You may need to water more often than that in hot weather.


The smaller the tree you decide to move, the faster it will recover. About 1 year per inch of trunk diameter is needed before normal growth resumes.

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