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How to Plant a Large Tree

By Peter Mitchell ; Updated September 21, 2017
Transplant young trees with care.

Though planting large trees follows a similar process to planting small trees, the size and bulk of larger species presents an extra challenge. You'll need help to lift and position large trees to avoid damaging yourself and the tree. Trees dropped or toppled over may lose branches and important roots. Any large trees transplanted to new locations may take several years to recover to their original growth rate. Prepare a large tree for transplant by using burlap fabric to keep the root ball secure and tight.

Measure the size of the tree's root ball. This is the mass of roots usually wrapped in burlap at the bottom of a tree for transplant. If your tree trunk is larger than 3 inches in diameter, then you may need extra equipment such as a hand carts or a crane, notes North Dakota State University.

Secure the burlap around the root ball of very large trees using chicken wire, if necessary. This is to prevent the ball falling apart in transit.

Dig a hole in a full-sun location with enough room for your tree. Soil additions or amendments such as compost aren't required for tree planting, according to Texas A&M University. Ensure the hole is at least twice the width of the tree root ball and at least as tall. Slope the hole sides slightly towards the center, recommends the Arnoldia Arboretum at Harvard University.

Lift the tree with assistance from at least one other person. Use mechanical lifting equipment for very large trees. Position the tree into the middle of the hole. Cut off any ties at the top of the burlap. Use wire cutters to remove the top half of any chicken wire. Remove plastic burlap entirely.

Fill the hole in with the soil removed during digging until the root ball is covered. Build a ring about 6 feet in diameter with the tree in the center. Use soil to create a 4-inch wall a few inches thick. Fill the ring with bark mulch to stop weed growth and help conserve water, advises Texas A&M University. Keep the mulch 1 food away from the trunk to prevent trunk rot.

Use a hose to fill the ring around the tree with water. Water the soil whenever the top few inches dry out.

Stabilize unsteady trees by using three guy ropes tied around the tree trunk and staked securely into the ground, advises North Dakota State University. Use fabric padding under the rope on the trunk to prevent damage.


Things You Will Need

  • Spade
  • Chicken wire
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Bark mulch
  • Hose
  • Guy ropes
  • Wooden stakes
  • Fabric


  • If using a crane to maneuver a tree into place, pad the trunk well to avoid damage.


  • Ensure you have the proper license and training to use any heavy lifting equipment.

About the Author


Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.