Transplanting a fig tree is a process that takes an entire year. Before you can move the tree, you must establish a root ball must be established, so that shorter roots develop, which can take in nutrients until the tree gets settled. This means that in the seasons before the tree is moved, you must make preparations for transplanting.
Root Prune a Fig Tree Before Transplanting
Determine the size of root ball you'll need to preserve by measuring the diameter of the trunk. The root ball should be one foot wide for every inch of trunk thickness. For a trunk that's three inches thick, for example, you'll need to prune a three-foot root ball.
Remove the sod or grass from the area by slicing into the soil along the surface. This will ensure that nothing else is competing for the nutrients and moisture in the soil beneath the branches.
Begin the root pruning process in the spring, one year before you plan to transplant. Press a shovel 10-12 inches deep into the ground, a few inches smaller than the root ball you intend to create. Circle the entire tree making a dashed line of cut and uncut sections, so that half of the tree's roots are cut through and the rest are left to anchor the tree.
Cut the remaining sections six months later, in the fall. Allow the tree to overwinter in the same ground, until the following spring.
Getting the Fig Tree Out of the Ground
In the early spring, just before you're ready to transplant, prune the branches back up to one-third of their length, to a healthy bud. This will ensure that the tree isn't growing vigorously on top while the bottom is recovering.
Cut into the ground with a shovel, six to eight inches wider than the root-pruned area, to be sure you don't sever new root growth. Dig down and inward to create a conical shape.
Cut the taproot, the longest part of the roots, that grows straight down from the trunk last, and the tree will tip over in the hole. Use a tractor or the muscle power of your sturdiest friends to heave the root ball and tree onto a plastic tarp.
Wet down the root base thoroughly, and then wrap it in plastic from a tarp or use plastic landscaping material. Peat moss may be used to help keep the roots wet.
Replanting the Fig Tree
Dig the new hole to the same size, or a little larger, than the root base of your fig tree.
Place the tree into the new hole, being careful not to disturb the root ball or dislodge soil from around the delicate root fibers.
Fill in the empty spaces with a sandy soil and press it down to be sure that there are no air pockets. It's OK if the tree's soil surface is a little lower than the surrounding ground level.
Water thoroughly and do not fertilize the first year.