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How to Transplant Apple Trees

By Ann White ; Updated September 21, 2017

Apple trees are one of the most transplant-tolerant varieties. Given the investment of time and care necessary for maturing young trees into fruit development, it is no wonder many families prefer to transplant an apple tree if relocating. Apple trees will fare best for transplant as long as the new location is not too different from its old location.

Test the soil of the new desired location and the old location. Verify that the pH and mineral contents of the new location are similar to those of the old habitat. If not, supplement with the necessary fertilizer and nutrient solutions.

Determine the optimal season for transport. Ideally trees should be transplanted in the fall or early spring while they are still reasonably dormant and the weather is more mild.

Cut back one-third of the plant's overall growth to provide the root ball a chance to grow while supporting the smaller tree. Generously water the tree the night before transplanting. This gives the soil an added ability to stabilize the roots. Wrap the tree's remaining foliage with foliage wrapping material to lessen the amount of scratches while transplanting.

Cut a circle into the soil around the tree to define where digging will take place. The general rule of thumb is any tree smaller than 1 inch in diameter should have a 12-inch root ball, and those over 1 inch should have an 18-inch root ball.

The next morning, use a shovel to remove the tree, using its root ball guide from the night before to dig the hole. Place the tree on the flat piece of cardboard for easy and gentle transport, and move the tree to its new location.

Use the shovel to dig the new hole. If using an auger, go back over the walls of the hold with the shovel to soften them. This will allow the tree the best chance to penetrating the walls with its new root system in a timely fashion.

Lay the root ball into the hole and verify that the tree is sitting straight. Fill the hole halfway with soil and water the tree. Fill the hole the rest of the way and water the tree again. Cover the area with mulch and apply the vitamin B fertilizer as directed on the package.


Things You Will Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Saw
  • Spade
  • Shovel
  • Foliage wrapping material
  • Flat piece of cardboard
  • Mulch
  • Vitamin B starter fertilizer

About the Author


Ann White is a freelance journalist with prior experience as a Corporate and Business Attorney and Family Law Mediator. She has written for multiple university newspapers and has published over 300 articles for publishers such as EHow and Garden Guides. White earned her Juris Doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.