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How to Transplant Japanese Plum Trees

By Sarah Terry ; Updated September 21, 2017

The Japanese plum tree (Prunus salicina ‘Satsuma’) is a hardy, deciduous tree that can tolerate many different soil compositions and even drought. The Japanese plum puts on quite a show when its clusters of white flowers bloom in the spring. In the summer, the tree bears delicious plums that are larger and juicier than European plums. Japanese plums can be yellow, light red or violet. These trees can grow up to 20 feet high and require regular and heavy pruning.

Choose a spot for your Japanese plum tree that is in full to partial sun. The best soil for this tree is sandy loam to clay loam.

Dig a hole in your chosen location that is three to four times the diameter of the root ball and deep just deep enough to cover the root ball. Use a pitchfork to loosen the soil around the sides of the hole.

Dig up the soil around the tree in its current location, leaving plenty of space around the tree so that you keep the root ball intact. If you’re transplanting the tree from a container, lay the tree on its side and gently remove the container, loosening the roots without breaking up the root ball.

Place the tree in the center of the hole with the best side facing forward. You can add a small amount of compost when you fill the hole back in with the soil you dug out.

Prune the tree lightly if it lost any root mass when you dug it up. If you transplanted the tree from a container, you likely didn’t lose or damage any roots, making pruning unnecessary. To compensate for any root loss, use pruning shears to remove some of the tree’s top growth, head back the main branches and remove the smaller side branches.

Dig a water ring around the outer edge of the hole. The water ring will direct water to the outer roots, encouraging growth. Then, add a three-inch layer of mulch around the base of your tree. The mulch will help to retain moisture in the soil.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Pitchfork
  • Compost (optional)
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch


  • You must prune your Japanese plum tree regularly from the time when the tree is young and especially after you transplant it. Prune after the tree is finished flowering to ensure healthy growth and development.
  • Water your tree deeply but less frequently. Make sure you soak the soil well enough that you saturate the root ball. Water your tree in the morning or mid-afternoon.


  • Never replace more than half of the original soil with another soil or compost. Add little or no soil amendments for best results.
  • Don't remove more than one-third of the tree at a time during pruning.

About the Author


Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.