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How to Transplant Established Fruit Trees

By Mara Grey ; Updated September 21, 2017

What do you do when you realize that a fruit tree you planted three or four years ago needs to be moved? Perhaps you realize that the present site is too shady, or you're moving to a new house and you want to take it with you. Here's the best way to do it.

Prune the roots of your tree ahead of time, in spring, if possible. With your shovel, cut a circle around the tree slightly inside the drip line, which is the outer edge of the circle of branches. Don't remove any soil, just cut the roots. This encourages new root growth closer to the trunk. If you can't prune, don't worry. Success is possible even without this step.

Dig the tree out entirely, following the line of your original root pruning, in fall, after the leaves have fallen. Shake as much soil off the roots as you can. If your root ball is very large, you can hose the soil off the roots, to reduce the weight of the tree.

Replant your fruit tree in its new location as soon as possible. Dig a hole a foot wider and deeper than the root ball and mix the soil you remove with the amount bone meal recommended on the package. Set the tree in the hole so the soil line on the trunk matches the level of the garden bed. Fill the hole with the soil, pushing it gently around the roots to make sure there are no air pockets remaining. Water well.

Water again with the recommended dilution of transplanting solution containing vitamin B-1. This promotes the growth of new roots, reducing transplant shock. Water with transplant solution again in spring as the leaves unfold and two or three times over the next six months.

Prune off any crossing or damaged branches, and reduce the amount of leaf area your newly transplanted tree will need to support by taking off about a third of the smallest branches. You may leave some of the fruit buds, but don't expect a heavy harvest from your tree. It needs time to recover and become re-established.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Bone meal
  • Transplant solution containing vitamin B-1


  • Use a file to sharpen your shovel before you dig, and use a lopper to cut any roots too thick for the shovel.


  • The older a tree is, the longer it has grown in your yard, the longer it will take to recover from transplanting. A new sapling may very well outgrow an older tree that has been moved. If the trunk is more than three inches in diameter, buying a new tree may be the best option.

About the Author


Over the past 30 years, Mara Grey has sold plants in nurseries, designed gardens and volunteered as a Master Gardener. She is the author of "The Lazy Gardener" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Flower Gardening" and has a Bachelor of Science in botany.