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How to Transplant Mature Cherry Laurel

Cherry laurel, or English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is an evergreen broadleaf shrub that can grow 20 feet tall. In a home garden, it is commonly pruned back to keep the size more compact. It grows 3- to 7-inch, leathery, glossy, dark green leaves. It produces mid-spring blooms of white flowers followed by small black fruits. Moving a mature cherry laurel is a difficult task. It is sometimes necessary when construction or landscaping projects invade the tree’s space. Cherry laurels can also outgrow their original planting site and needs to be transplanted.

Root Pruning

Start this project the spring before you plan to move the tree. Water the soil the day before you plan to prune the cherry laurel roots. This softens the ground for digging and reduces the stress placed on the plant’s roots. This helps keep the soil attached to the roots.

Tie the lower branches up with a piece of twine if they are in your way while working with the roots. Mark the pruning zone with chalk. Create a circle around the cherry laurel that is 10 inches away from the trunk for every inch of trunk diameter. So if your trunk is 4 inches around, then mark the circle 40 inches away from the trunk.

Cut a trench by digging on your pruning mark with a flat-bladed spade. Push the blade downward into the soil to cut through the tree roots to the depth of 24 inches. Cut large roots that you cannot sever with the shovel with pruning clippers. Do not dig under the root ball, since you are not ready to move the cherry laurel yet.

Replace the soil in the trench. Water the cherry laurel and untie the branches. New feeder roots will grow closer to the root ball throughout the summer.


Water the cherry laurel the day before you plan on transplanting it. Dig a new hole that is two or three times as wide as the rootball. Keep the hole only 24 inches deep. Tie the branches up to keep them out of the way.

Mark your trench by creating a chalk circle that is 6 inches beyond the spring pruning trench. This will include the new roots. Dig your trench and dig under the rootball to sever the roots under the tree.

Place a strong tarp in the trench beside the rootball. Tilt the rootball over onto the tarp. Work the tarp under the rootball and up the other side. Pick the cherry laurel up out of the hole with the tarp. Do not move it by the trunk since it could cause the trunk to break.

Move to the prepared planting hole. Fill in the hole with soil and make sure the tree is straight. Water the cherry laurel thoroughly every 12 to 14 days. Place 2 to 3 inches of wood chips around the base of the tree to help preserve water and reduce weed growth.


Check for any underground utilities before you begin digging your cherry laurel or excavating its new site. Call your local energy and water companies.


Move large landscape plantings with a truck-mounted hydraulic tree spade. It can move trees up to 50 feet tall, but only with the assistance of a professional.

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