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How to Transplant Pin Oak Trees

By Heide Braley ; Updated September 21, 2017

“The native pin oak (Quercus palustris) suffers a bit from overexposure,” according to Jeff Ball of American Forests. Landscapers like to use pin oak trees in parks and sometimes along street--as long as the street is large enough. The tree is somewhat tall, ranging from 50 to 75 feet high, with vertical upper branches, horizontal middle branches and dropping lower branches. Even better, the tree likes clay soil and sitting in moist soil, unlike most trees. The root system is shallow, which makes transplanting possible.

Prepare the new site for your pin oak. Dig a hole at least 6 inches deep, and slightly wider than the root ball. Make sure the site is in full sunlight, and the soil is damp and acidic. Save the dirt on a piece of plywood next to the hole. If the soil is not acidic enough, work an application of sulfur into the soil that you will return to the planting hole. (It will several years to acidify the soil this way.)

Dig up the tree by making a shallow trench all around the tree at least 8 inches from the trunk--more if the tree is larger than two years old. Work your way down around the tree, removing the soil as you go, but keeping the root ball intact. Once you have reached a depth of 18 inches, you should be able to work your way in under the bottom of the root mass.

Lift the tree from the hole, cutting any remaining roots. Lay it gently on its side on a tarpaulin or piece of burlap that you have previously set beside the digging hole. Pull the wrap up and around the root ball and secure it loosely at the top to hold the soil in place during transport.

Set the tree on the ground beside the site of its new home. Set it carefully into the planting hole and lift it slightly to remove the wrap. Hold it straight up and down, making sure it sits solidly at the bottom of the hole.

Fill the hole with the dirt you set aside earlier, heeling it in with the heel of your shoe as you go to prevent air pockets from forming around the roots. Fill the hole to the soil line and form a ring around the perimeter to collect water for the tree.

Water the tree thoroughly. Repeat once a week for the first month and then as needed during the growing season. It may need more if the summer is especially hot, or if there is a lack of rain.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Tarp
  • Sulfur (optional)


  • Choose a tree that it two to three years old, if possible. The older the tree gets, the harder it is to move it, especially since the pin oak will adapt to its surroundings and may have grown too large to tolerate a change of soil. The pin oak has most of its roots near the surface, and many of these are fibrous.

About the Author


Maryland resident Heide Braley is a professional writer who contributes to a variety of websites. She has focused more than 10 years of research on botanical and garden articles and was awarded a membership to the Society of Professional Journalists. Braley has studied at Pennsylvania State University and Villanova University.