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How to Transplant a Birch Tree in the Fall in Minnesota

By Heidi Almond ; Updated September 21, 2017

Minnesota is home to both white paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and river birch, also known as black birch (Betula nigra). Paper birch has attractive white bark with black spots, and the leaves of river birch have an enticing wintergreen scent. If you would like to add a birch tree to your landscape, it's best to purchase nursery stock, since it is grown specifically to produce a compact root ball and will transplant more successfully. However, it's also possible to transplant small birch trees from the wild or another garden. Transplant birch trees in the fall or spring, when the tree is dormant.

Consider root pruning the birch tree a year or two before you plan to transplant it. Insert a shovel into to soil about a foot from the trunk and make a circle all around the tree. This will sever some roots and encourage new roots to form closer to the trunk

Wait until late fall, after the leaves have fallen from the birch but before the ground freezes. In Minnesota, this is can be anywhere between mid to late October in the northern part of the state to late November or early December in the south.

Dig a hole to transplant the birch tree into before you dig it up. You'll want the birch tree to be out of the ground for as short a period of time as possible.

Dig up the birch tree with a shovel. Start digging near the perimeter of the tree's canopy, and try to sever as few roots as possible. Larger trees may need to be dug with a tree spade. Smaller trees are easier to transplant, and usually have a higher success rate.

Lift the root ball out of the soil and use a wheelbarrow to transport the tree. You may wrap the root ball in burlap to protect it, if you will need to transport it long distances.

Carefully lay the birch tree root ball in the hole you dug earlier and backfill with soil if necessary. Do not bury the birch tree any deeper than it was originally growing.

Cover the soil with a few inches of mulch, such as shredded bark or dried leaves. Leave a space of at least an inch or two around the trunk. Mulch helps regulate soil temperature and moisture levels and keeps down some weeds.

Water the birch tree very well immediately after transplanting, and keep the soil moist until the ground freezes.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Tree spade
  • Burlap
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Mulch


  • Do not transplant birch tree from public land, and always get permission from the landowner before digging trees up from private land.

About the Author


Heidi Almond worked in the natural foods industry for more than seven years before becoming a full-time freelancer in 2010. She has been published in "Mother Earth News," "Legacy" magazine and in several local publications in Duluth, Minn. In 2002 Almond graduated cum laude from an environmental liberal arts college with a concentration in writing.