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How to Move a Japanese Maple Tree

By Ma Wen Jie ; Updated September 21, 2017

Moving a Japanese maple requires planning and preparation. Japanese maples can quickly suffer damage if the roots dry out. If the tree is very large, try to take as much soil as possible with the roots for protection. If the tree is relatively small or the soil falls away from the roots, be sure to regularly mist and soak the roots to prevent damage. Move the tree as quickly as possible to its new location.

Dig a hole for the Japanese maple that is a little larger than the anticipated root ball. Plan for the root ball to be about the diameter of the tree's branches and at least 3 feet deep.

Cut back the longest limbs on the tree by about 1/2. This will reduce leaf area and help reduce stress on the tree because of root damage during transplanting. Pruning shorter limbs is not advised.

Loosen the soil with a spading fork in the area where you think the root ball ends. Take as large a root area as possible when removing the root ball.

Dig out the root ball of the Japanese maple treee once the ends of the roots have been located. Dig 2 to 3 feet deep.

Lift the tree and place its roots on burlap if it is mid-sized or larger. Carry smaller Japanese maples to their new planting sites.

Wrap the Japanese maple's root ball with burlap on mid-sized or larger trees.

Move the tree to its new location and loosen the burlap. Removing the burlap completely isn't necessary, as it will eventually decompose into organic material.

Plant the Japanese maple in its new hole and cover the tree's root ball with the excess soil from the new hole. Water the Japanese maple thoroughly.

Water the tree frequently for the first month to ensure adequate water to help the roots heal. After a month, return to watering the tree on the pre-move watering schedule.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Spading fork
  • Burlap


  • A winch may be needed to move a larger Japanese maple tree.
  • Even with the utmost care, a Japanese maple tree may suffer from leaf burn until its roots heal and repair themselves.


  • Do not fertilize a transplanted Japanese maple tree until it has been in the ground for a month or two. Fertilizing too early can result in root burn and damage to the tree.

About the Author


Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.