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How to Transplant Wild Pine Trees

By Marie Roberts ; Updated September 21, 2017

Pine trees (genus Pinus), in the United States, are an important source of softwood timber and some species are grown as Christmas trees in the South. Pines are very popular as an ornamental tree in a landscape setting. Thirty-eight pine tree species exist in the United States. Generally, pines tolerate poor soils and dry locations, making them a popular choice for reforestation of an area. A wild pine should be a successful transplant if it is moved to an area with an environment similar to its original location.

Locate a small (about an inch or two in diameter), healthy wild pine tree during autumn. If necessary, mark the tree with a bright ribbon or other identifier to aid in locating it the following spring.

Prepare the tree for transplanting in the spring by root-pruning. Determine the thickness of the trunk stem and draw a circle on the ground around the stem 10 to 12 inches out for every one inch of stem thickness. To illustrate, a one inch caliper (measurement of thickness taken roughly 6 inches above the ground) tree will have a circle diameter of 20 to 24 inches drawn on the ground around the stem. Push the spade into the ground, as deep as possible, and proceed around the circle.

Dig the pine tree up one season after root-pruning. Dig down a few inches outside of where the root-pruning trench was the previous season. Work the roots and free the soil while digging. Apply a light watering to the soil a day before to aid the digging process.

Ease under the roots with a shovel, or use loppers to cut any roots that may be growing downward. Raise the pine tree out of the hole and gently move it to the new location.

Keep the roots damp. Top the roots with wood chips or wet straw and wrap with a tarp or plastic.

Make the new hole no deeper than the depth of the pine transplant's root ball. Plant the pine in its new location and make sure the top roots are no deeper than the soil surface. Fill in the rest of the hole with soil and lightly tamp it down to reduce air pockets.

Wet the new location well and put down 2 to 4 inches of mulch (do not put the mulch directly against the stem).

Water the pine regularly, possibly every day, depending on how hot the day is, size of the tree and soil drainage characteristics. Stress on the pine tree is higher on a hot and windy day than on a cool spring day. The soil should drain well between watering, but the soil should never dry out completely.


Things You Will Need

  • Digging spade (shovel)
  • Loppers
  • Tarp or plastic sheet
  • Straw or wood chip mulch


  • Be sure the location for the transplant will not be a problem as the tree grows taller---be aware of power lines or other structures.
  • Healthy, small-sized pine trees will be easier to transplant than large ones.


  • Do not dig up wild pines unless you have permission and are on private property.

About the Author


Marie Roberts is a writer based in Florida. She has a B.S. in horticultural sciences. Roberts began writing in 2002.