How to Transplant a Tree: What to Do and What Not To Do

How to Transplant a Tree: What to Do and What Not To Do

Trees root into the earth, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible to remove from the ground and transport to a new home.

You love your trees, but sometimes they’re better suited for locations elsewhere. Perhaps they’ve out-grown the space in which they’re rooted, or, maybe you plan to move somewhere new but wish to bring that special tree along with you.

Regardless of the tree you’re moving and the space to which you plant transport it, there are several guidelines to follow for the safe and proper transplanting of trees:

1. There and good and not-so-ideal times of the year to transplant trees. “The best time to transplant a tree is when it’s dormant and the ground conditions are ‘just right,’” says Rick Hanshaw, manager of the Davey Nursery in Wooster, Ohio. Click here to find the best months of year to transplant your tree, including your pine, oak, maple or fruit tree. 

2. Ideal transplanting locations depend on the size and species of the tree you transplant. According to Hanshaw, trees prefer different levels of shade and sun, as well as varying soil drainage conditions. The potential height and size of the tree and the location of home foundations, power lines and underground utilities all affect the transplanting location.

“You need to identify the tree species first,” Hanshaw says. “There are a lot of different variables involved with choosing the correct location to which to transplant a tree.”

3. There isn’t a big difference between transplanting mature trees vs. young trees. The vigorous growth rate and easily manageable root ball of a young tree make its transplanting process fairly easy. However, all trees experience some degree of shock after being transplanted—the length of recovery time simply depends on the quality of after care.

“Mature trees will just take more after care than younger trees after being transplanted,” Hanshaw says.

4. Some tree species react better to transplanting than others. According to Hanshaw, red maples, elms and bald cypress generally respond better to being transplanted than other species, in northern regions, in particular. “Specifically red maples have much more fibrous root systems of which you can capture more when digging,” Hanshaw explains.

According to Sean Jackson, branch manager of Davey’s Jacksonville commercial landscape services, however, most trees will move well, assuming proper time is allotted to correctly fertilize, root prune, dig a the properly sized root ball and water before and after transplanting.

“It is equally important to continue a pest management/fertilization program after transplanting, as the tree can have a 1- to 2-year root transition growth before becoming reestablished,” Jackson says.

The only conditions for which we do not recommend relocating a tree include:

a. The tree is in a state of stress/deterioration that would warrant a removal.

b. The new location is unsuitable for the specified tree.

5. Several steps are involved for successful tree transplanting:

a. Ensure the time and budget required to transplant a tree in a careful, timely manner is available.

b. Your tree will lose a significant amount of its root system during transplanting. Make sure it’s well-hydrated before the transplanting process begins.

c. Once the tree is uprooted, tie up the crown as much as possible to reduce limb breakage during the move.

d. Wrap the tree in a tarp to reduce wind damage moisture loss.

e. Water the tree as soon as possible after transplanting. This is most important.

f. Follow up with proper tree care and inspections for insect damage.

If you’re thinking about transplanting one of your trees this spring, contact your local, professionally-trained Davey arborist for a free consultation.

  • the Tree Doctor October 1, 2018 >Hi Clement, Elms are best transplanted in the spring. I suggest around the date that Arbor Day is celebrated in your state. Michigan celebrates the last Friday in April.
  • clement geisler September 24, 2018 >i want to transplant an elm tree when is the best time
  • The Tree Doctor July 31, 2018 > Hi Eran, I sent this request to your local office. They will reach out to you as soon as they can. If you would like to contact them directly, you can do so at (716) 235-5298. Best of luck to you. Here if you need anything else, Eran.
  • eran colbus July 31, 2018 >I have a wisteria tree about 10 feet tall and the truck is 4inches dia. I need it moved from in front of my house 3 feet out from the side, to 5 ft away.What might bee the expected costs?
  • The Tree Doctor May 23, 2018 >Hi David, Unfortunately, Davey does not service your area based on the zip code provided. Here is a resource that may be helpful with finding a reputable tree service or arborist: Most reputable tree service companies should provide you with a quote at no cost to you. Hopefully, this helps! Here if you have any more questions, David.
  • David Johnston May 23, 2018 >I have 2 trees I’d like relocated. Both approx 43” in diameter. 1 on backyard parameter to front yard. 1 in middle of yard to location of previously moved tree. I’d like an estimate so I can determine cost effectiveness and feasiblity. Thank you David
  • The Tree Doctor April 18, 2018 >Hi Nitin, I forwarded this request to your local office. They will reach out to you as soon as they can to schedule a free consultation. If you would like to reach out to them yourself, their contact information can be found on their local office page here: Here if you have any more questions, Nitin.
  • Nitin Mehta April 18, 2018 >I have a tree close to my Bungalow wall. Would like to transplant it in my back yard if price is right, relocation place is right and guarantee it will survive and weather permits. The trunk is less then 6"/8" diameter . Its a slim tall tree approximate 12 feet height.
  • The Tree Doctor April 11, 2018 >Hi Laura, I forwarded your request to your local office. They will reach out to you for more detail as soon as they can. If you would like to contact them, their number is 978-461-1768. Here if you have any questions, Laura.
  • Laura Casey April 11, 2018 >looking to move a tree from Chelmsford to Townsend.
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