When Is the Best Time to Transplant Trees? (Pine, Oak, Maple and Fruit)

When Is the Best Time to Transplant Trees? (Pine, Oak, Maple and Fruit)

Have you ever stared at one of your trees and thought, “This would look so much better over there!”?

Whether it’s because it’s outgrown its home or would just look better in a different one, sometimes we have to move our trees.

This was the case for Davey blog reader Dan from Michigan. He asked, “We would like to move a tree about 50 feet on our property. Not sure if moving in early November is still a good time to do so this fall? We would appreciate a professional opinion.”

To answer Dan’s question—it depends! While there’s a general time to uproot during the year, the best time is determined by your tree species.

Plan to Transplant Pine, Oak, Maple or Fruit Trees When Dormant

Just like pruning, the best time of year to transplant a tree is when it’s dormant in spring or fall. In fall, transplant before the first frost. In spring, plan to relocate before the tree starts sprouting.

Why transplant trees when they’re dormant?

All year, trees depend on their roots to funnel water through their branches to feed their canopy. If you were to dig up your tree and transplant it when it’s full of leaves and fruit, you’d cut off its steady flow of water. Then, the tree would suffer from transplant shock and struggle to establish in its new home.

On the flip side, dormant trees aren’t nearly as affected by transplanting. Because they’ve already lost their leaves and fruit, the tree doesn’t rely on its water source as much. Plus, moving the plant when it’s dormant will give it time to establish roots and build up nutrients before the start of the next growing season.

Should I transplant trees in winter then? 

While you want your tree to be dormant, you don't want to transplant trees during winter. You risk root damage when there's frost in the soil. Plus, the ground is often frozen, making the whole process much more difficult!

Should all trees be transplanted in the dormant season? What about pine, oak, maple and fruit trees?

All trees should be moved during that spring or fall time frame, but finding just the right window depends on the tree type. Here’s the breakdown:

When is the best time to transplant...

  • Pine or evergreen trees? Shoot for early fall.
  • Oak trees? Plan to transplant in early spring. February or March is an ideal time, or choose a window that’s right before spring budding in your area.
  • Maple trees? Maples tend to keep growing well into fall, so late fall, just as the canopy becomes bare, is the best time to transplant.
  • Fruit trees? Transplant in early spring before the growing season starts.

Ready to schedule your tree transplant? Click here for a free quote and consultation.

  • The Tree Doctor September 18, 2018 >Hi Deb, Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area based on the zip code provided. Here is a resource that can help you when it comes to hiring a certified arborist or reputable tree care company in your area: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you, Deb.
  • Deb Bruns September 14, 2018 >We have a beautiful oak about 8" in diameter and about 23' tall. We are planning to add a driveway that will be in it's path within the next 6 months. We are thinking of re-locating it about 50', to the other side of our existing driveway. Besides the fact it's a beautiful tree, I brought it home from OK as a sapling from a family tree about 9 years ago or so. I've been looking for a company that actual does transplanting for about the past 3 months. We would like you to come take a look at our oak and tell us if she would be a good candidate to transplant, and what the cost might be. I was thinking fall time would be the best time to transplant and was only seeing if it would be possible, and to add the cost to our budget. After reading your article (which is great!) I'm seeing Feb-Mar would be the best time to transplant our oak. Feel free to contact me on my cell as well 502-541-1081. Thank you for your time! Deb
  • The Tree Doctor August 28, 2018 >Hi Beth, Spring is the recommended time to transplant a goldenchain tree. I would recommend around the date your state celebrates Arbor Day. The seeds and all parts contain an alkaloid cytisine, which is toxic to both children and adults. A single seed can be toxic to a small child. For this reason, it is generally not advised to plant this tree in public area. The seed pods can be clipped and burned or otherwise disposed of in a safe manner. Current recommendations do not advise pruning at the time of planting, except to remove dead, diseased or broken branches. Foliage is important to provide the sugars necessary for the tree to fuel replacement of roots lost during the transplanting process. Pruning to support a strong structure can resume a year or so following installation. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you, Beth
  • Beth Campbell August 25, 2018 >I have a 2-3 year old chain of gold tree-maybe 8ft tall and has dried seed pods hanging. It is now the end of Aug. almost. I would like to transplant - when is the best time? And what do I do with the seed pods? I read they are poisonous. Should I prune before or after I transplant? Thanks for help.
  • The Tree Doctor February 26, 2018 >Hi there, Rachel. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your neck of the woods! Here if you have any other questions, Rachel.
  • Rachel Maxwell February 24, 2018 >I live in Douglas and need two or three trees relocated. They are in the front yard and are about four years old. I originally planted them to close to each I have found out, as they have grown.
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Related Blog Posts
  • 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. 

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    The breeze weaves faint whispers of birds singing, tractors humming and leaves rustling through the young, slender branches of the trees lining the countryside for acres upon acres. Rows of growing trees blanket the land in groves, ranging from tiny seedlings to more mature specimens with modest canopies.

    The Davey Nursery cultivates several varieties of trees for the benefit of landscapers within Northeast Ohio and beyond to neighboring states. But one special tree, standing tall and strong among more than 300 acres of groves, received special treatment to prepare its fate as the marking to its permanent-and significant-location just a little more than 50 miles away.

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