When is the best time to move or transplant a tree?

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

November 7, 2017
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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? Contact Davey.

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