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 outgrown 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 plan to transport it, there are several guidelines to follow for how to safely transfer trees:
There are 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.
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 transplant a tree.”
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 aftercare. “Mature trees will just take more aftercare than younger trees after being transplanted,” Hanshaw says.
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.
Most trees will move well, assuming proper time is allotted to correctly fertilize, root prune, dig 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.
The only conditions for which we do not recommend relocating a tree include: