ARTICLE - How To Transplant A Tree or Shrub

Transplanting procedure for small trees and shrubs for the homeowner

  1. Before transplanting we need to determine whether the tree or shrub likes sun or shade, and what its spacing and watering requirements are. You can find this on any landscape plant library. For instance, don't locate a plant that craves water next to one that prefers dry conditions: their needs will be incompatible. You should also water the area around the tree or shrub to be transplanted. This will allow the tree or shrub to uptake as much water as possible and soften the soil. During dry conditions, I would repeat this process 5 -10 times prior to transplanting.
  2. Estimate new hole size by measuring the caliper of the tree or shrub and multiply by 10 to come up with root ball size. Then dig the new hole before you dig up the tree or shrub. We want to limit the time the roots are exposed to open air, the less time out of ground the better your chances. The width of the new hole should be twice that of the root ball. The depth should be kept a bit shallower, to avoid puddling and consequent rotting. Once you reach the bottom of the new hole, there is no need to break up the soil in the bottom of the hole. You would think that this would help the tree or shrub, allowing its roots to penetrate deeper. Instead, it could cause the tree or shrub to sink, inviting rot. We want to plant all plants about an inch to 2" higher than ground level, depending on size of root ball. Usually you will have to cut through some roots on a mature plant (either with a sharp shovel or with pruners -- make a good, clean cut).
  3. Once enough soil has been removed from around the sides of the plant, you will be able to push your shovel into center to cut the tap root. Try to use a sharp shovel to get as clean a cut as possible and avoid stretching the root. After it's loose, spread a cloth or vinyl tarp on the ground and gently move the tree or shrub onto the tarp.
  4. Now use the tarp for support and drag the tree or shrub over to the new hole. Gently drop into hole, and then straighten- adding soil to sides and packing to hold in place. Mychor tree saver should be added to excavated soil and mixed before placing around tree. Tamp this soil down firmly and water until tree ring is full of water. Then stop until water is drained and repeat this process for 10 minutes or until the water doesn't drain. This will eliminate air pockets and will saturate soil.
  5. Mulch tree ring with a 3" layer of landscape mulch around the transplant. But keep it a few inches away from the base of the tree or shrub, to promote air circulation and prevent damage to trunk.
  6. Then deep water the tree each week during spring and every other week in summer, always making sure the previous watering has drained away from the plant. The first summer would be a difficult one for the tree or shrub to weather, unless it gets plenty of water.

A few more transplanting tips:

  1. For most trees and shrubs, late winter or early spring are the best times for transplanting. Fall would be the second best time. Summer is not advisable. In the dead of winter is great for us in the south east. Winter is the best time because the plant is dormant and doesn't require a lot to survive.
  2. Time required for any transplanting greatly depends on the 4 sí- site, shape, size, and soil. I would always allow 3 hours per inch to do a good thorough job that will produce great results.
  3. One technique sometimes used to facilitate transplanting trees or shrubs of significant size is root pruning. Once out of the hole, you can go around outside of root ball and prune all roots with a good clean cut. This will increase survivability rate for sure.

Tools Needed:

  • Shovel with sharpened edge
  • Cloth  vinyl  or burlap tarp
  • Ruler or caliper gauge
  • anvil pruners
  • Hose for watering
  • Pine straw or bark mulch
  • Tree cart or strong wheel barrow