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Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks

Moving Trees: Tips for Successful Transplant

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Whether you are getting a new tree in your yard or just moving a tree to another location in your yard, you need to know how to properly transplant a tree and care for it afterward. Plants can become overwhelmed with the stress of moving, and, as a result, become more susceptible to disease and infection. 

In order to keep transplanted trees healthy, you need to handle them carefully and give them attentive care. Follow these tips to successfully transplant your trees. 

Make Sure the Time is Right

In Florida, many trees do not have a full dormant season like they do in states with more defined seasonal weather. However, some trees still do go through cycles of growth. Plenty of new growth will appear, followed by a period of slow recovery.

For a successful transplant, move the tree during the recovery phase of its growth cycle instead of during a phase of growth. Moving the tree when it is trying to grow will interrupt the cycle, which means that the tree will lose out on needed foliage, roots, and new branches that will help support the tree during a time of stress.

Transplanting is stressful, and your tree needs all of its strength. Make sure that your tree is not budding, producing fruit, or producing new shoots when you transplant it. For this reason, the target time for transplanting for many trees is the fall when your tree has already produced fruit, seeds, or foliage. You can also aim for spring, before fruit production begins. 

The soil should not be too cold, which is why winter transplant can be risky, even in temperate regions. If soil temperatures drop below 40 degrees, even at night, root regeneration after planting will be hindered. 

If you do move a tree during branch elongation or fruit production, you will have to provide even greater care to the tree after transplant to ensure that it regains its strength. 

Give Your Tree Enough Roots

The most effective part of a tree’s roots are the very fine, tendril-like roots at the ends of larger root branches. These are called feeder roots. When you cut too close to the trunk, you remove a lot of these efficient roots, which makes it harder for the tree to get water and nutrients from the soil of its new location. 

As a general rule of thumb, give your tree at least as much root ball as it has branches. For columnar trees that do not have wide canopies, measure the trunk of the tree at the base with a tree caliper. The caliper measurement of the diameter in inches should allow for 12 inches in diameter for the root ball.

So, for a two-inch tree (a very young tree), you should start digging around the tree at a foot from the trunk itself, making the total diameter of the root ball about 24 inches. Be sure to dig down deep as well, allowing for a good two feet of lateral root growth. 

Once a tree gets quite large, digging it out yourself successfully becomes much more challenging. The size and weight of the root ball necessitate the use of a tree spade to both dig and lift the tree. You should contact a tree service for assistance moving trees that are more mature — for some trees, successful transplant is impossible after they reach a certain size. 

Susan Seamon