How to Transplant a Tree: Steps from the Pros

Learning how to transplant a tree is often the last resort for homeowners and property managers because it is labor-intensive and time-consuming. However, as Palm Beach’s trusted tree service experts, our licensed arborists at ECO Tree Experts will always advocate for transplanting established trees instead of cutting them down.

First Step: Preparing the Root System for Transplant

Preparing your tree roots to move to another location is the first step in a successful transplant. Root pruning enables feeder extensions to grow within the existing root system. Feeder extensions or feeder roots are fibrous tissues that absorb large quantities of soil nutrients and moisture, often staying less than one meter below the ground.

Pruned tree roots are essential for avoiding transplant shock. Here’s how we prune when we transplant a tree:

  • We water tree roots at least 24 hours before the transplant procedure, allowing the soil to adhere to them and making digging more efficient.
  • We keep the root ball intact, pruning one foot in every direction of root growth per inch of trunk tissue.
  • We dig a trench one to two feet from the tree trunk, scaling it about one foot in width and two feet in depth.
  • We prune the roots by forcing a spade through them.
  • We refill the hole with one part of compost per two parts of topsoil.
  • We add about two inches of mulch to allow the newly pruned roots to maintain consistent moisture levels.

Early spring before budding or late autumn after leaf fall are the most conducive times for root pruning. Trees are dormant during these windows, giving the roots enough time to settle in before warm weather and spring showers cause a growth spurt. 

Step Two: Site Prep

Prepping your transplant site involves two tasks. The first is ensuring that the tree will not suffer transplant shock or malnutrition by giving it enough space, light, moisture, and soil nutrients.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, trees less than 30 inches in height need at least 10 inches of negative space from a nearby building and 15 inches from surrounding shrubbery. Trees that grow taller than 30 inches need 40 inches of space, and trees above 70 inches need to be 50 inches away from the next tree and 20 inches away from the nearest building.

The second task is to dig a hole at the transplant site that will fit the root ball. Do not dig too deep.

Water the hole to help the roots bond more efficiently with their new soil.

Step Three: Transplant a Tree

Water your tree 24 hours before the transplant procedure.

On transplant day, dig a hole two feet away from the pruned roots and two feet beneath the root ball. Cut off spare roots you might have missed while pruning.

Move the root ball back and forth until it comes loose, and then put a large burlap sheet underneath it to perform the transplant, wrapping it up with twine. Do not use the trunk to lift your tree.

Place your tree at the transplant site, remove the twine and burlap wrap, and refill the hole with subsoil and topsoil in its original configuration. Water once more, and put in at least two inches of mulch.

Get Help from Tree Replanting Professionals

Moving and transplanting shrubs or trees can be difficult, but experienced arborists can help get the job done right without inflicting any damage. Transplant a tree with professional tree replanting services from ECO Tree Experts. Contact us today at 833-321-TREE and get a free consultation.