It is possible to transplant mature trees and shrubs, although the process is not as simple as planting new ones. There are several reasons to relocate an established landscape plant. The process of transplanting a tree begins several months before relocating it with root pruning. This law encourages the growth of new feeder roots (which absorb water and nutrients) closer to the base of the tree to help the tree better adapt to its new location.
The roots of trees and shrubs normally grow far beyond the volume of the soil that can be moved. To keep most roots within a small area, prune roots in spring or fall before transplanting. Plants moved in autumn (October or November) should be pruned roots in March, and plants moved in spring (March) should be pruned roots in October. Prune roots only after leaves have fallen from deciduous plants in autumn or before buds sprout in the spring.
Plants can suffer serious damage if done at other times. Roots within the pruned area develop many branches and form a strong root system within a confined area. If the root is not pruned, the plant may die from transplant shock due to root loss. Moving a tree or shrub can be a physically difficult task, so make arrangements to have help on hand if needed.
Also, be aware of any underground utility lines before you begin by calling 811, the calling number before you dig in the United States. Root pruning involves cutting off the outer roots before digging up the plant. Some experts even recommend doing it in the fall before the spring transplant. Trench vertically downward around the perimeter of the root ball to a depth of at least 1 foot.
The goal is to cut all the lateral roots that extend from the tree. Avoid pruning your tree for 1 year or fertilizing it for 2 or 3 years to keep its conditions as constant as possible. For the best chance of success, dig and move a tree with a ball of damp soil that still covers the root system. Keep reading for instructions on how to prune, how to repot your tree, and how to make sure it survives in its new home.
If the trunk of a tree is 2 inches in diameter, then dig a little more than 2 feet down to get the full root ball. Sometimes you need to move trees and shrubs if they don't have enough space anymore or if you don't want them anymore in that particular place. Although the effect is much faster than waiting for a seedling to grow, transplanting does not happen overnight, so plan well in advance when you are going to transplant a large tree. Once the tree is ready for your new home, follow the recommendations for planting an established tree from a reliable source.
Early spring (before growth begins) and autumn (after leaf fall) are the best times to transplant deciduous trees. Once the tree is ready for transplant and the time is right, choose and prepare the new site, water the tree and dig around and under the root ball. You can uproot trees that are quite healthy and not too large (no more than 2 or 3 inches in diameter on the main stem). Transplanting a large tree from the field to the garden provides immediate shade, a visual focal point and vertical interest.
But with a little careful planning and care, you will be able to enjoy your transplanted tree in its new location for many years to come. Carefully lower the tree into the hole, place it correctly and start laying soil back into the hole. Before digging the tree or shrub, check if it prefers a sunny or shady position, and any soil preferences, as well as the size it is likely to grow so you can take into account how much space it will need. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you have to figure out how to move a tree or shrub that is in the wrong place.