What Size Tree Can Be Transplanted Safely?

When it comes to transplanting trees, size matters. It's important to make sure the tree or shrub you're moving has a manageable size. Generally, shrubs up to 3 feet tall and trees with a diameter of 1 inch or less (measured 6 inches above ground level) can be moved without digging a solid root ball. These and most three- to four-year-old plants can be transferred as bare root transplants. For trees with a diameter of 2 inches or less, homeowners can safely move them within their own yard.

Anything larger than 4 inches should be handled by professionals. Smaller trees can be moved with a tree shovel, a device that can dig the new hole, as well as excavate and transport the tree. Larger trees may require digging, wrapping, or wrapping the root ball and then transporting it by truck. Some trees can even be moved with cranes. 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. Cut a narrow trench (about 2 feet deep and about 1 foot wide) around the root ball with a flat shovel. Place the shovel straight up, perpendicular to the ground, and pass it to force the sharp point through the root. Larger, more mature trees may need a deeper trench dug by arborists or professional landscapers. Evergreens usually work best with a spring transplant, giving them time to grow new roots during the summer.

Often, the tree is growing in an “inconvenient” place for the project and conservation of the tree is desirable, politically expedient or required by local ordinance. Professionals will be able to help you decide not only if a tree is a good candidate for a transplant, but they will also help you find the best location for your long-term success. When there are existing trees at a development site, moving the tree is often considered a method of preserving it. The key to successfully transplanting a large tree is to help it grow roots that can travel with it to its new location. While most trees require you to dig large portions of their root ball when moving them, palm trees are a little different. If you plan to move a tree in the fall, water it as needed during summer drought periods to keep roots healthy.

For example, if you want to move it closer to your fence to block the view of the road and closer to other tree friends. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil above the root ball to help retain moisture and prevent cold damage if the tree doesn't move until after winter. Companies like Davey and Big Trees can move trees with logs up to 9 inches in diameter, about 30 feet high, using their truck-mounted shovels. You can also uproot smaller trees that are quite healthy and not too large (no more than 2 or 3 inches in diameter on the main stem).In short, if you have doubts about whether a tree you would like to move is too big or not, it is always better to seek professional help. Specializing in landscape design and installation, hardscapes, sprinkler maintenance, installation and repair, tree pruning, tree moving and tree appraisals, these experts will be able to help you decide not only if your tree is suitable for transplanting but also find its best location for long-term success.

Bart Preti
Bart Preti

Hipster-friendly travel trailblazer. Wannabe pop culture fanatic. Devoted tv scholar. Passionate pop culture scholar. Devoted bacon expert. Avid coffee lover.

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