Will a Tree Survive a Transplant?

Trees are living organisms, and even if the best practices are followed, there is no guarantee that a tree will survive when it is taken out of one place and transplanted somewhere else. To keep most of the roots within a small area, pruning of the roots should be done in either spring or fall before transplanting. Deciduous plants should be pruned after their leaves have fallen in autumn or before buds sprout in the spring. Evergreens usually work best with a spring transplant, giving them time to grow new roots during the summer.

It is important to avoid transplanting less than about 6 weeks before stressful weather such as peak summer heat or winter frost. The time of year for transplanting depends on the type of tree. Most trees do better when they move in late fall or early spring, while they are inactive. Transplanting a large tree from the field to the garden provides immediate shade, a visual focal point and vertical interest. However, it is important to plan well in advance when transplanting a large tree as it usually loses a significant part of its roots in the process.

This makes it difficult for the tree to recover once it is replanted to a new location. The key to successfully transplanting a large tree is to help it grow roots that can travel with it to its new location. Pruning of the root should be done in either March or October depending on when the tree is being moved. You never prune the root of a deciduous tree unless it has lost its leaves in a dormant state. Six months after root pruning, return to the tree and tie up the branches again. Digging a trench about one foot (31 cm) deep and undermining the earthen ball at an angle of about 45 degrees can help with an adequate supply of water and nutrients.

This will help the tree continue to grow healthy until its roots are confined to a container or other barrier. In most cases, the root system extends beyond the extension of the branches and a considerable part of the roots are cut off when the tree is moved. It is easier to successfully establish smaller trees than larger trees. Regardless of size, newly planted trees experience a period of transplanted shock during which they are very vulnerable to stress. By proper planting and regular early care aimed at rapid root development, you can shorten the shock period of the transplant and significantly increase the likelihood of survival. The leaves of deciduous trees wither and, if corrective action is not taken immediately, may eventually turn brown and fall.

Water stress can reduce the ability of leaves to produce carbohydrates (energy), slow down growth and subject the tree to many other environmental and pest-related problems. Most newly planted trees are subject to stress-related problems due to the enormous loss of roots when excavated in the nursery. Your chances of success are improved if you prune the tree with roots a year or two before actual transplantation. This encourages growth of new feeder roots (which absorb water and nutrients) closer to the base of the tree to help it better adapt to its new location. Growing the root and top of a four-inch gauge tree after transplanting can be beneficial as well. A 4″ gauge tree would have a root diameter of 18 feet.

If you find that your planting site wasn't quite right for your tree, replanting it once again is restarting this stressful process but may be best for your tree in the long run. In humid places, a tree can be planted so that one third of its root ball is above its original grade. Trees that grow in loose, well-drained soil such as sandy soil will have more extensive or extensive root systems than those that grow in hard, poorly drained soil such as compact clay. Even so, you should start your project much earlier; pruning of tree roots must be done several months before transplantation to help it thrive in its new location. The initial root development of a newly planted tree is supported by energy (carbohydrates) stored in its trunk, branch and root tissues. Often, you can tell where your tree was originally planted by looking at its crown and trunk area for changes in color. Calculate how much of its root ball is made up by its root cluster at its base that you intend to prune.

Start pruning by marking a circle around your tree or shrub with your desired ball size and then dig a trench just outside this circle. The time needed for establishing a transplanted tree can be better understood by comparing its root restoration from that of a one-inch tree to that of a four-inch one. Ask for help from friends, rented equipment or professionals if necessary to ensure that your tree has a safe trip.

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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