Transplanting Trees and Shrubs

Fall is a great time to divide perennials or transplant trees and shrubs.  Some considerations for transplanting are:  root ball size, hole size, exposure of new site, and access to water.

When digging your root ball try to get the largest size you can.  The more people helping the larger you can dig the root ball.  Once you have loosened the ball try to slide a tarp underneath for easy transport.  If the root ball will remain exposed for any length of time, cover it to reduce moisture loss.  Drag the root ball to its new location.  Measure the diameter and depth.  Your new hole should be 1.5 times as round and as deep as the root ball.  The old adage of “a 50 dollar hole for a 5 dollar plant” applies.  Be sure the new hole has sufficient drainage.  Pour 4 or 5 gallons of water into the hole and see how long it takes to drain.  If it still has water in it after 24 hours perhaps you should plant a pond plant!

The planting hole should be back-filled with soil that is rich in organic matter.  Mix half of the old indigenous soil with compost (soil amender, cow manure, or fish compost).  Place the plant in the hole.  To ensure proper depth lay a long handled tool or stick across the hole and check to see that the plant is neither deep nor proud of the adjacent ground.

Water your transplant immediately.  If our fall weather is hot, dry, and windy, it may require 2-3 waterings per day until Mother Nature takes over. 

As you backfill, tamp the fresh soil mix in layers to remove any air pockets.  The new soil at the bottom and sides of the root ball should be firm but not over compacted.

Do not fertilize at this time.  Fertilizing may promote new tender growth going into the colder  months and may result in die back.

Your new site should be chosen with location in mind.  Things like sun, shade, wind and drainage may all affect the success of your transplant.  You should identify your plant in order to choose the best location.

If staking is required do this before backfilling.  Position your stakes on either side of the hole.  When the tree is plumb (vertical) tie it with suitable ties at about 1/3 to ½ way up from the base.  Ties should be snug but not too tight.  These can be removed after 1 year when new roots have sufficiently developed to anchor the tree in its new home.