How to transplant trees

Japanese Maples Online

Successfully transplanting a Japanese maple trees is based on a several factors.

1. The size of the tree to be transplanted

2. The Age of the tree

3. The overall health

4. What is the condition of the root system

5. Timing (when to transplant)

The size of the tree is most important, not to whether or not the tree will survive a transplant, but what size of a root ball must be dug, picked up, transported and replanted. In theory any size tree can be moved if enough of the root system remains undamaged during the transplanting. A root system of a mature 6-8 foot Crimson Queen Japanese Maple allowed to develop naturally without any restrictions can spread out over 12 feet wide and up to 3 feet deep. This is a huge root ball and probably not anything a home owner without heavy equipment would be able to tackle.

However a 3-4 year old tree 3 foot tall and wide is a size a home owner could move with some help. Generally speaking a tree with a trunk caliper of less than 1 inch (about the size of a broom handle) could be moved with a 12-18 inch root ball. That would be tall and wide and weighing about 50-80 lbs. A 1-2 inch caliper tree would need a 18-24 inch root ball weighing about 80-150 lbs, a 2-3 inch caliper tree a 24-30 inch root ball weighing about 150-300 lbs.

Age is also a factor, the older the tree the further away from the trunk the feeder roots are located. For the sake of not getting too complicated, the root tips are where the majority of water and nutrients are absorbed. The part between the root tip and the trunk of the tree is more for structural support and does little to keep the plant nourished. So the older and larger a tree is the larger the root ball must be to contain enough viable root tips to continue to supply the tree with water and nutrients.

A healthy tree will have a better root system and will be more likely to survive a transplant. Normally a tree that looks sick on top will also have a compromised root system. It is possible and likely that some of the only viable roots will be severed which will cause the tree to die as soon as it is stressed due to heat or drought.

Timing is also very important. It is best to transplant in late winter or very early spring just before the tree would naturally start breaking bud. I like this time because it give the tree the shortest time with a compromised root system before the soil starts to warm up and allow new roots to grow. Also by cutting some roots when digging the root ball the tree will automatically be set back and will not push out new leaves as quickly. This will give the root system some extra time to become established before the tree has to support all the new leaves.

I also like to prune about 25% of the trees canopy back during the transplant. This will also reduce the stress on the smaller root system.

Adding a low amount of a low nitrogen fertilizer and root stimulator during planting will help nourish the tree and aid in survival.

Keep the soil moist but not overly wet. Roots grow when looking for water. If you keep the soil overly wet the roots will have no need to grow and will remain weak. Once temperature becomes hot the tree will quickly become stressed because of the weak root system, and will have a much lower rate of survival.

Follow these tip and you should be able to successfully transplant your Japanese Maple Tree

Moving Mature Trees: When And How To Transplant A Large Tree

Sometimes you have to think about moving mature trees if they are inappropriately planted. Moving full-grown trees allows you to change your landscape dramatically and relatively quickly. Read on for information about how to transplant a big tree.

Moving Mature Trees

Transplanting a big tree from the field to the garden provides immediate shade, a visual focal point, and vertical interest. Although the effect is much quicker than waiting for a seedling to grow, a transplant doesn’t happen overnight, so plan far in advance when you are transplanting a big tree.

Transplanting an established tree takes effort on your part and causes the tree some stress. However, moving mature trees doesn’t have to be a nightmare for either you or the tree.

Generally, a big tree loses a significant portion of its roots in a transplant. This makes it hard for the tree to bounce back once it is replanted in a new location. The key to successfully transplanting a big tree is to help the tree grow roots that can travel with it to its new location.

When to Move Big Trees

If you

are wondering when to move big trees, read on. You can transplant mature trees either in fall or in late winter/early spring.

The tree transplant has the best chance of success if you act during these periods. Only transplant mature trees after the leaves fall in autumn or before bud break in spring.

How to Transplant a Large Tree

Learn how to transplant a large tree before you start digging. The first step is root pruning. This procedure involves trimming the roots of the tree six months before the transplant. Root pruning encourages new roots to appear close to the tree, within the area of root ball that will travel with the tree.

If you will be transplanting a big tree in October, root prune in March. If you are moving mature trees in March, root prune in October. Never root prune a deciduous tree unless it has lost its leaves in dormancy.

How to Root Prune

First, figure out the size of the root ball by looking at the charts prepared by the American Association of Nurserymen or talking to an arborist. Then, dig a trench around the tree in a circle that is the appropriate size for the tree’s root ball. Tie up the lowest branches of the tree to protect them.

Cut the roots below the trench by inserting a sharp-edged spade into the earth repeatedly until the roots beneath the circle of the trench have all been cut. Replace the earth in the trench and water the area when you are done. Untie the branches.

Transplanting a Big Tree

Six months after root pruning, return to the tree and tie up the branches again. Dig a trench about a foot outside the root pruning trench in order to capture the new roots that formed after pruning. Dig down until you can undercut the soil ball at an angle of about 45 degrees.

Wrap the soil ball in burlap and move it to the new planting location. If it is too heavy, hire professional help to move it. Remove the burlap and place in the new planting hole. This should be the same depth as the root ball and 50 to 100 percent wider. Backfill with soil and water thoroughly.

When there are existing trees on a development site, moving the tree is often considered as a method of tree preservation. Often the tree is growing in an “inconvenient” location for the project and tree preservation is either desirable, politically expedient, or required by local ordinance. While trees can be moved, there are some realities to consider.

Underground space

For most mature trees, you will need space to dig two big holes: one to dig the tree out, and one in the new tree location. How big? Measure the trunk diameter about 12 inches (305mm) from the ground. If the diameter is 8 inches (203mm) or more, the width of the rootball must be 10 to 12 inches (254mm – 305mm) per inch of trunk diameter. For example, a tree that is 12 inches (305mm) in diameter at the base requires a hole that is at least 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6m) wide to preserve roots, plus a little more room to maneuver the tree out and in.

The hole does not have to be particularly deep; most tree roots grow in the top two to three feet (0.6 to 0.9m) of the soil. In general, a depth of 30 to 36 inches (762 to 914mm) for mature trees is sufficient, but this will vary depending on soil type, tree age, and species.

Palm trees are an exception; because of how their roots grow, it is possible to dig closer the trunk regardless of tree height. Rootball depth may be deeper than for a woody tree. The iconic Canary Island Palms of downtown San Francisco were transplanted at their mature size with rootballs that were 5-foot (1.5m) cubes. You couldn’t get away with this with a woody tree.

This palm tree’s planter box was damaged by water from a broken main, compromising tree stability. Because palms are easily transplanted, the palm can be relocated into the ground in its original location with a very good chance of survival.


If the tree must be removed but cannot be replanted right away, the rootball will need to be boxed and the tree will need to be stored somewhere and watered. Storing the tree for six months or more is better for the tree than digging it up, storing it for a few weeks or months and then transplanting it. The longer storage time allows for trees to grow new feeder roots to absorb water and nutrients.


The tree will need to be transported from its old location to its new location, or possibly to and from an offsite storage location. The route between these locations must provide sufficient horizontal and vertical clearances for transporting.

Smaller trees can be moved with a tree spade, a device that can dig the new hole as well as dig out and transport the tree. Larger trees may require digging, wrapping, or boxing of the rootball and then transporting by truck. Some trees may be moved using cranes.

Depending on the method of transport used, trees may be moved in a vertical or tilted position. Branches may or may not be tied depending on their flexibility. Overhead utilities, narrow roadways, or other obstacles may make tree moving difficult or impossible, despite other factors being favorable.

A tree spade in action. Peter Linehan | CC BY 2.0


Aftercare is vital to transplanting success. In addition to watering, aftercare may also include misting, mulching, support hardware, and follow-up visits. Most companies that specialize in tree moving provide detailed aftercare instructions and will not guarantee any tree moving job if aftercare is not provided exactly to their specifications.

Aesthetic changes

The definition of a successful transplant is a tree that survives. The tree may not look the way it does before transplant. Some branches may die or lose vitality due to transplant shock. The tree may need to be pruned for transport or to fit into its new location. What you like most about the tree may not be preserved even with the best practices in place.

If you are considering moving a tree of any size, work with a company that specializes in this process. They can give you an honest assessment of the challenges and costs involved. A representative of one such company told me once, “Any tree can be moved, provided there is unlimited budget.” There are certainly some amazing tree moving stories out there. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to move a tree on your project, yours might be one of them.

Ellyn Shea is a consulting arborist in San Francisco.

Top image: Transplanted oak at the Alamo by Kathy Dempsey / CC BY-NC 2.0

The News Outside

Sounds like the tree is doing OK.

Ghirardi Compton Oak in ‘great shape’
By Christopher Smith Gonzalez
The Daily News
Published September 4, 2012
LEAGUE CITY — A carpet of dead leaves has settled around the Ghirardi Compton Oak in League City. It has been more than two months since the 100-year-old oak was moved 1,500 feet to its new home, and the brown leaves piling up below its branches have some people worried.

But the defoliation is a normal part of the process, said Erik Hess, president and owner of Hess Landscape Construction Co., the company hired to move the tree.

The rare Compton oak used to sit near Louisiana Avenue and FM 518. At one point, it was to be cut down to make room for the widening of Louisiana Avenue. But after months of debate, the city council voted to spend $197,500 of park-dedicated funds to move the tree.

“The tree is doing great,” Hess said.

A tree will defoliate to get rid of old growth, Hess said, and that will typically happen after a stressful move.

The good news is that the dead leaves are being pushed by new growth, he said. Crews also have noticed new root growth, he said.

After inspecting the tree and climbing up in it two weeks ago, Hess said the historic oak is doing better than expected.

“We’ve been surprised by the recovery of that tree in the period of time,” he said.

The first 18 months are the most critical, so the tree’s health will be monitored, Hess said.

Between his company and the city, a team of 11 people is keeping tabs on the tree. For the next three years, it will be monitored on a biweekly basis, Hess said.

The watering schedule is based on regional climate and rainfall. Water levels are checked weekly, Hess said.

There also are tubes dug into the ground around the tree that allow crews to see whether water is building up, he said.

Hess said the tree is not out of the woods yet — it still needs constant monitoring. Hess said he has seen the interest in the Ghirardi oak and will be down personally at least once a month to inspect the tree.

Posted by mdoc on September 29

Tree Transplanting Cost for Big and Small Trees

If you’ve ever gazed at a treasured tree on your property and thought, “it would look so much better over there,” you’re not alone!
Davey blog reader James from California had this same idea about a pair of large palm trees in his back yard. James thought his palms might look better in the front, so he reached out to ask if it was worth the cost to move one or both of the trees.
So exactly how much does it cost to transplant a tree? Keep reading to find out what factors go into an estimate.

What’s the cost to transplant a tree (big or small)?

There’s no universal cost for tree transplanting service. Instead, tree care professionals use specifics about your plant and your property to come up with an estimate.

“We consider a number of factors to arrive at an estimate for tree transplanting,” explains Travis McDonald from Davey’s South Minneapolis, Minnesota office. Cost varies based on things like the size of the tree and the location of the tree, whether we can get a tree spade to it, or does it required special equipment or large crew to manually dig and prepare the root zone for transport to its new location.“

What factors go into pricing a tree transplant?

Before an arborist hands over an estimate, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty details of the job, including:

  1. The size of the tree. As you can imagine, moving a large, widespread tree from point A to point B requires more work than transplanting a smaller, more modest tree. In some cases, your arborists may not recommend transplanting a large tree. The larger the tree, the more likely there will be negative effects from root system loss during the preparation phase and environmental effects after the move.
  2. The time. Tree care professionals usually work by the hour, so complex jobs that require more time cost more. That being said, when you work with arborists at Davey, they’ll be transparent about how long a project will take and how they’ll get it done efficiently so you can feel confident about the cost.
  3. The crew and equipment. To be safely transplanted , some sprawling trees will need a team of arborists or special equipment, which adds to the total cost. On the other hand, small trees usually don’t require as much, and make for a less pricey project.
  4. The old and new location: If the tree’s current location is difficult to reach, or its new home needs any sort of prep, that will affect the overall service cost. Or, maybe there are complications like hilly land or a septic system that could impact the job and therefore the price. The bottom line— any conditions your arborist needs to consider to safely remove and replant the tree will factor into the estimate.

How do I find a small or large tree transplanting service near me?

Transplanting is a complex and often risky process, so you want to be sure you’re putting the work in the hands of a professionally trained arborist.
Start by researching local tree service companies, and then check to make sure the company is licensed, insured and accredited. This handy blog post has tips on choosing a company with the right credentials.

Tree Transplanting

Fannin Tree Transplant Services

Fannin’s Tree Transplant Division specializes in transplanting trees from small to large scale projects in all regions of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and beyond. As one of the largest tree transplanters in the area, you can be confident your job will be completed efficiently and correctly. Whether you need a tree transplanted or moved from across your yard or across town, you can count on Fannin to get the job done!

Fannin Tree Farm has the latest equipment and a highly-skilled staff of employees which is the best combination for a successful tree transplant.

The process of transplanting a tree starts with the proper tools and experience. You can find out more about this process by watching our Transplanting Video

Why Fannin for your Tree Transplant:

  • Successfully transplant thousands of trees each year
  • Huge cost saving versus installing all new material
  • Different size tree spades available with trained operators
  • Highly skilled hand-dig teams for larger transplants

Tree Moving – Any Size Tree, Hedge or Shrub Moved

Any size of tree, hedge or shrub can be moved using a unique rootball, frame and crane technique. This method can also prove helpful where access might be problematic.

Tree transplanting specimens up to 20cm trunk diameter using a tree spade is a cost effective and time saving way of enhancing landscapes. Ruskins are expert tree movers and are proud to offer a fleet of tree spades, which uniquely includes the UK’s largest version.

  • Transplanting trees saves up to 90% against the cost of new plants.

  • Trees, hedges and shrubs of almost any size can be moved.

  • Tree moving can take place at any time of year.

  • On development sites trees and hedges, including those with Preservation Orders, can be relocated (with local authority approval) to create access or increase plot size. These can be moved directly to new locations, moved to safe temporary storage areas (on or off site) or moved off-site completely for replanting elsewhere.

Please note that in most cases we can provide a outline quotation by telephone, that will be confirmed during a site visit.

We work with many golf courses on an annual basis to cost effectively exploit their tree reserves, primarily to enhance their course, but also to keep balls out of neighbours properties and to create/replace hazards.

Our record tree is a mature TPO’d Pine we moved with a 64 ton rootball was featured in the Sunday Times Home section on the 4th September.

Our tree transplanting services assist very notable clients. In particular we have worked with, by most measures 3 of the 4 most important horticultural organisations in the UK. For all of these clients, we have worked with them for over 15 years.

Transplanting trees in spring and summer is feasible, watering is of increased importance (often before and always commencing immediately after) and where possible we select slightly smaller trees / use a larger rootball. Please call us if you have a project to undertake in the near future.

More on tree transplanting:

Mature trees “
Tree spades “
Hedges “

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