The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.
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Transplanting Trees


The trees we enjoy today were planted years ago. Everyone recognizes the value of shade trees and enjoys them; however, many trees are poorly selected and improperly planted. Proper care of the transplanted tree is very important, especially during the first year. Remember, prior to transplanting, this tree was watered on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Proper tree selection, site preparation, and transplanting will greatly increase your chance of successfully growing a desirable shade tree. Below are guidelines for transplanting trees.

  • Select trees that, when mature, will be the proper size for the desired site. For example, redbuds are mid-size trees at maturity and pecans are large size trees at maturity.
  • Dig the hole at least 2 times the size of the tree's container or rootball. This will allow plenty of room for moving the tree into position. Cut any roots that are circling the rootball and tamp some of the original soil around the roots. It is important to lightly water the soil as it is being tamped. This will eliminate the formation of air pockets near the roots.
  • The tree should be planted at the same soil level as it was in the nursery.
  • The preferred time to transplant is during the rainy months. Less desirable are the hot, dry months of June, July, and August. Fall is an excellent time, if the desired tree is available.
  • Trees that have a trunk size of 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter experience less transplant shock than do trees with larger trunks.
  • The use of mulch such as bark, leaves, pine straw, or grain straw spread around the trunk at a 3- to 5-inch depth and 3 to 4 feet in diameter will conserve moisture and keep the rootball cooler than the surrounding soil. Do not pile the mulch on the trunk base.
  • Keep the lawn mower and the weed eater away from the trunk of the newly planted tree. The trunk tissue is easily damaged, but may not be noticed until the leaves begin to turn brown. Annual mulching will also keep the grass and weed growth to a minimum.
  • Stake the tree with wire to keep it upright. Use a section of rubber hose to keep the tree from being girdled by the wire. The objective of the wire support is to keep the prevalent southern winds during the growing season from tilting the tree in the opposite direction.
  • Water the tree slowly in order to allow the water to percolate deep into the soil. When the soil begins to dry at a depth of 3 to 4 inches, apply water so as to soak the root zone. The leaves will begin to wilt when watering has been neglected.
  • The tree should be fertilized throughout the growing season with a balanced lawn fertilizer such as 10-20-10. Broadcast the fertilizer under the tree's canopy, not at the trunk.
  • For the purpose of measuring growth, take a picture of a child beside the freshly transplanted tree. Record the date, location and height of the tree, as well as the name and height of the child.
  • If you have more specific questions regarding transplanting, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.