Step-By-Step Transplanting Instructions

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This article will teach you how to relocate and transplant a tree or shrub.
by Brent Wilson · All Zones · Planting · 0 Comments · August 27, 2010 · 13,428 views

Step-By-Step Transplanting Instructions For Relocating A Shrub Or Tree

Need to relocate a shrub or tree to an new spot in your garden?

With the exception of a few shrubs and trees, such as Southern magnolias, MOST ornamental shrubs and trees should be transplanted while they are dormant. This means during the winter.

Prior to relocating a plant, note the environment the tree or shrub has been growing in: sun, shade etc. Make sure to relocate your shrub or tree to a spot that has similar conditions. Don't expect a Dogwood tree that you've moved from a deeply shaded woodland area to survive when relocated and transplanted to an area that receives full, all-day, direct sunlight.


PLEASE NOTE: Since you will damage some of the roots when digging up the shrub or tree you intend to relocate, know that most all trees and shrubs respond better to transplanting during the dormant season; when the tree is not actively growing. This means during winter. Before relocating and transplanting any shrub or tree, I heavily advise that you consult with your professional local nurseryman or landscape contractor about what time of year would be best for the specific type of plant you intend to transplant.


  • Start relocation by digging the planting hole at the location where you intend to move your plant to. In order to know what size to dig the hole, estimate the width and depth of the rootball you will dig by doing a bit of exploratory digging around the plant. The width of the new hole should be twice that of the rootball that will exist after digging up the plant. The depth of the planting hole should be kept a bit shallower, to avoid puddling.
  • After digging the planting hole, mix an organic soil conditioner at a 1/3 part organic matter with 2/3 part the soil you removed from the planting hole. A good organic matter would be something like mushroom compost or a composted manure product.
  • Next you'll dig the tree or shrub selected for transplanting. Don't start digging right at the base of a tree or shrub. Instead, start your digging at a point outside and around the perimeter of the branch system. Remember, the general rule of thumb when transplanting an existing shrub or tree is to keep as much of the root system, and the soil around it, intact as possible. Usually you will have to cut through some roots on a more mature plant. Once you've removed enough soil from around the sides of the plant, you'll eventually be able to slip your shovel under it and begin to loosen the roots grip on the soil below it. After it's loose, spread a tarp on the ground nearby and gently move the tree or shrub onto the tarp.
  • Using the tarp as a transporting medium, drag the tree or shrub over to the new hole. Gently slide the rootball into the hole and set it straight. Make sure that the top of the rootball is level with the existing ground around the hole.
  • Now, begin to shovel the excavated soil-compost mixture back into the hole under and around the roots. Tamp this soil down firmly and water a little as you go to eliminate any air pockets. Any air pockets could cause the tree or shrub to shift after transplanting.
  • After filling the hole, and if you don't have an irrigation system, you can use native soil to create a water retention ring around your newly relocated plant. Mound up the soil in a ring just oustide and around the perimeter of the plants branch system, forming a berm that will catch water like a basin. Building this berm will help you achieve your main objective from here on out. Until your transplant re-establishes itself, you'll want to water enough to keep the soil around the roots moist, but not wet or oversautrated.
  • A light to medium shearing or pruning of most transplants is recommended. During the digging out process some roots are almost always damaged or cut. To compensate for this root loss, pruning some of the top of the plant away is beneficial to the recovery process.
  • After transplanting, water deeply with a solution of water and Root Stimulator. Root Stimulators contain B vitamins and other nutrients that will enhance and stimulate new root growth. Root Stimulators are available at your local independent nursery and garden center.
  • Spread a 2" layer of landscape wood mulch, or a 4 to 6" layer of pinestraw around the new transplant. Make sure to always keep landscape mulches a few inches away from the base of a tree or shrub. If you pile mulch around the trunk, this can promote the onset of damaging fungus and disease.
  • Fertilize your newly transplanted shrub or tree with an organic, non-burning plant food or a slow-release shrub and tree fertilizer.
Brent Wilson

Meet The Author

Brent Wilson - Brent Wilson is an avid gardener and one of the co-founders of Gardenality. He is also co-owner of Wilson Bros Nursery & Garden Center in McDonoguh


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Transplant, Tree, Relocate, Planting, Shrub, Tree




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