Tree Best Transplant Time

Asked August 26, 2018, 5:45 PM EDT

We have a couple of wild maple we want to keep but not where they’ve grown. One is four feet tall. The other is seven feet tall. When is the best time of the year to transplant them? Thanks!

Anoka County Minnesota

1 Response

Greetings! Thank you for contacting AaE for help.

When transplanting a tree, it's likely that some roots will be cut off. This can cause transplant shock but trees do recover from it; it just takes a little bit longer than if they have been root pruned.

Root pruning is a method of digging straight down (not slanted toward the tree) into the soil at the distance you'd be digging it up. Encircle the tree in this fashion just like you would to uproot it but you're not really uprooting it. This is done one season before actually moving the tree. During the next season (in your case spring if you were to do this now), the tree will form new roots much closer to the tree and those roots which will not be cut when you transplant it will help the tree get established much more quickly. Simply dig in the same distance out from the tree that you root pruned in.

So the short answer is early next summer if you want to root prune it. Or next spring if you don't root prune it. The reason for next spring is that a transplanted tree will not have grown enough roots to anchor it into the ground before winter and may actually be heaved out of the ground during winter's freeze/thaw cycles. If it's an emergency and you need to move it now, do so but continue to water the tree until the ground freezes (well into December), then mulch it well to keep the ground around the root ball from thawing easily in case we don't get much of a snow cover.

I hope this information helps.