Written by Amelia Allonsy and published on https://homeguides.sfgate.com/

You might have already chosen one of the best trees for small gardens and planted it in a position you think is perfect, but then realize a year or two down the line that it has outgrown its spot or simply never looked right there in the first place.  Luckily trees can easily be relocated if you do it at the right time of year. Young trees relocate better than more established ones though, which are trickier to move, especially if they’ve been in the spot for more than five years. 

How to Relocate a Tree

Trees grow poorly when located too close to buildings or in areas that don’t provide the sunlight and soil requirements for the type of tree. You can relocate a tree to a more suitable environment, but you must take special care to reduce the amount of shock to the tree so the tree can recover easily from relocation. For well-established trees planted in the same spot for over three years, this requires a three-year root pruning process. Younger trees don’t require a long recovery time before transplanting. Contact a tree removal service for moving large trees.


  1. Relocating A TreeMeasure the tree trunk diameter and multiply this figure by nine to determine the distance away from the trunk to prune the roots. For example, a 2-inch diameter tree trunk requires a circle 18 inches away from the trunk or 36 inches in diameter. You can lay a garden hose on the ground to form the circle, then transfer the circle to the ground with landscaping spray paint.
  2. Cut one-fourth of the circle on two opposite sides of the tree with a spade, cutting 12 to 18 inches deep to sever the long roots. Make these cuts during the dormant period two years before moving the tree. For younger trees, you can cut the entire circumference of the circle at once only a few months before you move the tree. Severing the long roots promotes the growth of smaller roots that hold the soil ball intact.
  3. Cut the remaining two quarters of the circle around the tree during the dormant period in the second year. Allow another full year for the tree to recover and develop new shorter roots before actually moving the tree. Disregard this step for young trees because the young trees don’t require a two-stage cutting and recovery process.
  4. Water the tree deeply the day before you move the tree.
  5. Cut a circle around the tree about 6 inches out from the root pruning circle and to a depth of about 18 inches on the day you transplant the tree. Although you have already cut around the tree to prune the roots several months or a year before relocating, you must cut around the tree to sever any new, long roots and free the tree from the soil.
  6. Push the spade or a shovel under the tree’s soil ball and gently rock the tree to break the bottom roots away from the soil. Reposition your shovel on the opposite side of the tree and repeat, then continue around the tree until the soil ball seems loose.
  7. Cut any roots on the bottom of the soil ball with a pair of bypass pruners or lopping shears, if applicable. This step might not be required if the roots break away naturally when you insert the shovel or spade under the soil ball.

Removal and Planting

  1. Dig a hole two to three times the diameter and just as deep as the soil ball. Choose a location that provides the sunlight and soil needs for the tree species and that is located at least 20 feet away from your house or other buildings. Trees that grow very large require additional distance away from buildings. If the tree requires fertile soil with good drainage, you can incorporate organic matter, such as compost and leaf mold, to improve the soil.
  2. Lift one side of the soil ball with the spade or shovel and slide a piece of burlap under the soil ball. You might have to lift the soil ball on several sides to work the burlap under the entire soil ball. If desired, tie the branches up with twine to make the tree easier to handle.
  3. Lift the tree out of the hole and into a wheelbarrow or garden cart, if desired. Do not lift the tree by the trunk. Instead, use the burlap to help lift the tree and keep the soil ball intact around the roots. This task might require several people, depending on the size of the tree.
  4. Gather up the burlap ends around the soil ball and secure by tying soft twine around the trunk.
  5. . Move the tree to the new planting location. A wheelbarrow or garden cart makes this task much easier, or you can enlist help and carry it to the new location.
  6. Set the tree gently in the planting hole and untie the burlap. You can remove the entire piece of burlap carefully without disturbing the soil ball or unwrap the burlap from around the top of the soil ball and leave the burlap in the hole to decompose on its own.
  7. Fill in the hole with a mixture of garden soil amended with finished compost, sphagnum peat and coarse sand to improve soil fertility and drainage. You must plant the tree to the original planting depth for the best success.
  8. Water and fertilize the tree at the same time, using a water-soluble fertilizer added to the water supply. Add more soil as needed if the soil settles when you water the tree.

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