How to Successfully Transplant Trees and Shrubs

How to Successfully Transplant Trees and Shrubs

Early spring is a good time to transplant trees and shrubs.  If your plants die within 2 seasons, planting technique and aftercare are usually the reason.  It is important to provide the right amounts of air and water in the soil to promote root growth.  There are several factors that should be considered when transplanting plants.  These include time of planting, site selection, preparing soil, planting technique, watering, and mulching.

Time of Planting

The best time to transplant trees and shrubs is when there is good root activity.  This usually occurs in the spring, fall, or late winter.  The roots need to be active to provide the food and water needed for establishment and growth.

Site Selection

Things to consider when choosing a site for planting include the moisture level of the soil, the amount of shade and sunlight, and if the plant will be exposed or protected.  The plant should grow well in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 7a and 7b for North Carolina.  Measure the width of the mature tree size and make sure that it won’t come up against a structure, utility pole, sidewalk, or parking area.

Preparing Soil

Adding composted organic matter, lime and/or fertilizer to soil will ensure that the transplant trees and shrubs  have the needed nutrients for healthy growth.  Evaluate the soil to determine what is needed and mix it into the soil for the entire area instead of each individual hole.

Planting Technique

Loosen the roots and clip them if they are growing around in a tight circle.  This will allow the roots to grow out normally into the soil.  Dig a hole two to three times wider than the root ball but only as deep as the roots.  Position the top of the root ball so that it is right at or just above the soil line.  Fill the area around the plant with the soil that you removed.


After planting, water the tree or shrub until the soil is moist.  When the soil is dry 2 to 3 inches below the surface, add water until it is moist.  It is better to water in the early morning or late afternoon.  Once the plants are established, water only when it hasn’t rained in a while and the soil is dry.  If the leaves turn yellow or fall off, you may be overwatering.


After planting and watering, add an organic mulch (wood chips, pine straw, or pine bark nugget).  It will help retain moisture and reduce extreme temperature fluctuations.  Apply the mulch 12 to 18 inches away from the tree trunk and 3 to 4 inches deep.  Too much mulch can weaken the plant and inhibit growth.

Following these suggestions will keep you from planting too deeply, under or over watering, and over mulching which are the leading causes of poor plant establishment.  Contact Integrity Tree Care today for help if you have a tree that needs to be removed.

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