Home Tree Care Transplanting Mature Trees: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Transplanting Mature Trees: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

by Gregory
4 minutes read

Transplanting Mature Trees: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners


Sometimes, you may need to move a large tree if it’s not in the best spot. Moving mature trees can dramatically change your landscape quickly. Read on for everything you need to know about transplanting a big tree.

Why Transplant a Mature Tree?

Transplanting a large tree from the wild to your garden can provide immediate shade, a beautiful focal point, and height to your yard. While it’s much faster than waiting for a small tree to grow, transplanting doesn’t happen overnight. Plan in advance and give your tree the best chance of success.

Planning Ahead

Transplanting an established tree takes effort and can cause some stress to the tree. However, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Generally, a big tree loses a lot of its roots during a transplant, making it difficult to recover. The key is to help the tree grow new roots before the move.

When to Move Big Trees

The best time to transplant mature trees is either in fall or late winter/early spring, when the tree is dormant. Only transplant after the leaves have fallen in autumn or before new buds appear in spring.

How to Transplant a Large Tree

Step 1: Root Pruning

Start by root pruning, which involves trimming the roots of the tree six months before the transplant. This encourages new roots to grow closer to the tree, within the root ball that will be moved.

How to Root Prune:

  • Determine the size of the root ball using a chart or consulting an arborist.
  • Dig a trench around the tree in a circle the appropriate size for the root ball.
  • Tie up the lowest branches of the tree for protection.
  • Cut the roots below the trench using a sharp spade, inserting it repeatedly until all the roots beneath the trench have been cut.
  • Replace the soil in the trench and water the area.
  • Untie the branches.

Step 2: Digging and Moving

Six months after root pruning, return to the tree and tie up the branches again. Dig a new trench about a foot outside the root pruning trench to capture the new roots that have formed. Dig down until you can undercut the soil ball at a 45-degree angle. Wrap the soil ball in burlap and carefully move it to the new planting location. If it’s too heavy, hire professional help.

Step 3: Planting

Remove the burlap and place the tree in the new planting hole. The hole should be the same depth as the root ball and 50-100% wider. Backfill with soil and water thoroughly.

Tips for Success

  • Choose a healthy tree that is well-suited to your climate.
  • Prepare the planting site in advance by removing any obstacles and enriching the soil.
  • Water the tree deeply and regularly after transplanting.
  • Mulch around the tree to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Monitor the tree for any signs of stress and take corrective action if necessary.


Transplanting a mature tree can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to do it properly to ensure the tree’s survival. By following these steps and tips, you can successfully move a large tree to a new location and enjoy its beauty for years to come.

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