Transplanting Landscape Trees
Douglas L. Airhart & Guy Zimmerman III

Web Site Guide: [Home]


Right Tree / Right Place

Selecting Trees

Transplanting Trees

Mulching & Staking

Summary Diagram 

Pruning Trees

Topping Hurts!

Protecting Trees

Tree Root Myths

Pine Bark Beetles

Live Christmas Trees


List of Figures

List of Video Vignettes

Related Links



Planting Depth ] Time of Year ] Preparing the Root Mass ] Final Transplanting Inspection ]

    Transplanting Landscape Trees- Introduction:

Can you name 10 reasons to plant trees? Click here for the answers.

Many people, including landscape architects, landscape contractors and maintenance professionals, discount the importance of the process and techniques of transplanting trees. The transplanting process is critical to the successful establishment and future health of the tree.

Unfortunately, lots of books have information and diagrams that are incorrect, outdated and contrary to recent recommendations. Using these old procedures will eventually cause direct damage to the tree, or jeopardize the health of the tree.

The information presented here is based on the most recent research and recorded observations of successful techniques. For example, recent studies about transplanting trees have indicated that smaller trees transplant more easily and more successfully than larger diameter trees. They are lighter and easier to handle, they are less likely to be dropped or damaged in transit and they are more likely to have adequate roots to support their crown.

Successful transplanting depends on three main factors:

root zone moisture level and watering, (see below)


planting depth in a proper hole, and


time of year for planting.

Root zone moisture and watering

The root mass needs adequate moisture levels to supply the leaves and stems for turgor (rigidity). The general rule applied here is that the tree should receive an inch of rain weekly, and if it doesn’t rain, you must irrigate to supply the difference. At least three to five gallons of water is suggested. A common error that will prevent successful establishment is to stop irrigating the tree too early in its development. 

How long should you continue to watch the tree for wilting conditions? Arnold (1993) indicated that irrigation may be needed for as long as 3 years after transplanting. This amount of time is not the usual concern of most landscapers, but you should inspect the condition of the root zone regularly and keep up the irrigation if you want the tree to survive. The report also indicated that more time will be needed for establishment if you are planting large (3 to 4 inches) caliper trees or if you are planting trees in northern latitudes.

(Figure 4-0) Deep Watering 

This diagram demonstrated two possible techniques for deep watering trees during establishment.



Purpose    Right Tree / Right Place    Selecting Trees    Transplanting Trees    Mulching & Staking    Summary Diagram     Pruning Trees    Topping Hurts!      Protecting Trees     Tree Root Myths     Pine Bark Beetles     Live Christmas Trees     Glossary     List of Figures    List of Video Vignettes    Related Links     Bibliography is maintained by: Douglas Airhart, Ph.D. Certified Arborist & Jeff Plant, Ph.D, Last Updated on: 07/11/03