To name a few, weather conditions, pest invasion, changing residence, or constructions are many reasons that may encourage your decision to chop off a tree.

However, it is not good for the environment and your home appeal to cut off the tree.

Therefore, tree transplanting is an option for those who want trees to provide shade and cooling near their homes.

Although tree transplanting seems like a risky and complex process, it is actually easy to do with the right steps.

Hence, let’s learn how to relocate and the best time to transplant trees.

Related Blog: 11 Amazing Types of Trees For Front Yards in Canada

Easy Steps For Tree Transplanting 

An infographic explaining the tree transplanting steps

First things first, the appropriateness and accessibility of a receptor site are essential.

Once you find the site for tree transplanting, here are the steps you need to follow:

1. Prepare Yourself for the Task

It is important to give yourself enough time to prepare for the tree transplanting process, which includes digging.

Tree transplanting is a task that requires time, energy, and money. So, make sure you plan your budget and schedule before commencing the process of tree transplanting.

2. Watering the Ground

This is technically the first step of tree transplanting. Before beginning any root cutting, make sure the soil surrounding the tree is easy to dig and adheres to the roots.

Watering the soil surrounding the mature root ball at least one day before pruning is necessary. 

To let the water absorb into the soil, you can turn your garden hose down to a low flow and enable the water to soften the soil gradually.

You must be thinking that digging will be simple if your soil is dry. And that damp soil will make digging a bit more time and energy consuming.

However, other than being good for the roots, loam soil is much easier to till and dig around your tree.

3. Plan Root Pruning

It’s almost time for root pruning because the soil has already been prepared 24 hours earlier. 

However, you must first determine whether you can complete this task on your own. 

You should be able to determine the approximate weight of the tree, including the root ball (spherical root mass beneath the stem of the tree). 

Figure out how much of the total root ball needs to be trimmed if the size of the tree is not an issue. 

As a general rule, one foot of the diameter of the root ball corresponds to every inch of trunk diameter. 

Therefore, you should mark the area in a circular pattern about two feet out from the trunk of a tree whose trunk has a diameter of two inches.

If the root ball involved in the tree transplanting project is heavy and fragile, it is better to contact experts to assist you.

4. Dig a Narrow Hole 

Using a flat spade, create a thin trench around the root ball that is about 1 foot broad and 2 feet deep. 

Step on the spade’s sharp point to force it through the root by holding it straight up and perpendicular to the ground. 

If your tree transplanting process involves a larger tree, you will need special equipment for it.

That aside, avoid digging close to any underground utility wires.

During this process, make sure you keep the top and subsoil separate.

5. Refill the Trench

After digging up more soil, gently replace the topsoil in the trench with the subsoil found deeper down. 

If you want to carry out the tree transplanting process after winter, cover the soil above the root ball with a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch. This helps maintain moisture and guard against cold damage.

When you remove the soil once more after a few months to prepare the tree for its relocation, you may discover new feeder roots sprouting nearer to the tree trunk. 

Allow the tree a few months to grow new roots after cutting the old ones. Before tree transplanting, make sure it appears healthy. 

That is because if the tree has a damaged root system, all your efforts will go in vain.

You may need to wait till the tree recovers from its illness or environmental problems for another season if it isn’t thriving.

6. Select the New Location

You can decide on a new place for tree transplanting while holding off on relocating it for three to four months. 

Based on the size of the mature tree, evaluate the new location to see if it can fully support its growth.

Make sure that the location fulfills the needs of your tree. For instance, it should be close to a watering source and the sun exposure should be right.

7. Water It Well 

Before tree transplanting, you need to water it again.

By doing this, you can facilitate easier digging by helping to moisten the dirt. 

It strengthens the root system, making it ready for the summer heat if you plan to move it in the fall season.

Remember, relocation can be stressful for you and the tree. Nevertheless, by satisfying its watering needs, you can ensure that the procedure gets easier for the tree.

8. Dig Up the New Location

After measuring the root ball, dig a new planting hole that is two to three times wider. 

It will allow the lateral roots to stretch out sufficiently. However, the hole must be limited to the root ball’s diameter. If it gets any deeper, the roots may rot.

Furthermore, keeping the new site well-moist is crucial for tree transplanting.

9. Remove the Topsoil Around the Tree

With a shovel, begin by removing the topsoil.

Then, using a sharp, flat spade, begin excavating around the tree a few inches beyond the trench. 

When you reach a depth of one to two feet, you can stop.

If you spot any missed roots you forgot to prune in the previous steps, you still have a chance to cut them.

So, don’t worry, and get your hands on pruning shears.

10. Excavate Beneath the Root Ball

Now, in the tree transplanting process, it’s time to begin excavating beneath the root ball. 

By doing this, the roots beneath the tree will be detached from the soil, enabling you to lift it.

In this step, you can use the root ball measurement that you took in the second step.

Rock the tree carefully to ensure no roots are left attached to the root ball. 

Next, clear the area surrounding the root ball of any loose dirt.

11. Move the Tree

After you’ve cleared enough dirt from around it, slide your shovel beneath the tree’s root ball and release the plant’s hold. 

Cover the root ball with a piece of burlap to keep it secure. After that, lean the root ball to one side, roll the root ball on the burlap. Once you cover it, tie it with a strong string.

Then, remove the tree from the burlap-covered hole so as not to damage it. Do not attempt to lift the tree by its trunk. Instead, hold it from the bottom.

In this step, you need to be extremely vigilant, so ask for help if needed.

12. Plant the Tree

For smaller plants, move them toward the new planting hole while holding onto the burlap.

For larger trees, you can use the root ball coated in burlap as a sled by setting it on a tarp. Carefully drag the tarp to its new spot.

To make the move easier, you can also utilize a cart or cardboard.

Slide the tree into the new hole gently. The plant must be situated at the same elevation as its previous site or slightly above it. 

The discoloration on the trunk and top of the tree can be used to determine the soil level. 

Make any required adjustments to the hole to get the right height.

Once the tree is at the proper height, turn it slightly so that its best side faces the sidewalk or entryway. 

Additionally, make sure the tree’s trunk is straight up and down.

After the tree is in its final position, remove the twine or string by pulling the ends from the trunk. This will remove the burlap from the root ball without damaging it.

13. Fill the Hole

Shove the soil that was removed back into the hole to fill it in. Keep in mind to backfill with topsoil on top and subsoil at the bottom.

As you shovel, you must also gently compact them. By doing this, you can prevent air pockets from becoming trapped.

Lastly, use a mound of soil to form a shallow ditch around the plant and around the edge of the hole. 

Fill the ditch with water completely. While the tree gets used to its new location, the ditch will help keep water at the roots, guaranteeing that the tree will not be harmed.

In addition to that, by adding mulch to the base of the tree, you can maintain moisture levels and the temperature.

Learn More: What You Need to Know About Mulch Around Trees

When is the Best Time to Transplant Trees?

An answer post explaining the best time to transplant trees

No matter what type of trees you want to move, experts say that fall is one of the greatest seasons for it.

Apart from fall, spring is also a good time to do it.

Even though every season offers unique benefits, fall is the ideal season to move shrubs and trees. For cedar, maple, pine, or any other tree, you can choose fall as the transplantation season.

With fall transplants, take advantage of the next cooler months and months of rainfall. 

The plant’s roots get a chance to flourish before the heat of summer dries the ground up because of the fall rains. 

Robust roots enable a newly transplanted plant to stay planted in its new environment and accumulate essential nutrients.

In contrast, trees planted in spring will have shallow roots when summer heat hits.

With spring planting, you will undoubtedly need to water frequently and early.

Some people believe that moving trees and shrubs during spring is ideal.

That is because it gives the newly planted plants a chance to establish themselves before winter arrives. 

Before trees settle in their new site, they must withstand winter winds and low temperatures when they are transplanted in the fall.

If you are planning to start the tree transplanting process, here is a blog on fall care.


Does location impact tree transplanting?

The new location can bring hurdles in the tree transplanting process. Sites such as underneath a flyover or footbridge, next to a slope, too close to a building or other structure, and areas with high traffic can make transplantation very challenging.

What size of root ball is right for tree transplanting?

International practices often advise a root ball diameter of trunk diameter ratio of 8:1 to 10:1. For more mature trees, a bigger root ball is advised to promote better transplant recovery.

What influences big tree transplanting?

Bigger trees require larger root balls to accommodate more roots and provide stability and anchoring for proper regrowth. When a reasonable root ball size cannot be achieved, it is better not to move forward with the tree transplanting process.


These are the steps of tree transplanting without damaging the tree. By following them in the right order, you are most likely to get done without any hindrance.

When the time is right, and the tree looks ready to be transplanted, select and prepare the new location, water the tree, and then excavate around and beneath the root ball.

Additionally, you can take this opportunity to research the needs of some trees, as they may need them to flourish.

If you want an extra pair of hands, experts at Falcons Landscaping would be happy to help.