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When is the Best Time to Transplant a Tree?

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 09:26 am

You spend time and money to build and care for your landscape. You cut up, carve out, deconstruct and build. You do whatever it takes to shape your yard space. Perhaps you build up certain areas; plant perennials; or even cut down and plant new trees. If you feel as though you made a mistake with any of those changes, they are all in all, pretty simple to correct. Well, except if you made a mistake when deciding on your trees. Moving a tree or purchasing an older tree for transplant is a frequent solution to this problem. One of the keys to the success of transplanting that tree is the time of year that the tree is moved. 

Dormancy is key

Tree TransplantingTransplanting of trees, whether oak, pine, maple, or fruit, should take place during the trees dormant periods. This means while the tree is not actively doing what a tree does, budding or undergoing growth. Early spring, prior to its first buds, is an ideal time for transplanting. So is late fall, before the first frost.

Why is this the ideal time?

If you were to dig a tree up during its active growing season, you will disconnect the active water-to-root transfer, stunting the plant’s growth and likely causing transplant shock and causing a difficult transition to its new grounds. During dormancy, the tree has shed its leaves and/or fruit and will not be heavily reliant on this water source. Thus, the chance for shock is much less. You will provide the tree a much better opportunity to become acclimated to its new home.

Winter must be a great time to transplant then!

No, this is not ideal. Unless you live in the south, your ground is likely frozen, and the digging alone would be enough to make you throw your shovel. If you are fortunate enough to have ground soft enough to dig, you still risk root damage due to frost upon the transplant.

Are there specific times to plant specific trees?

Pittsburgh tree ServiceAll trees should be transplanted during this time frame but if you want further specificity, then follow these guidelines:

  • Oak – Plan to plant early spring, ideally March or if spring comes earlier you could possibly swing February. Just be sure the buds are not about to emerge.
  • Evergreen – Safest bet is early fall.
  • Maple – Maples are great growers and continue to grow well into fall. Shoot for late fall or when it has shed all its leaves.
  • Fruit – Early spring, just be sure you move this tree in plenty of time for its buds to emerge.

Transplanting your tree is definitely doable, and the time of year you do it will be a significant indicator of success. Good luck and happy growing!