Transplanting Mature Trees

Solo Tree

Transplanting Mature Trees

It’s an easy decision to prune or even remove a damaged or decaying tree, but sometimes a healthy tree grows where it isn’t wanted—or you want and need it somewhere else (such as a new property). Whatever the need, transplanting mature trees to a new home should be done with care, so they can thrive in their new environment and to prevent risk of harm to life or property.


Planning ahead

Questions of “where” need to be addressed both in the existing (pre-transplant) location and the tree’s destination. The tree’s existing conditions and what’s going on around the tree and target location should be fully reviewed for safety and a successful outcome.

  • What trees and plants are around the tree being moved that may be affected by the transplant?
  • Are there existing structures to be considered in either location (house, shed, fencing)?
  • Is the tree on or near a property line? Are you sure?
  • Do any utilities run adjacent and/or underground that could be impacted or pose a hazard? Dial 811 to “call before you dig” to make sure you don’t accidentally hit any underground utilities.

The right conditions

What kind of tree are you moving? Is it deciduous (leaf-dropping) or evergreen? Does it thrive in sun or require some shade? What are its water requirements?

Choose a destination location that offers the same or similar conditions that the tree currently thrives in. If the tree is being moved because current conditions aren’t supporting healthy growth, then provide a location that better matches the needs of the tree.


For a transplant to succeed, aim to make the move when the tree isn’t in a season of growth or requiring extra energy and nutrients. For deciduous trees, the best time is dormancy—when leaves have fallen and, for all intents and purposes, the tree is in “power save” mode. Transplanting during this time, before buds appear as it leaves dormancy, is least stressful on the tree. Evergreens don’t have such clear-cut seasons, but in the Northern Florida climate, taking cues from deciduous tree timing is a safe way to choose an appropriate time to transplant an evergreen (and they tend to be pretty hardy and able to handle the stress of a well-planned move). One of the most important considerations is to avoid extreme temperatures (particularly heat, for our region).


Before a shovel goes anywhere near the existing tree, prepare the destination spot. Choose the right location with enough space and prepare a hole that is twice the diameter of the root ball and slightly shallower (so initial watering can’t puddle).

The big dig

Allow at least 3 feet around the tree as you dig so that a good root base can be moved with it (it may require more, depending on trunk size). Remove dirt first, and then make clean root cuts with sharp tools. If the tree is small and the destination on the same property, lift the tree onto a tarp and slide to the new location. Larger trees will likely need assistance from arborists.

Calling in the Pros

Moving a tree is serious business (if you want the tree to be able to take root and grow in its new home). And the bigger the tree, the higher the stakes. For the best outcome, consult an experienced arborist who can evaluate the current landscape, tree destination, transportation weight and safety considerations, and after-care best practices. In fact, the arborist can (literally) do the heavy lifting for you with specialized equipment. Questions? Give us a call or contact us to help you with your mature tree transplant.

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