By Nancy Penrose

There are a number of things to know before deciding to transplant a tree. Whether you want to move a new tree onto your property, want to transplant a tree off property, or need to move a tree from one location to another, you will need to know about these things and possibly consult with a specialist on them to ensure it is done safely and successfully.

Here are some of the essential things to know about when transplanting a tree

  • Check your local regulations.

You will need to be aware of and in compliance with all local regulations before transplanting a tree. Digging a hole for a new tree to go in without first ensuring you aren’t going to dig up any pipes or live wires, for example, would be very unsafe. Ensure you meet all local regulations. Get assistance from your local tree transplant specialists if you have any difficulty finding all the information you need to know.

  • Assessing the tree.

First you will need to evaluate the tree that is going to be moved. The size of the tree, species of the tree and health of the tree are important factors to keep in mind.

How big is the tree? A small tree or shrub (such as one under 3 feet tall and 1 inch or less in diameter) is much easier to move than a larger tree. The larger and older the tree, the more likely it is you will need to call in a specialist. There are two reasons for this. One is that any tree needs enough of its roots to be transplanted along with it. When transplanting a tree one of the steps is to gather up what is called a “rootball” of the tree’s roots. This needs to be approximately 10-12 inches of diameter of root ball for every inch of trunk. So assessing the size of the tree to be moved is an essential first step in determining how easy the move will be.

What type of tree is it? Different species of trees have different environmental needs. You will need to understand if the tree is going to be able to thrive in the location you’re moving it into. Different species of trees grow to different sizes, both in terms of their canopy and their root systems. Ensuring there is enough space for the tree to grow into is essential.

  • When do you move the tree?

There are different seasons where it is inadvisable to move a tree. Planting a tree in summer is generally problematic since the warmer weather conditions put more stress on the tree. When moving a tree it needs time to adjust to its new location, and put on new root-growth. The ideal time to transplant a tree in the Pacific Northwest is between October and March while the tree is still dormant.  This also gives the tree sufficient time to grow into its new location and be ready for the more severe heat of summer.

  • Pruning.

Not everyone knows that some roots are more responsible for bringing in water to the trunk than others. The large roots closer to the trunk bring in less water than the many small feeder roots at its edges. Root pruning right before transplanting a tree helps the tree to stimulate growing new feeder roots near the trunk. This is essential for the early stages of a tree adjusting to a new area. Consult a tree care specialist for assistance on this if needed.

  • Water.

A tree needs a lot of water and this is also important before and after transplanting. Water the soil the day before. This will serve to soften the ground and reduce the stress on the plant roots. When the tree is moved to the new location, it will need a lot of water to help it acclimate.

While there are many more steps involved, these are a few of the essential things you will need to know when planning out transplanting a tree.

Nancy Penrose is the owner of Big Trees Inc., located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area. The company is one of the largest tree nurseries in the Seattle area with over 120,000 trees available in over 300 varieties. They not only deliver young trees, but also mature trees in a wide range of sizes. Some types of trees available include spring flowering, deciduous, evergreen, and privacy trees. The company also does tree transplanting including large trees. Their blog can be seen at or They can be reached at 360-563-2700.

Big Trees Inc.
10928 Springhetti Rd
Snohomish, WA 98296