Tips, Tricks, and Tree Transplants

Occasionally a situation arises where you will need to move your sapling trees to a new spot in your yard. This article gives helpful tips for a successful tree transplant.

Tree Transplants

Q: We transplanted some 3.5-inch caliper trees six years ago. They seem to be generally healthy, but the leaves have never been full or bright or strong. The fruit trees and spruce trees we have seem fine, but the trees with this problem are red oaks, sunset maples, crimson king Norway maples and white birches. I had them professionally fertilized twice during their second and third years, and I gave them all some fertilizer spikes this year. They did seem a little better this year, but they still kind of look droopy.

A: All of the trees you list as being wilted are ones that need a bit more moisture than many other landscape trees. They all are naturally found in lowlands or wetlands that have more water in the soil.

Are the trees planted lower or higher than the surrounding areas? How good is the soil surrounding the transplanted root balls? The trees may grow well for a year or two, but if they can’t get their roots out into a much larger area, they will not do well long term.

To see how well the trees have done since they were planted, check the branches. The leaves on deciduous trees only grow on the current year’s new branch. This year’s new growth will not have any side branches, and it will be a different color than last year’s growth. Last year’s growth will also have a slightly different texture and side branches. You should be able to tell the difference between each year’s growth for several years back.

Look to see whether the branches have been getting longer and stronger. On a long branch, you can count all the way back to the year the tree was dug up for transplant, and you will see that the growth that year is much shorter than that of recent years. If the new growth is staying short, then the trees are not recovering from the transplant.

The recovery time for the transplant should only be about a year for each inch of trunk diameter. Your trees should have been fully recovered a couple of years ago, and the length of new growth this year should have been at least a foot long.

If the trees have been watered and fertilized, the problem is probably in the soil, but I think you should have a licensed arborist come out and look at your trees to give you a diagnosis.

Q: We have two apple trees that are six years old. To date, one has never produced, and the second had two apples on it this year. They are planted in our lawn and appear very healthy. Their leaves look great. Perhaps too great? What do you think they need? We have a cherry tree and a plum tree next to them, and they produce very well.

By the way, the two apples tasted just great!

A: Apple trees usually begin flowering and fruiting before age 6. Do they bloom at all? If they do but don’t set fruit, it is because they are too similar; some apple trees need to be pollinated from another variety that is not like themselves and flowers at the same time. Check out the University of Missouri Extension website to see some compatible varieties.

Save or share this infographic for reference: Tree Transplants

Tree Transplants

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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