The Q&A Archives: Transplanting a Cottonwood Tree

Question: I have a 3'x 5' flower box. Two seasons ago, a cottonwood seed drifted into my flower box. The seedling has now become a small tree. I would like to transplant it from the flower box to my backyard. How and when should this be done?

Answer: Fall or spring are good times to transplant. Dig the hole where you plan to put the tree first so the roots aren't exposed to the air longer than needed. Research now shows that it's better not to add amended backfill to the planting hole of trees, as their roots don't want to reach beyond that improved environment. It should be easy to dig around the rootball in your flower box. Try to keep the rootball intact. Plant so the stem is at the same ground level in its new home as it was in the flower box. Note that cottonwoods take a tremendous amount of water to grow and reach maturity--that's why they are almost always found beside streambeds, washes, etc. in nature. Good luck!

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