The Q&A Archives: How To Transplant Quaking Aspens?

Question: I have a lot of Quaking Aspen volunteer trees. How and when is the best time to transplant them?


Transplanting is best done in early spring or early fall so root systems can establish before the heat of summer or the cold of winter.

Prepare planting holes before digging the trees to minimize the amount of time the roots are exposed. Trees develop shallow, spreading root systems in the top two to three feet of soil and have few deep or "tap" roots.  Till or loosen an area of soil that is five times as wide and only as deep as the tree's root ball. (Try to keep as much of the root ball intact as possible when digging up your volunteers.)  Starting with a wide section of aerated soil provides roots with oxygen and allows them to spread easily.  

In the center of this area, dig a planting hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and no deeper.  The top of the root ball should be level with the groundor just slightly above to allow for sinkage.  

Do not amend the backfill with organic matter.  In over 30 studies on trees, no advantage was found to incorporating amendments into the backfill.  Ensure that the tree is securely upright but do not heavily tamp or pack the backfill, which compacts soil and impedes water and oxygen flow.

Form a circular berm, or rim, to make a water well on the outside of the root ball.  The goal is to keep water away from the trunk to discourage disease.

Add a three- to five-inch-deep layer of mulch around the tree's entire planting zone.  Mulch conserves water by keeping soil temperatures cooler and reducing evaporation.  Keep mulch about six inches away from the trunk to help prevent disease.  Fertilizer isn't needed for a tree's first year.

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