The Q&A Archives: transplanting Acer palmatum

Question: I would like to transplant a Bloodgood maple from my house in Hoboken, Ga to a property in Franklin, NC. I believe the NC zone is 7.The maple is in the ground and about 3 or 4 feet tall. I do not see any Q&A on transplanting maples from the ground to another site. I have bought bare root trees before but actually do not know if they have been growing in containers or in the ground before shipping. I would appreaciate your advice. Thanks, js

Answer: Bare root trees are "heeled" into sawdust while they're dormant. When they're sold, the roots (along with any sawdust or wood chips attached) are wrapped in moist burlap for the trip home. It's easier to plant a bareroot tree than one with soil attached to the rootmass because you can see where the roots are and how large a hole you'll need to dig. You can transplant maple trees now, or wait until this winter when they're dormant. The roots of the tree will extend out beyond the canopy (the tips of the branches), so start digging at that point away from the trunk. Most of the roots will be in the top 12-18 inches of soil so the hole doesn't have to be deep, but it should start out wide so you can discover the roots without accidentally cutting them off. Carefully dig around as many of the roots as possible and try to leave as much soil as possible around the root mass directly below the trunk of the tree. The less you disturb the roots, the easier the move will be on the tree. When the tree is out, you'll want to set the rootball on a plastic tarp and wrap it around the roots to keep them from drying out during transport. Make the move as quickly as possible so the roots don't dry out or become overheated from the sunshine. Once the tree is out of the ground you'll have an idea how large to dig the new hole. After removing the necessary amount of soil, put a small mound of soil in the new hole so you can place the rootmass on top and spread the roots out in the most natural way. Make sure the tree will be at the same level that it was growing before, and finish filling the holes around the roots with soil. Water it well, and remember to give the tree about one-inch of water per week next spring and summer. It should be established by next autumn, and natural rainfall should be all that it will require. Best wishes with your move!

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