The Q&A Archives: moving a prized tree

Question: Hello, When my wife & I moved in 3 years ago we planted what we thought would be the perfect little tree in our front garden. It is a staghorm sumac or tiger eyes sumac. It has exploded in growth this year and we would like to consider moving it to the garden in the rear of our property. How extensive are the root systems on this tree, and how good of a chance do we have of moving it sucessfully? Please get back to me with any info you may have on this species. The trunk diameter is around 2.5 to 3 inches.

Answer: Since your sumac has only been in the ground for 3 years, it should be easy to move. Sumac tends to have a fibrous and spreading root system and the longer it is in the ground, the more dense the roots become. Moving it while it is still young should save you a lot of digging! I'd wait until late winter or early spring to move the sumac. That way, any damaged roots will regenerate quickly. If you move it now, it won't re-establish itself until next spring. Generally, the roots will be in the top 12-18" of soil and will spread out at least as far as the longest branches. I'd start digging about 12" from the main trunk, down on an angle toward what you can imagine will be the main root ball. It's okay to sever some of the fibrous roots, but you'll want to keep the thick or anchoring roots intact as much as possible. I can only suggest that you dig slowly and adjust the depth or the width depending upon what you find as you're excavating. It's also helpful to have the new hole dug - or at least started - before you dig your sumac so you can transfer it back into the ground as quickly as possible. Make sure it is replanted at the same soil depth as it was growing before, and water it well after replanting to help settle the soil. One deep soaking per week will help the roots re-establish quickly.

Best wishes with the move~

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