The Q&A Archives: transplanting cedar trees

Question: I have little cedar trees sprouting up throughout my planted gardens. I'd love to place them elsewhere, however I've been unsuccessful to date. The tap root seems to be key, but am wondering also if there's a size limit for success as well. Some are now 3' tall since I was afraid to move them and lose them. What can I do?

Answer: Plants that grow voluntarily in the garden typically have very deep roots because they spend several months after the seeds sprout sending down anchor roots to get a good foothold in the earth. The best time to dig them up is when they are tiny - less than 6 inches high. You can transplant 3' tall cedars but you have to expect that the roots will be 12-18 inches deep in the soil so you need to carefully dig that deep to get the majority of the root mass. Start by digging a trench all around the tree and then digging down and towards the middle, trying not to sever too many of the largest roots. Then plant the trees at the same soil level as they were growing before which means you may have to dig a 12-18 inch hole to accommodate the roots. Water them well after transplanting and be sure to water deeply once each week so they can re-establish their roots. Good luck with your project!

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