Transplanting Trees + Shrubs

Winter is the best time to transplant established trees and shrubs with December and January being the best months to do so in our area.  February is too “iffy” due to early springs we experience in East Texas.


Transplanting a shrub or tree is different than an initial planting which can be done any time.  Transplanting means you are cutting the roots of the plant and this should only be done while they are dormant and not actively growing.


Transplants die due to improper removal or installation.  Younger plants transplant better than older ones and deciduous plants/trees survive transplanting more often than evergreens.  Transplanting causes stress for plants so minimizing this is the goal.


It is best to only move a plant when in it’s dormant state, not when it has budded out for spring or in full growth during the summer.


How do I transplant correctly?


  • The condition of the root system is the most important part of transplanting.  Dig carefully and keep as much soil around each plant’s root system as possible.


  • Some experts like Neil Sperry suggest you dig the new hole only as deep and wide as needed to hold the soil ball.  Others say the hole should be 2-3 times the width of the root ball and should be backfilled with amended soil.  I’ve seen it done both ways successfully.


  • Set the plant at the same depth at which it was growing.


  • Water the plant thoroughly.


  • Here’s the hard part – thin and trim 40-50% of the plant to compensate for the loss of roots.  If you don’t the plant stands less chance of surviving the transplant.


  • Mulch over the top of the exposed ground to help hold in moisture.


  • Stake transplanted trees for a period of time to help them stay upright.



If you have a shrub or tree that needs to be transplanted due to it being too large for an area or if it should have been planted in sun vs shade or vice versa then move it.  The plant will never perform well if left in the wrong spot.


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