How to Transplant Pine Trees


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    Pine trees are native to North America and an excellent choice for your backyard landscape but if don’t want to grow them from seeds they will need to be transplanted. There are more than 30 species of pine trees and most are easy to move to a new location. Even the healthiest trees from the wild or a nursery can die if improperly replanted so make sure to have a plan before you start.

    Necessary Gear

    Considering the majestic beauty of pine trees, it’s no wonder many homeowners opt to incorporate them into their backyard landscapes. Native to North America, these evergreens, though often grown from seeds, can also be transplanted with the right techniques.

    With over 30 pine tree species, most are amenable to relocation. However, a gentle touch and proper technique are essential. Even the most robust nursery or wild trees can perish if not handled with care. So, let’s embark on this transplanting journey, shall we?

    Essentials for Pine Tree Transplantation:

    • Small garden shovel (for initial preparation)
    • Large shovel (for digging and transplantation)
    • Watering can (to keep the roots hydrated)
    • Old towels or tarps (for root protection)
    • Pine mulch (to aid in retaining moisture post-transplant)
    • Evergreen knowledge and enthusiasm!
    Evergreen Trees

    Your Pine Tree Transplanting Adventure:

    1. Tree Preparation: Begin by circling the tree with a small hand shovel about 1.5′ from the trunk, diving roughly 12″ deep. This technique trims longer roots, facilitating easier extraction. Seedlings? Handle with love and caution!
    2. Land Prep: Welcome your tree by tilling its new home, pulling out pesky weeds, and giving the ground a good pre-soak.
    3. Crafting the Perfect Nest: Using your large shovel, dig a hospitable hole at least 1′ deep, ensuring it’s 6″ deeper than the root ball and twice as wide. This will give your tree ample space to spread and thrive.
    4. Uproot with Care: Ready to relocate? Deepen and widen your initial circle, gently sliding your shovel beneath the root ball. Wiggle and lift. Then, place the tree on a protective tarp or into a wheelbarrow.
    5. Travel Preparations: Envelop the root ball in a towel or tarp to ensure it remains damage-free. Remember, the roots are the lifeline; if you’re on a multi-day journey, give them a water break!
    6. Homecoming: As you nestle the pine tree into its new abode, lay a few inches of soil first. Position the root ball, fill with soil, and water judiciously. Crown your efforts with mulch to seal in moisture.

    🌲 Friendly Reminder: Before embarking on your tree relocation, always check local regulations. Some areas require permissions to move trees, even from private lands.

    When to Transplant Pine Trees: A Deeper Dive

    Transplanting pine trees, like most landscaping activities, requires careful timing to ensure the best chance of success. While we’ve touched upon early spring and fall as ideal times, there are more specifics and considerations to bear in mind. Let’s expand on the ideal periods and circumstances for transplanting pine trees.

    1. Early Spring:
      • Before New Growth Begins: The optimal time in early spring is just as the ground thaws but before new growth starts. This period allows the tree to establish its roots in the new location before channeling energy into sprouting needles and branches.
      • Post-Winter Recovery: The winter months can be hard on trees, especially young ones or those exposed to particularly harsh conditions. Transplanting as the weather begins to warm allows the tree to recover in its new location.
    2. Fall:
      • After the First Frost: Wait for the first light frost which signifies the tree is entering dormancy. This period ensures the tree has ceased its active growth above ground but can still establish its roots in the new location before winter fully sets in.
      • Before the Ground Freezes: It’s essential to complete the transplant before the ground becomes too hard or frozen, which would make the process more challenging and potentially damaging to the tree.
    3. Avoid Summer:
      • The hot and often dry conditions of summer can place additional stress on a transplanted tree. The increased water needs, potential for sunburn on exposed roots, and the energy the tree is expending on growth make summer a less-than-ideal time for transplantation.
    4. Steer Clear of Deep Winter:
      • Besides the obvious difficulty of working with frozen ground, the tree is in full dormancy during the heart of winter. This means it won’t readily establish its roots in the new location, and there’s a higher risk of cold damage.
    5. Monitor Weather Patterns:
      • While general seasons provide a guideline, it’s also essential to monitor specific weather conditions. A period of heavy rain in spring or fall, for example, can be beneficial for transplanting as it ensures moist soil, which aids in reducing transplant shock. Conversely, a dry spell would necessitate supplemental watering.
    6. Age and Size of the Tree:
      • Younger trees or saplings are more adaptable and resilient to transplantation than mature trees. If you have a sapling or a young pine tree, you can be a bit more flexible with the timing, although spring and fall are still recommended. Older, more established trees require more careful timing and preparation due to their extensive root systems.
    7. Specific Pine Species:
      • While general guidelines apply to most pine trees, certain species may have specific requirements or optimal times for transplantation. Researching or consulting with a local nursery about your specific type of pine tree can provide more tailored advice.

    Why Timing is Crucial When Transplanting Pine Trees

    When it comes to transplanting pine trees—or any tree for that matter—timing can make the difference between a thriving tree and a struggling one. Let’s delve deeper into the nuances of why timing is pivotal.

    1. Stress Minimization: Just like any living organism, trees experience stress, especially when uprooted from their familiar surroundings. By transplanting during the optimal times of early spring or fall, you capitalize on moderate temperatures and beneficial natural conditions. These times are naturally less stressful for trees, making it easier for them to adapt to a new environment.
    2. Soil Conditions: Early spring and fall often offer more moist and workable soil, which facilitates easier digging and reduces the risk of damaging the roots. Additionally, the moist soil aids in root establishment once the tree has been replanted.
    3. Root Growth: Pine trees, like many plants, have a cycle of active growth and dormancy. In early spring and fall, while the above-ground parts of the tree are not actively growing, the roots continue to establish themselves. Transplanting during these times takes advantage of this natural cycle, allowing the tree to focus its energy on rooting in its new location.
    4. Reduced Water Stress: During the hot summer months, trees require more water to stay hydrated. Transplanting during this period would demand the tree to cope with both transplant shock and potential water stress, making establishment much more difficult. On the flip side, the cold winter months can cause the ground to freeze, making transplantation nearly impossible and potentially harmful to the tree.
    5. Disease and Pest Management: Spring and fall generally present fewer active pests and diseases. Transplanting during these times reduces the risk of pest infestation or disease contraction, both of which can be detrimental to an already stressed tree.
    6. Preparation for Active Growth: By transplanting in early spring, you give the tree ample time to establish its roots before the vigorous growth spurt in late spring and summer. Similarly, a fall transplant provides the tree with a quiet period to settle before the next growth season.

    How to Transplant a Six-Foot Pine Tree

    When it comes to transplanting a larger pine tree, such as a six-foot one, there are some special considerations and extra steps you need to take.

    Necessary Gear for a Six-Foot Pine Tree:

    • A sturdy wheelbarrow or tarp
    • A spade or tree digger
    • Ropes or straps
    • A garden hose
    • Biodegradable burlap
    • A large tarp or plastic sheeting
    • Stakes (optional for staking the tree after transplanting)

    Step-by-Step Guide:

    1. Choose the Right Time: As mentioned before, early spring or fall are the best times to transplant, but for a larger tree, you’d want to be extra sure the weather isn’t extremely hot or cold.
    2. Inspect the Tree: Before digging, inspect the tree for any signs of disease or pests. This is to ensure you’re not transporting a diseased tree to a new location.
    3. Prepare the Tree (in advance): A few months before the actual move, cut a circle around the tree to sever longer roots. This will stimulate the growth of smaller roots that will assist the tree in its new location.
    4. Prepare the New Location: This step remains the same as with smaller trees. Ensure the soil is tilled, weeds removed, and pre-watered.
    5. Dig the Planting Hole: For a six-foot pine tree, the hole should be considerably larger. Ensure it’s 2-3 feet deep and twice as wide as the tree’s root ball.
    6. Dig Out the Pine Tree: Using a spade or tree digger, carefully dig around and under the tree, ensuring you capture as much of the root system as possible. The root ball of a six-foot tree will be considerably larger, so be prepared to use some strength!
    7. Lift the Tree with Care: Once the tree is loose, use ropes or straps to gently lift the tree from its current spot. Ensure the root ball remains intact. Place the tree on a large tarp or in a wheelbarrow for transport.
    8. Wrap the Roots: Use biodegradable burlap to wrap the root ball. This will help retain moisture and protect the roots during the move. If you have a long way to go, you might want to moisten the burlap slightly.
    9. Replant the Tree: At the new location, position the tree in the center of the hole. Make sure it’s standing straight. Fill the hole halfway with soil, then water thoroughly to remove any air pockets. Fill the rest of the hole, water again, and then mulch around the base of the tree.
    10. Stake the Tree (if necessary): If the tree seems unstable or if you’re in an area with strong winds, you might want to stake the tree for the first year until its roots establish more thoroughly.

    Remember, a six-foot pine tree is considerably heavier and more challenging to handle than seedlings or smaller trees. You might need assistance or even machinery, depending on the exact size and your physical capability. Always prioritize the health and safety of the tree and yourself.

    Pine Tree Transplanting Tips:

    • Timing is Key: Aim for early spring or fall. These moderate temperatures will help the tree acclimatize faster.
    • Watch for Shock Signs: Trees can be drama queens! Protect the roots, replant swiftly, and keep the soil moist. Offer shelter to seedlings if they’re too small to brave the world alone.

    Common Queries Answered:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you replant pine trees?

    Absolutely! Just be gentle with the roots.

    Do they have deep roots?

    While young trees might go 10 feet deep, larger ones can stretch to a whopping 50 feet.

    Is the White Pine transplant-friendly?

    Yes, it’s one of the most cooperative species!