I recently had a client email me asking for advice about how to move a relatively established tree. In moving any plant, there is always a risk that the plant won't survive. So of course, the best advice is to plan ahead, before you plant.
|Flowers of the beautiful Halleria lucida tree|
Do some research. Find out how big, how wide, how messy, and how deep the roots will grow when fully grown. The ideal is that you would never have to move a tree once it's planted...BUT that's not always possible - circumstances change, and it's not always possible to predict the future with any kind certainty.
Moving plants is always a matter of minimising risk - there are no foolproof ways of doing it. And every situation, species, and tree are different...sometimes, I think there is even an element of intuition involved.
But there are some things that you can do to reduce the risk of losing a plant that has been transplanted. Here is my reply to her, giving advice about how to move a particularly delicate tree:
- Dig the root ball out as deep as possible, and then slightly deeper still (basically a trench all around the tree - leaving as much soil around the roots as is possible that you can still physically move),
- Trim off about a third of the leaves.
- Leave the plant in place for about 2 weeks to let it get used to having less roots, but all the time giving the roots a little bit of extra water on the root ball as compensation.
- In about 2 weeks time, get your hole ready, measured and dug,
- Water the plant and the new location thoroughly.
- Trim off at least half the remaining leaves,
- Move the plant as quickly and carefully as possible keeping as much soil around the roots as possible.
- Try to position it in the same orientation that it was in its previous position.
- Firm the soil down around the roots and try to wash soil down into any gaps that may have inadvertently formed, (I'm not a big fan of using fertilizers when planting unless your soil is terrible, but even then I would rather use copious compost instead)
- And then leave it for a week or two...it doesn't have much in the way of roots so don't over water.
- Then wait - it may lose a few more leaves, or even a branch - losing leaves is not a big deal, but keep an eye on the stem. If you notice any rot, then you can trim off the dying branch/trunk and paint the cut section with a tree sealant.
- Then wait some more...sometimes I have given up hope on plants that look dead for a year or two, and then suddenly they come back...
Generally speaking, the smaller the tree the easier it will be to move. Also, if it was originally planted from a bag as opposed to self seeded, it will transplant easier. I've also found that trees transplant a lot easier in Autumn.
Weigh up the costs of losing a tree as opposed to keeping it in a place where it's not ideal - Is it really worth it?