When Is the Best Time to Transplant Trees? All Answers Here

November 5, 2018

Do you have trees that need relocating? Choosing the best time to transplant trees can help make sure they’ll thrive in their new location.

Trees have countless benefits for people and the Earth as a whole. They help make the clean air we need to breathe, combat global warming, filter water when it reaches the ground, and much more. If a tree isn’t working in its current location, there’s a good reason to want to relocate it, rather than cutting it down.

However, transplanting trees is easier said than done. If you know when to transplant trees, you’ll have much more success with keeping healthy trees growing. Keep reading to learn the best time to transplant trees and much more!

The Best Time to Transplant Trees by Season

Let’s start with a quick overview of what transplanting trees looks like in each of the four seasons. However, keep in mind that seasonal weather can vary year by year. Always take the current weather into account when transplanting trees.


Although it depends on the type of tree, many experts agree that spring is overall the best time for transplanting. Most trees are still dormant then.

Transplanting trees when they’re dormant is ideal because they won’t have leaves or fruit. Trees lose a lot of water through their leaves, so if the tree is dormant during transportation, it’s less likely to lose too much water and fail to thrive as a result.

However, early spring can still be frigid sometimes, so you will want to wait until the ground has thawed and the snow has stopped before transplanting.


The height of summer is one of the worst times to transport a tree — if you live somewhere with hot summers. The tree will have all its leaves out, and the heat depletes its water too quickly. Luckily, in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, the summers don’t get too hot, so you’ll have better luck.

If your tree loses too much water, it will go into shock after you transplant it, which can lead to death. During a cool, wet summer, this outcome isn’t likely. Although it’s still best to transplant when the tree is dormant, many hardy species can survive a summer transplant.


The mild weather of early fall can often work well for transplanting. For example, transplanting hardy evergreen trees in the fall is a great choice.

However, make sure you don’t wait until winter has almost arrived to move your trees. You want to give the tree some time to adjust while the weather is still mild, before the temperature drops to freezing or below.


For the most part, it’s best to avoid moving trees in winter. The ground is frozen and it’s simply too cold for a successful transplant. In the rare case of a mild winter, though, you might be able to do a transplant at the end of the season, if the ground has thawed but the tree is still dormant.

How to Successfully Transplant Trees

Of course, there’s more to transplanting than just picking the right time of year. Here’s a step-by-step guide to successfully moving your trees.

1. Prune Roots

If you can, start the process a few months before the actual relocation begins, by pruning the roots. This will help the tree start growing fresh feeder roots that will take in more water and nutrients, so it can survive when it’s moved.

2. Pick a Great Location

No matter how carefully you transplant your tree, it won’t do well unless you move it to a good location. Make sure to choose wisely before you start the process.

Research the kind of tree you have to learn where it’s most likely to do well. Make sure to give it the right amount of space, and don’t plant it where it will get too much or too little water.

To be safe, you should plant trees with similar needs near each other. That will make them much easier to care for.

Finally, make sure the tree isn’t somewhere where it will eventually disrupt power lines, sidewalks, and other structures as it grows.

3. Transplant Sturdy Species

Some types of trees do better with a transplant than others. For the best success, you should only move those trees that are sturdy enough to survive. If you’re going to move a more delicate species, try to practice on a hardier one first so you can get your transplanting technique down.

4. Know Your Roots

Dig a little bit around the plant to get an idea of how big the root system is. Then, you can start digging the hole that you’ll move the tree into. Make the hole about twice as wide as the ball of roots, but not quite twice as deep.

It’s a good idea to start the new hole before you start digging to estimate the root size. Don’t start digging around the tree until you’re almost ready to move it. The less time you leave the roots exposed for, the more likely it is that the tree will survive.

5. Water the Soil

A day before you move the tree, water the soil. It’ll be easier to dig the tree out of the moist soil, and the roots will stay together better.

6. Move the Tree

Now, you can completely dig out the roots of the tree. Dig all the way around it, and try to keep as much of the root ball intact as you can. Place burlap under the tree and use the burlap to lift it out of the ground.

Use twine to fasten the burlap around the root ball, and carry the tree to its new home. Fill the hole with soil as needed, water it, and add mulch on top.

Need Help Managing Your Trees?

Knowing the best time to transplant trees can help you place your trees where they’ll thrive best. Still, everyone needs a little help with managing their trees from time to time.

If you’re struggling with a tree-related issue, or you’re not ready to get down and dirty with a shovel to transplant trees yourself, we can help. Find out what we can do here.