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A large tree inside of a specialized scoop on the back of a truck being lowered into a hole in a field of grass for the purpose of tree transplanting in Lethbridge, AB.

Tree Transplanting 101: The Definitive Guide

Your Guide to Transplanting Trees

Over time, your landscaping needs may change. You may decide you want to put in a deck or add a shed, or even extend part of an existing structure. But when there’s a tree in your way, you don’t necessarily have to cut it down. Trees are an investment in terms of both time and money, and you may not want to plant a new one from a sapling just to have to wait years for it to grow all over again.

While professional Lethbridge tree service is recommended for plants that have a trunk diameter greater than 2-inches, you may be able to attempt moving a very small tree on your own. In this guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know about tree transplanting in Lethbridge, including:

  • Reasons you may wish to do tree transplanting
  • Important considerations to make prior to doing tree transplanting in Lethbridge
  • The tree transplanting process
  • Caring for your newly transplanted tree

A large tree being moved inside of a specialized scoop on the back of a large commercial work truck.

Reasons To Consider Tree Transplanting

Trees are a lovely addition to any yard. Whether you live out in the country or in the suburbs, these leafy giants can provide shade and privacy. However, these plants tend to grow more slowly—or occasionally, more quickly—than most structures and landscaping around them.

Though perhaps planted in a once practical place, you may find yourself needing to do tree transplanting in Lethbridge to improve your yard’s functionality and boost the benefits your plants provide. Some common reasons for transplanting include:

  • Root intrusion in plumbing infrastructure: If you live in an older home, root intrusion in your water and sewer lines can be a concern. If you’ve had to pay a pretty penny for sewer line repair due to a root intrusion, it may be a good idea to consider moving it further away from your lines.
  • Canopy intrusion on power lines: Likewise, if you’re constantly pruning your tree to avoid its canopy coming in contact with power lines, it’s probably worth considering moving it.
  • Inconvenient placement: Tree planting is not always done by experienced arborists. If your home’s previous owners placed a showy maple too close to your home’s side or it’s simply not getting enough sun, you may want to move it.

Factors To Consider Before Tree Transplanting in Lethbridge

It probably comes as no surprise that trees don’t much like to be moved once they’ve been established. Plants are similar to people in this sense—once you’ve found a place that makes you settled and happy, and have adapted to this location, you’re not likely to want to move, are you?

Tree transplanting in Lethbridge and other locations can sometimes cause a phenomenon called ‘transplant shock,’ which results in them losing their leaves, branches dying and even the entire plant failing to survive a move. You can reduce the likelihood of transplant shock from occurring by making your tree’s transition as smooth as possible. Some factors that will dictate the right conditions for your plant include:

Time Of Year

In general, it is best to do tree transplanting in Lethbridge when your plant has gone dormant. Dormancy refers to times of the year when it is not actively drawing on nutrients and moisture in the soil to create energy to grow. Changes in temperature and hours of daylight trigger plants to enter dormancy, making spring and fall ideal times for tree transplanting in Lethbridge.

If you’re transplanting during fall, wait for its leaves to begin dropping. The longer you can hold off moving it, the better, but you’ll want to make sure you do so before the ground freezes. Not only is digging up frozen ground more work than it’s worth, but a cold ground temperature can damage it.


The best time of year and best practices for tree transplanting in Lethbridge is also determined by your plant’s species. Certain coniferous trees, such as evergreen trees, tend to respond best to transplanting during fall. Deciduous trees and fruit-bearing plants are best transplanted in early spring. That being said, it’s a good idea to look into guidance for your exact species.

Some species are also more difficult to transplant than others due to their root system. Pecan and walnut varieties have systems that extend down vertically to significant depths, making keeping these intact during a move extremely difficult. Broadly speaking, deciduous plants tend to have a higher survival rate than coniferous plants.


Logistically speaking, a larger tree will be more difficult to transplant than smaller plants simply due to the root ball’s size and the plant’s weight. However, both mature and young trees can survive tree transplanting in Lethbridge. Mature plants tend to need a little more care and attention following a transplant than a younger plant would need.

Our team at Legacy Trees can take care of tree transplanting for large, mature trees. In the images below, you can see how we used our specialized trucking equipment to pick up a tree that was ready for transplanting. This equipment allows us to pick up and transplant very large, heavy and mature trees with ease and avoid damaging the plant.

A large tree inside of a specialized scoop on the back of a large commercial work truck during a tree transplanting project.


Root growth adapts to soil type in order to optimally absorb the water and nutrients that the tree needs. Trees planted in sandy soils extend their roots further both vertically and laterally. This makes it difficult to dig out all of its roots.

If your yard’s soil is primarily clay, you should have a much easier time with tree transplanting in Lethbridge. It’s more difficult for roots to penetrate clay, resulting in less spread.

The Tree Transplanting Process

Once you’ve done your research on your species and have picked a good time to start the tree transplanting process, you’re ready to collect the tools and supplies required for this job. These tools include:

  • Shovel
  • Flat spade
  • Pruning shears
  • Burlap
  • Twine
  • Mulch

Most tree transplanting in Lethbridge takes place in two stages: a root pruning stage and a moving stage. Pruning should be done a good 6 months before you actually move your plant. Thus, if you plan to transplant in spring, prune in fall, and vice versa. For best results, both pruning and transplanting should be done during dormancy.

Part 1: Tree Pruning

Tree transplanting isn’t as simple as digging up your plant and moving it. The healthier your plant’s roots are, the more likely it is to survive. Root systems on plants are much larger than you might think from your vantage point above ground. It’s not uncommon for their lateral roots to extend a horizontal distance of twice the size of their canopy.

You may also not know that there are different types of roots that perform different functions. Thick, woody roots store nutrients and moisture, as well as act as an anchor. Branching off from these woody roots are thinner, more flexible and scraggly roots known as ‘feeder’ roots. These are responsible for collecting moisture and nutrients for the plant.

It’s impossible to remove all of your plant’s roots during tree transplanting—even if your plant is still very small. That being said, you’ll want to remove as much of its system as is feasibly possible. There are minimum requirements that you must follow to determine how many of the roots you should take along with you during tree transplanting in Lethbridge. Generally, you’ll want a 12-inch diameter of roots for every inch of trunk diameter.

Thus, if your plant’s trunk is 1.5-inches in diameter, you’ll need to transplant it with an 18-inch (12 + 6) or greater root ball. Your plant’s root ball is the area where its roots are most heavily concentrated. If a mature plant’s root ball is larger than the calculated diameter, keep its root ball intact and take the whole thing.

Once you’ve calculated the diameter needed, it’s time to prune back the rest. As long as you follow these steps, you can’t go wrong:

  1. Water the plant one day before pruning: Moist conditions reduce stress on your plants. You’ll see the importance of watering throughout the process of tree transplanting in Lethbridge.
  2. Mark out your boundaries for pruning: Using the above example, if you determined that your root ball must be 18-inches in diameter, measure 9 inches out from the trunk in all directions.
  3. Get digging: Using your flat spade, begin digging a trench, cutting through the roots as you go. All soil removed will have to be replaced, so try to remove all the topsoil first, placing it in a single pile as you go, and creating a second pile of soil once you reach the subsoil. Topsoil is generally looser and darker in color than subsoil.
  4. Replace soil: Once you’ve reached a depth of about 24 inches, you can stop digging. Fill in your trench with the subsoil first and the topsoil last. Water the soil thoroughly and continue caring for your plant as you normally would.

Part 2: Tree Transplanting

Around half a year after pruning, you should be able to transplant it. When you remove the soil, you’ll be able to see that your plant has been hard at work producing new feeder roots along the cuts you made a few months earlier. These new feeder roots will help your plant get all the nutrients and moisture it needs in its new home.

Follow these steps for tree transplanting in Lethbridge:

  1. Water your tree the day before moving: Like in the pruning stage, you’ll want to give your plant ample moisture before its big move.
  2. Dig a hole in your tree’s new location: After watering, prepare a hole for the following day. This hole should be at least twice as wide as the root ball. So, if your root ball is 18 inches in diameter, you’ll need a hole that is at least 36 (18 x 2) inches in diameter. You don’t want your trunk to be buried beneath the topsoil, so don’t dig this hole any deeper than 24 inches.
  3. Water its new home: Make sure the soil is nice and wet so that your tree feels right at home as soon as it moves in.
  4. Dig out your tree: The key here is to avoid damaging those new feeder roots that you waited so patiently to form. Instead of measuring 9 inches away from its trunk in all directions as you did while pruning, measure about 15 inches away on all sides. Those extra six inches give you a little leeway. Once you reach 24 inches in depth, dig underneath the roots to fully separate the plant from the ground.
  5. Wrap burlap around the base: As you cut around the bottom of the root ball, slide a sheet of burlap underneath. Tie the burlap together around the trunk with twine. If you’re planning to place it in its new location immediately, you can also use a tarp for this.
  6. Move your tree: Picking up your tree from the bottom of the burlap (never lift it by the trunk), carry it over to its new home. Remove the burlap and replace the subsoil and topsoil as you did after pruning. Because the hole was previously empty, you’ll have some extra soil. Fill the loose soil up to the level it was at in its old location and water immediately. The soil level will likely drop as air pockets are eliminated by water. Add more soil to get the level back up to its original height. Finally, finish with a layer of mulch to prevent water from being too readily absorbed by the air.


The final part of most tree transplanting in Lethbridge involves tree care. Keep the roots moist, but be careful not to keep the soil continuously soggy or the roots could rot. Give your tree a good watering every couple of weeks, letting it dry out some before the subsequent watering.

If your plant experiences transplant shock, don’t worry. Continue providing it with the moisture it needs and avoid fertilizing it. Transplant shock should subside in a single season, and it may take a few years for your plant to produce fruit and flowers again. All it needs is a little time.

For Large Tree Transplanting In Lethbridge And Southern Alberta, Contact The Pros At Legacy Trees

Tree transplanting in Lethbridge is doable for homeowners so long as your plant’s trunk is under 2 inches in diameter. For larger trees, contact our team of professionals at Legacy Trees. Whether you need tree moving, tree supply, tree planting or tree removal, our family-owned business has the knowledge and expertise to provide tree services without damaging or placing stress on the plant.

To find out more about how we can help you with your transplanting needs, give us a call today at 403-715-8711.