Simple Tips For Transplanting Cedar Trees With Ease

Gloved hands holding a small cedar tree and root ball
(Image credit: Tunatura)

Cedar trees are beautiful ornamentals that can grow quite large, reaching 50 or 60 feet (15-18 m) tall. That makes a mature cedar tree transplant a challenge. Anyone thinking of transplanting cedar trees will need to know when and how to move a cedar tree. Read on for information.

Cedar Tree Transplant

There are several cedar species. Two of the most popular ornamental cedars are Deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara), one of the most graceful conifers, and Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica), that lives for some 150 years. The former grows to 50 feet (15 m) tall in cultivation, while the Atlas cedar grows to 60 feet (18 m) tall.

If one of these cedars are growing in your backyard and has grown too tall for its site, you may be wondering what to do. Can you move a cedar tree?

How hard it is to transplant a cedar depends on a number of factors including the age of the tree and the species. It is far easier to transplant a younger tree than an older one. And transplanting a Deodar is less challenging than transplanting an Atlas cedar.

When to Transplant Cedar Trees?

When is the best time to transplant cedar trees? Regardless of the age or species, all cedar trees do best transplanted in spring or fall. The optimal time to transplant any tree is when it is dormant, but at least six to eight weeks before an anticipated stress period such as summer heat or freezing winter temperatures.

Since cedars are evergreens, they continue to lose water through their leaves all winter long. They have a better chance of surviving if they are transplanted well before winter to allow them to produce new roots before the ground freezes. Most evergreens are best transplanted in spring.

How to Transplant a Large Cedar?

Transplanting any large tree is a challenging matter, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The best plan is to start early and understand the steps before you begin.

To give your cedar the best chance of surviving the move, plan ahead. Root-pruning is the process that gives your tree a fighting chance during a transplant, and you’ll need to plan at least a season ahead for this. Several months before the transplant date, dig a trench around the root ball with a sharp spade, making the root ball as large as possible.

As the day to transplant approaches, water the soil around the root zone well. A few days later, dig carefully into the trench, keeping the root ball intact. Wrap the root ball in burlap and tie it up with twine for the move.

Dig the planting hole before transplant day. Make it as deep as the root ball and at least two times as wide. Add a layer of soil so that the tree will stand in the hole with the top slightly above ground level.

Stand the tree up in the transplant hole. Then remove the twine off the root ball and remove the burlap as far down as possible. Backfill under and around the root ball to get rid of any air pockets. Slowly add more earth and water until the hole is full.

Don’t amend the soil with anything, even compost or peat moss. Rather, use the removed earth for backfill. Do not fertilize the plant for at least one year but keep the root ball moist to encourage root growth.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.