Transplanting Maple Trees – How To Transplant A Red Maple Tree

Transplant Of A Maple Tree
(Image credit: ozgurcoskun)

Maple trees are beautiful additions to a backyard with their “helicopter” seeds and lobed, palmate leaves that turn bright colors in the autumn. There are over 100 species of maple trees, and red maple is one of the most popular. 

If you plan to transplant a red maple tree, you’ll want to do it properly to make sure the tree survives the move. Read on for information on moving a red maple as well as tips on how to care for a maple tree transplant.

Transplanting Maple Trees

It’s possible to grow a red maple tree from seed if you are patient, but it will be years before your tree is big enough to make a statement in the landscape. Transplanting maple trees produces results much more quickly. The key to moving a red maple successfully is to act while the tree is young. The bigger the tree, the more difficult it is. If a tree is truly large you’ll do better to call in a professional.

When Do You Transplant Red Maple?

When you transplant a red maple tree, you’ll want to do it at the appropriate time. Red maples are deciduous, which means they lose their leaves and go into dormancy in winter. You’ll want to start the process to transplant a red maple while it is dormant. The first step is to root prune the tree, a step you take several months before the actual move.

Moving a Red Maple Tree 

To root prune the red maple, draw a circle on the soil around the tree with a radius of about two feet (60 cm.). Use a sharp spade to cut deeply into the ground around the circle circumference. This snips off the maple’s long roots and encourages shorter, feeder roots to form. These shorter roots can travel with the tree to its new location. 

Prepare the new planting hole in an appropriate location for the transplant. Clear the area of weeds and vegetation. Make the new hole as deep as the root ball and three times as wide. A few months after root pruning, return to the tree and mark the north facing side of the trunk with a string or tape. Then enlarge the cut you made into a trench that goes around and under the root ball. 

Carefully lift the root ball from the ground onto a strong tarp. Transport the tree to the new location and place the root ball into the prepared planting hole, taking care to position the tree so that the north side still faces north. Fill in soil around the tree, press it down gently, and water it well.

Red Maple Tree Transplant

You’ll want to take good care of the maple tree once moved to avoid transplant stress. This involves providing it with ample water on a regular basis. Deep water at least twice a month when absent rainfall.

Do not fertilize the tree for the first several years after transplant. It will need to reconstruct its root system rather than grow foliage. Be sure to keep the area around the tree weed free to reduce competition for water and nutrients.

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.