Transplanting Trees From the Woods

— Written By

Can trees be transplanted from the woods?

Yes, if a homeowner has permission from the landowner and is willing to take the necessary steps, transplanting trees from a wooded lot is an economical way to establish new trees in a home landscape. 

What types of trees can be transplanted?

Trees best suited for transplanting from the woods usually grow along the woods edge. Deciduous trees that transplant well include green ash, elm, honeylocust, and poplar. When choosing a tree to transplant, make sure to select a healthy, evenly branched tree from the edge of the woods that has been exposed to wind and sun. 

What steps should be taken before moving the tree?

First tag the tree. Next, ideally in the late winter or early spring, lightly root-prune the tree. Sever half the roots by forcing a sharp spade into the soil (8 to 10 inches deep) as far from the trunk, leaving a shovel width of untouched soil between cuts. Incorporate as much of the root zone as can practically be moved. In the fall, repeat the process, severing the other half of the roots. The tree can be transplanted the following spring. 

What other steps can be taken to ensure success?

Position the tree so that all sides of the trunk are facing the same direction in the new landscape as in the woods (north side of the trunk still faces north, etc.). Also try to mimic the amount of sun or shade the tree was previously receiving. Loosely stake newly transplanted trees. If a plant seems too large to move, contact a local landscaper. Keep the tree well watered, especially during drought for the next several years, or until re-established.

This alternate method of staking holds the root ball down without using above ground materials that can be unsightly and trip hazards. These stakes breakdown naturally, and do not need to be removed. Photo by Katy Shook

This alternate method of staking holds the root ball down without using above ground materials that can be unsightly and trip hazards. These stakes breakdown naturally, and do not need to be removed. Photo by Katy Shook

If you're a North Carolina resident with a question about a topic on this site, your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office can help.

Contact your local county center.

Written By

Katy Shook, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionKaty ShookArea Agent, Agriculture - Consumer Horticulture Call Katy E-mail Katy N.C. Cooperative Extension, Chowan County Center

Contributing Author

Lucy Bradley, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDr. Lucy BradleyUrban Horticulture Professor and Extension Specialist Call Dr. Lucy E-mail Dr. Lucy Horticultural Science
NC State Extension, NC State University
Posted on Nov 14, 2020
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close
Scannable QR Code to Access Electronic Version