How to Transplant an Oak Tree | Follow These 9 Simple Steps

The mighty oaks grow up to 100 feet tall and can live more than 200 years. That’s why many homeowners wonder if it’s possible to transplant them. That’s why today, we bring you how to transplant an oak tree.

Oak is native to North America, and the various species do well in the plant’s hardy zones.

However, once the planting is done, it is not ideal for moving them. Most oak seedlings quickly develop the main taproot that goes deep into the soil. Therefore, it is always important to know what type of soil you have on your property.

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As the oak matures, lateral roots spread out on all sides up to 90 feet long. Its extensive root system makes transplanting large trees very difficult. If you want to transplant live oak seedlings, it is best to act while the tree is still young.

Although it is not an easy process, the optimal time to transplant an oak tree is between mid-December and late March when the tree is dormant. Trees as young as two or three years old and, if feasible, no taller than three feet are best for transplants.

Although red and pin oaks are the simplest to transplant, the procedure will be as pleasant as possible if you follow the instructions below.

How to Transplant an Oak Tree

Here are the steps to transplant an oak tree;

  • Choose a tree
  • Prepare the transplant site
  • Work the ground
  • Dig the tree
  • Move and wrap the tree
  • Plant the tree
  • Watering and fertilizing the tree
  • Support the tree
  • Prune and protect against gnawing animals

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Let’s dive into detail of each step;

Step-1:  Choose a tree.

Check that the tree you select is healthy and shows no signs of damage.

Step 2 – Prepare the transplant site.

Time is of the essence when transplanting an oak tree.

Once you have removed the tree from the ground, you need to transplant it, so have the transplant site prepared before digging. A good location is always important.

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To do this, choose a size that fits the size of an adult oak tree. The size will depend on the type of oak, so do your homework on the specific type.

Always feet in diameter feet of the tree

Planting an oak tree near a street, sidewalk or foundation is a bad idea. This can damage the roots and even the sidewalk or foundation.

The roots of oak trees are large and expand beyond their width.

Once you are ready to dig, make sure the hole is a few inches wider than the tree’s root ball.

Step 3 – Work the ground.

Break up the soil in the hole and add compost and garden sand to improve its quality and drainage.

Watch for fungus or pests in the soil that could damage your tree’s newly transplanted roots.

Step 4 – Dig the tree.

  • Dig a trench around the tree about sixty centimeters deep.
  • Widen the trench slowly in the direction of the tree until you see the presence of roots. If the tree is too young, the roots cannot reach too far.
  • It would help calculate the taproot’s depth (the root ball’s central root) based on the tree’s height.
  • Taproots are almost as long as the tree. It is important not to break the main root when digging the tree.
  • If the taproot is damaged, your oak may not survive. Bring the trench to the necessary depth and then begin digging toward the tree.
  • At this point, ideally, avoid digging into the root ball.
  • Continue digging until you notice that the tree begins to lean. Then gently move the tree in your home to determine if it can be easily removed. Do not tug or jerk.

However, if it doesn’t look like the tree is loose enough to remove, you need to continue digging very carefully. When you put a shovel underneath, and it goes in smoothly, it is ready to stir. 

Step 5 – Move and wrap the tree.

  • Pull the tree out of the trench a few inches. Try to collect as much of the root ball as possible and wrap the tree in light burlap into a ball.
  • Tie the burlap around the tree’s trunk, remove the tree from its hole completely, and be very careful with the leaves. 
  • It is advisable to have the yard ready to move the tree to its new location as soon as possible.
  • If you do not have burlap, you can use a tarp or plastic sheeting to wrap the tree’s roots. However, be sure to remove this material before planting.

Step 6 – Plant the tree.

  • Place the tree in the hole you have prepared.
  • Ensure the root ball is slightly below ground level and that the soil line is at the same point on the trunk as it was in the original location. It is necessary to check both inches deep.
  • Remember that soil settlement will occur over the next few weeks, so you may want to plant your tree lower than it seems necessary.
  • Build an earthen platform under the tree and backfill the rest of the hole with the soil you have worked.
  • Tamp it firmly but carefully around the root ball. The burlap can be left on the root ball.
  • The burlap will encourage root growth by keeping the root ball moist and then slowly decompose naturally.

Step 7: Watering and fertilizing the tree

  • Immediately after planting, soak the soil with water. In the following months, water the tree carefully once to twice a week. A thorough soaking is much better than watering with a sprinkler.
  • Remove all fittings from the end of your hose. Remove all fittings from the end of the hose, connect it to a slow stream and leave the mouth open on the tree for 25 minutes or so.
  • Spread a layer of compost over the newly disturbed soil and apply it in the first few inches with a trowel or garden claw. 
  • Be sure not to dig deep enough to disturb the roots.

Step 8 – Support the tree.

  • There will be no growth on the tree or root system until spring, so the tree will need to be supported in high winds.
  • Place two strong bamboo stakes on each side of the trunk, with the bottom six inches extending firmly into the ground.
  • Use landscape tape to secure the tree to the stakes. If you use twine or string instead of tape, the tree cannot move at all and is much more likely to develop a shallow root system.
  • Landscape tape is flexible and allows the tree to move a considerable amount.

Step 9: Prune and protect against gnawing animals.

  • Next, use sharp pruning shears to prune one to three lower branches.
  • Transplanting is shocking to the tree system, and if you prune a few lower branches, the tree doesn’t need to exert as much energy to survive.
  • Wrap the tree trunk to avoid pests and other types of animals that frequent the tree. There are several types of tree guards to consider.
  • You won’t know if the transplant was successful or not until spring. Please keep checking the tree to ensure the fittings are still holding it properly and that nothing is causing any damage.
  • If your oak is older or larger than recommended, you should begin pruning the Taproots starting in the spring before transplanting live oak saplings. Transplant a tree could be difficult sometimes.
  • Larger trees have large, complicated root systems that can be very difficult to move.
  • In the spring, take a sharp spade, dig around the outer roots, and carefully cut them off.
  • As spring and summer progress, continue to prune the roots, taking off only a few inches at a time to gradually move the root system closer and closer to the trunk.
  • This will make them more manageable for winter transplanting.
  • The percent chance that your tree will survive is high, as long as you follow each of our tips. 

Some more facts!

A 24-inch caliper oak tree can safely live to be 100 years old, according to Morton Arboretum studies2.

Survivability rates can comfortably reach 95% with careful preparation by the design team, including the owner, landscape planner, arborist, maintenance crews, and, most notably, the tree-moving firm.

If cranes are needed, or the tree is being transported off-site, add another 20% to 30%.

Following a preliminary inspection of the tree after the wrapping, Cox estimated that it had a 97 to 98 percent chance of surviving.

How to Transplant an Oak Tree: FAQs

How big can an oak tree be transplanted?

5 to 8 feet tall

Oaks are trees that can be successfully transplanted when they reach a maximum height of 5 to 8 feet. During this time, the main root can be cut without causing serious damage to the tree.

When can you transplant an oak tree?

A tree can be transplanted during the dormant season in spring or autumn. In fall, transplant before the first frost. In spring, plan to relocate before the tree begins to bud.

Can oak trees be grown from cuttings?

You can grow an oak tree from cuttings. Propagating plants from cuttings or cloning is one way to create more life in your home and garden.


Oak has a reputation for being a difficult tree to transplant. This may be true if you are looking for instant gratification and try to plant an oak that is too large or a potted oak that is too old.

Oaks develop massive root systems that grow rapidly when young; it’s one reason why oak trees are very good at protecting watersheds and topsoil.

Transplant a small tree is not such an easy task, so you can call in a professional if you don’t have the expertise. This is to avoid making a disaster and wasting time and trees. Baby oak trees are usually the best option.

It is important that before transplanting, you know the root protection zone of your oak tree and do not disturb it refers to an area under the tree that is 50% wider than the canopy. Any major change in the root protection zone of a mature oak can kill it.

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