Tips to Avoid Trees and Transplant Shock


Tips to Avoid Trees and Transplant Shock: A Comprehensive Guide

Trees and Transplant Shock

When it comes to transplanting trees, the well-being and survival of the tree should be the utmost priority. Trees are vital to our environment, providing shade, oxygen, and beauty. However, transplant shock is a common problem that many trees face during the transplantation process. In this article, we will discuss effective tips and strategies to avoid trees and transplant shock, ensuring the successful transplantation of your precious trees.

Tips to Avoid Trees and Transplant Shock

Transplant shock occurs when a tree experiences stress and physiological changes due to the disruption of its root system during transplantation. This shock can result in wilting, leaf loss, stunted growth, and even the death of the tree if not properly addressed. Here are some essential tips to help you prevent transplant shock and ensure the health and vitality of your trees:

1. Plan Ahead and Choose the Right Time for Transplantation

Timing is crucial when it comes to transplanting trees. It’s important to plan ahead and choose the right time for transplantation. The best time to transplant trees is during the dormant season when the tree is not actively growing. This period typically falls in late fall or early spring. Transplanting during the dormant season allows the tree to focus its energy on root establishment rather than foliage growth.

2. Prepare the New Planting Site

Before transplanting a tree, it’s essential to prepare the new planting site. Start by selecting a location that provides suitable soil conditions and adequate sunlight for the specific tree species. Remove any weeds or grass from the area and dig a hole that is wider and slightly shallower than the tree’s root ball. This will provide enough space for the roots to spread out and establish themselves.

3. Water the Tree Properly

Proper watering is critical both before and after the transplantation process. Before digging up the tree, ensure that it is well hydrated by watering it thoroughly a day or two in advance. After transplanting, water the tree deeply and regularly. Avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot. Instead, aim for slow and deep watering, allowing the soil to dry slightly between watering sessions.

4. Handle the Roots with Care

During the transplantation process, it’s important to handle the tree’s roots with care. Minimize root damage by digging a wide and shallow root ball. Use sharp and clean tools to avoid tearing or crushing the roots. Once the tree is uprooted, keep the roots protected from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

5. Prune Wisely

Pruning plays a significant role in reducing transplant shock. Remove any dead or damaged branches before transplanting to reduce stress on the tree. However, avoid excessive pruning, as it can further weaken the tree and delay its recovery. Prune only the necessary branches to maintain a balanced canopy.

6. Provide Adequate Nutrients

Transplanted trees often require an extra boost of nutrients to aid in their recovery. Apply a slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for trees to provide the necessary nutrients gradually. Avoid over-fertilization, as it can burn the tree’s roots. Consult with a local arborist or horticulturist for guidance on the appropriate fertilizer and application rates.

7. Table sugar helps protect newly transplanted trees from shock

The Facts: Researchers from the University of Washington report that 25 percent to 50 percent of newly transplanted trees die from a lack of water. Trees have extensive root systems, and much of the water and nutrient absorption takes place beyond the drip line. Even when nurseries manipulate roots to encourage thicker growth closer to a tree’s crown before harvest, as little as 5 percent of the tree’s root system may make it from the planting bed to the container or rootball in which it is sold.

The tree is unable to take up the amount of water and nutrients necessary for survival, creating a period of water stress known as transplant shock. Roots take years to fully support the crown after the tree is dug up, leaving it vulnerable to pests, diseases, and other drought-related problems.

Molecularly Speaking

A tree’s roots are its biggest sugar storehouse. When a tree loses 95 percent of its roots during harvest, it must photosynthesize and produce sugar to repair the damage. Photosynthesis requires water, but without sufficient roots for uptake, the tree is left in dire straits.

Read More: Most Colorful Conifers you Can Grow

One Lump, Please

Grocery store sugar is the same type that plants produce through photosynthesis, according to Dr. Glynn Percival of Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory, in Reading, England. Percival experimented using mixtures of “plain old white sugar” and water, which he applied as a root drench following severe root pruning. The rate of fresh root growth increased on some, but not all, species.

Since the sugar is being added from an outside source, root growth can take place without the tree expending its own energy. More roots mean more water and nutrient uptake, less stress, and a quicker recovery. Researchers discovered that small concentrations of sugar were beneficial to birch trees but harmful to oaks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQ 1: How long does transplant shock last?

Transplant shock can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on various factors such as the tree species, its size, and the care provided during and after transplantation. By following proper care techniques, you can help minimize the duration and severity of transplant shock.

FAQ 2: Can all tree species be transplanted?

While most tree species can be transplanted, some have more extensive root systems and may be more challenging to transplant successfully. It’s best to consult with a professional arborist or nursery to determine the transplant viability of specific tree species.

FAQ 3: Should I stake the tree after transplantation?

Staking is generally recommended for tall or top-heavy trees to provide stability during the initial establishment period. However, it’s crucial to use stakes and ties correctly, avoiding excessive tension that may damage the tree’s bark or restrict natural movement. Regularly check the staking system and remove it as soon as the tree establishes sufficient root anchorage.

FAQ 4: What are the signs of transplant shock?

Signs of transplant shock include wilting, leaf discoloration, leaf drop, stunted growth, and overall decline in the tree’s health. These symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the shock and the tree species. Promptly addressing transplant shock can increase the chances of successful tree recovery.

FAQ 5: Can I transplant a large, mature tree?

Transplanting large, mature trees is possible but requires careful planning, equipment, and professional expertise. It’s essential to consult with a specialized tree transplanting service to assess the tree’s health, root structure, and feasibility of successful transplantation.

FAQ 6: What should I do if my transplanted tree is not thriving?

If your transplanted tree is not thriving, it’s crucial to assess the environmental conditions, watering practices, and overall care provided. Ensure the tree is receiving adequate sunlight, water, and nutrients. If necessary, seek guidance from a certified arborist to diagnose and address any underlying issues.


Transplanting trees can be a challenging task, but by following the right techniques and care practices, you can minimize transplant shock and increase the chances of successful tree establishment. Remember to plan ahead, handle the tree’s roots with care, provide adequate watering and nutrients, and consult with professionals when necessary.

By implementing these tips, you can ensure the long-term health and vitality of your transplanted trees, contributing to a greener and more beautiful environment.

Read More: Sugar Water for Transplant Shock

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