Removing and replanting an oak tree *


I was “gifted” an oak tree that I only realized this summer, possibly from a little creature. It is already about 5 ft, quietly coming out from my other bushes in the south-facing front yard, perhaps 10 feet from the house (Markham, Ontario). I know it will become a very big tree; the current location may not be appropriate, too close to the house. I feel ashamed to chop it off. Wonder if there are ways to remove it safely (not to damage any bushes around it) and replant it in my backyard. Appreciate your help. Thank you.



That looks pretty tightly settled in. Oak trees, unlike many other trees have a long tap root so are not easy to transplant. The tap root can reach 45 cm (18 in) by the end of its first year and by the 3-5th yr ¬†reach up to 70 cm (28 in). It will also have lateral roots that can reach 50 – 60 cm (18 – 24 in) that will likely have meshed with the roots of your other shrubs since it is growing within them. If you want to transplant it, you will have decide whether to remove it by digging a narrow hole whereby damaging less of your established shrubs but cutting off more of the sapling’s lateral roots or digging a wider hole to save more of the sapling’s roots (see note below on root pruning that will help alleviate this.). Either way you may end up not getting the whole tap root and because of the surrounding shrubs you will not be able to dig as wide a root ball as recommended.

However, if the surrounding shrubs are hardy enough to withstand losing some of their roots you could try digging it up. (I also hate to give up on a plant.) I have included a link to one of our guides for tree planting. Although it refers purchasing a new tree, the advice on planting applies. I have also included a link to an Ontario publication about transplanting salvaged plants. Note especially pages 7 – 8 that describe how to remove and replant salvaged stock. It also mentions the tap roots of oaks and hickories. Note that although you can transplant in early autumn, spring is the best time to transplant. For trees taller than 1.5 m (5 ft) they suggest root pruning in a circle around the tree, 6 months prior to transplanting to encourage formation of fine roots in a root ball so late September or October would be a good time to start.

Keep in mind that your sapling will be under more shock than purchased container grown trees as it will surely have lost some of its roots, so will require more diligent care and you may still lose it. Good luck on your project if you decide to go ahead and move it!