'Fall transplanting' vs. 'Spring transplanting'

terrene(5b MA)October 4, 2010

The "planting" thread was interesting, but I'm not sure the info there applies to digging out and transplanting trees.

I have some 4-5 year old trees and shrubs that need to be transplanted to various locations in the yard. Plants include Cornus alternifolia, Cornus racemosa, Corylus americana, a Washington hawthorne, and others. They are becoming pretty overcrowded. I will attempt to include as much roots/soil as possible during trasplanting.

What do you recommend for fall transplanting? It has cooled down some and we are getting a lot more rain now. Transplant now? Do I wait until the leaves drop? Or is it preferred to wait until Spring?

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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

In your zone it's recommended to transplant during spring before any growth has commenced. Here in my zone 5b that's the first and second week of March.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 10:07AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

In 5b, I'd transplant just after dormancy in fall. If I missed that, I'd wait until spring.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 10:18AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Unofficially, the less cold hardy a plant is in my zone the more i worry about planting it, or transplantinf it in fall.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 11:02AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Thanks for the replies. I think that most of these are pretty hardy. When does dormancy actually start? When the leaves have fallen off?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 12:53PM
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I've moved things in the fall many times with good results, certainly not any worse of a success rate than waiting until spring.

Personally, I wouldn't have any qualms about moving anything deciduous this time of year, but I wouldn't move any evergreens until March.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 2:08PM
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I have full intentions of moving a bunch of oaks and pecans, bareroot, from the nursery beds to permanent locations in the pastures, this fall, after they drop their leaves - if it ever rains enough to get a shovel in the ground - and most of these will be 6-10 ft tall. If they come out with 16-20 inches of taproot and whatever lateral roots hang on, they'll be doing good. I'm counting on them having the wetter-than-summer winter and spring period to hopefully get some root growth going, 'cause there's no way I'm hauling water out to them

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 5:59PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 11:32PM
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Three years ago this fall I moved three 4-year-old Cornus alternifolia that had sprouted in unwanted places to a new shrub & small tree bed. They still had leaves on. The two that I treated with some care drooped a bit, but recovered well. The one that was treated less well (roots had to get trimmed because it was growing into something I wanted to keep where it was) defoliated and had some branch die-back, but regrew the following spring and is now about 6 feet tall. So all three transplants survived. In addition, all of the container plants, including 15 or so broad-leaved and coniferous evergreens, were transplanted without any issues what-so-ever. At the time I hesitated about the evergreens in the fall, but I can't resist a good fall sale and I wanted things as settled as possible before summer high temperatures hit. The plants are located in full sun in a bed of well-composted manure over very fine sandy loam that is well mulched.

So I know the conventional wisdom is to not transplant or plant in the fall this far north, but I've been successful since our falls tend to be longer than our springs, the soil is warm and we get more regular moisture without the soil being quite so saturated as during our springs (AKA mud season). I added a Stewartia to the same bed about two weeks ago, and will see how it does come spring, though my concerns have more to do with borderlne hardiness than the time of year of transplanting.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 7:38AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

it is my opinion ... in my z5 ... which can presuamably also be extended to 6 and 4 ...

that its is all about the actual proper digging... proper planting.. proper watering.. and proper mulching ...

all that done.. properly ... fall or spring doesnt matter ... thought the spring move should be made as soon as the ground thaws ... so again ... you get that 6 to 8 to 10 weeks before the heat of summer kicks in ... and they will be more needy of proper watering thru that first summer ...

i like to sum it up this way ... transplanting in fall gives you two cool seasons to grow roots before the heat of its first summer .... they do have the potential to grow roots until the ground freezes ....

the trees are dormant when the leaves turn color .... and i transplant thru the end of oct .... 6 to 8 weeks before ground freeze just after the first of the year ...

the heat issue is more about soil temp rather than ambient temps ... so even if you get a 70 degree day ... with no leaves.. its kinda irrelevant .... since at night.. it gets back down into the 40 or 50's ... [in other words, there is no leaf stress due to the heat]


    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 9:05AM
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Here are a couple of shots of the worst of the Cornus alternifolia, taken this spring. It has grown at least a couple of feet since then.
From June 2010

In the photo below, the one to the left of the near spruce is the one that was badly treated, while the one to the right of the far spruce was one of the better treated ones. It's definitely a bit taller than the maltreated one, but that's about the only difference I see. I've left them both to be multistemmed and more shrubby since this bed is to screen a work area from the the more finished areas of the yard. From June 2010

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 9:45AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Dseiber are you saying good luck to luckyp? I have always heard that oaks are generally difficult to transplant except when they are small - maybe 1 or 2 years old (except for Pin oaks).

Ken, I like your logic about 2 seasons of growth and will plan to start doing some transplanting when the leaves have changed color.

Nhbab, your tree border is pretty. Are you sure those dogwoods are Cornus alternifolia? They look like my Cornus racemosa, which are bushy like that. The alternate-leaf dogwoods have a layered and sparser branching habit.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 12:59AM
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Terrene -

Yes, I'm sure that they are Cornus alternifolia. Racemosa has opposite leaves like most dogwoods and are shrubs, while alternifolia is what its name says - has alternate leaves, so it's easy to ID when you are close enough to see the branching pattern. Also it's a tree which in my experience tends to grow as a single trunk with longer distance between branchings in shadier settings, while in sun it's denser and tends to grow multistemmed with lots more flowers. I have many of these on my property in both sun & shade since they are native here and the birds are great aids to planting them around. I also have C. racemosa, but don't like it as well since it doesn't have the grace of the alternifolia and doesn't flower or fruit as well. These guys in the photo will develop some grace as they grow, but as I mentioned above, I want them multistemmed for screening purposes.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 9:23AM
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