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Problem Solver: Transplanting Trees

As the tree grows larger it will be necessary to move it into a larger container. This is generally required every 12-16 months. You may see roots showing through the drainage holes when it is time to repot. If the tree is showing signs of decline, a quick and easy look at the roots will most often tell the story. Healthy roots grow healthy plants. Again, the choice of container will make the job much easier. Smooth tapered sides work the best. We allow the soil in the container to dry 2-3 days before planting. The soil ball holds together better.

The job is also easier with two people. Put the approximate amount of new soil in the bottom of the new container with 5 or more drainage holes Tip the container on its side, rotating to free the root / soil ball. Grasp trunk at soil line, tip the old pot down, and slide it off. Quickly support the root mass. Some root breakage is inevitable, so don't worry. The roots should be pale and firm, visible at the edge of the soil ball. Gently loosen bottom and outer roots with fingers, prune off dead or very dense, circling roots.

Put enough new potting soil mix in the bottom of the pot to raise the top roots to within 1"-2" of the lip of the pot. Holding the tree by the trunk at the desired height, add soil mix slowly around the perimeter gently poking with the fingers of the flat hand along the sides to support the root ball in the new pot. Water in to finish the transplant or inspection.

If overwatering caused root rot, the roots will be brown and slimy. If so, prune them back to firm, healthy tissue. Prune foliage to balance roots and top. Water more lightly than before and new roots should develop. Use Vitamin B-1 rooting tonic in the first few waterings if desired, to help fine feeder roots recover quicker. It will be a while before new foliage forms, as the roots will come first.

Transplanting One Year Trees
A six to eight inch diameter pot of the same depth or deeper is a good starter pot for the one year trees. As needed, you can move up to gradually larger pot sizes until you reach the maximum size you want to have. That way you are adding fresh soil with more nutrients each time you transplant. Make sure any pot used has adequate drainage. Avoid jumping to much larger pot sizes, since small root systems have limited capacity to absorb a given volume of soil moisture, and excessively large pots will predispose smaller root systems to over-wetness issues and root decline.

Transplanting Trees "Trapped" in Containers
If your tree is "trapped" in a container that makes it impossible to lift the tree out for repotting -- such as a rounded container that is wider in the middle than at the top -- you can try the following method to free your tree and freshen its soil or move it to a larger home. Simply turn the container on its side, and flush as much dirt as you can from the container (gently!) with a hose. Your end result will be an intact pot and a bare root tree! If you repot into a larger container, consider selecting a container that will make future transplanting easier.