Tree Transplant Shock

Growing Tree

Last month’s post covered how to transplant a tree and we’re following it up with important information on a common side effect: transplant shock. Learn what you can do to help your transplanted tree thrive.

What is Transplant Shock?

Even when all of the recommendations of trusted arborists are followed transplanted trees can still experience transplant shock. This typically occurs because the move caused the tree heightened stress. What happens during a transplant can be understood most easily by imagining the roots of the tree as being like our own lungs. The more of a tree’s root system that is removed, the more difficult it is for them to breathe and receive adequate hydration and nutrients.

Preserving as much of the root structure as possible according to the recommendations decreases the likelihood of your tree going into transplant shock. Following the transplantation, carefully observe the tree for symptoms of transplant shock. These can include, but are not limited to:

– Mass leaf wilting

– Out of season leaf drop

– Mass browning and dropping of leaves, especially out of season

In other words, if your tree is suffering from transplant shock it will not be too difficult to spot.

How to Avoid Transplant Shock

In order to avoid transplant shock, it is crucial to dig one foot away from the trunk of your tree per one inch of your tree’s diameter. The best way to measure your tree’s diameter, use a caliper, a tool that can be found at a hardware store.

After placing the tree in the new whole and adding the native dirt, place mulch at the base of your tree. Spread it two inches from the tree’s trunk and out to the tips of its farthest leaves. Do not pile mulch around its trunk, as this can be harmful to your tree. Once the mulch is added, be sure to give the tree at least one inch of water a week and continue to monitor its health. Avoid introducing any foreign soil or coverings such as fertilizer over the top of the roots of the newly transplanted tree for at least a year. 

If the tree is larger, closer in size to a fully mature tree than a sapling – be sure to stake its roots. A smaller tree’s roots, located in an area of low wind, sufficient sunlight, and amiable soil, will grow longer and stronger if it is not staked. Larger trees, due simply to gravity’s dance with top-heaviness, are likely to need the additional support of stakes initially. 

How to Treat Transplant Shock

In truth, the best way to treat transplant shock is to avoid it altogether or minimize its effects by practicing good transplant behavior throughout the process. However, should you find that your tree is suffering from transplant shock, there are a few things you can do to help stop the damage and nurse your tree back to health. 

  • Give your tree 1-2 inches of water a week for the first year after transplanting it. 
  • Trim dead leaves and branches from the tree, being careful not to remove healthy growth. 
  • If it is colder weather outside, or very hot, white paper tree wrap should be applied to your tree (for more guidance on how to perform this process, contact your local garden center or arborist).

While trees may not like moving any more than humans do, with tender care, it is possible to healthily transplant your tree to a new location where it can live a long and fruitful life, providing shade, color, and character to your property for years to come. Happy planting!

Contact Us