You can transplant a Japanese maple up to 5 feet tall on your own or with the help of another person. For larger trees, you will need the help of specialized companies that have heavy equipment.
Tips on how to transplant Japanese maple
- Dig up the Japanese Maple within 2 feet of the trunk.
- Only transplant in early spring during cloudy weather.
- The day before transplanting, water the tree with 2-3 gallons of water.
- Dig so as to damage as few roots as possible.
- Once dug up, move the Japanese Maple to its new location without delay.
- Place the root ball in the hole so the trunk is not buried in the ground.
- Backfill the entire space with improved soil and tamp it down lightly.
- Water the Japanese maple with 2 gallons of water and mulch the surface with organic material.
Below I will tell you about each step in more detail so that you avoid mistakes. In addition, I recommend that you read the article Learn How To Grow A Japanese Maple Tree.
When to transplant?
The best time to transplant Japanese Maple is early spring or even late winter. The timing depends on what climate you live in.
You need to catch the period when it is a little warmer and the ground is not frozen, but the tree is still in hibernation. The buds should not be pushing yet, and especially the maples should not yet have leaves on them.
Avoid transplanting in late spring when leaves have already appeared. Also, do not transplant in the summer. Otherwise, you risk losing the tree.
As for the weather, an overcast day with a little rain the day before is best. The milder the weather, the easier the Japanese maple will transplant.
Evening or morning is the best part of the day to move. Avoid transplanting in the afternoon, especially if the day is sunny.
Also, do not transplant the maple more often than once every three years. That is, the tree you want to transplant should grow in the same place for at least two years. Japanese maple can be transplanted no more than three times in its lifetime.
The first thing you should do before transplanting is to water the Japanese maple. Of course, you have to do this if it hasn’t rained in a few days.
Water with 2-3 gallons of water 1 day before transplanting. This will give the tree a chance to accumulate moisture and tolerate the first few days more easily. Also, moist soil will hold the roots better, which is very important.
The second thing to do is to dig a planting hole in the new location. This should be done in advance so that the maple can be moved and planted without delay. The longer it is out in the open with bare roots, the higher the chances of losing it.
The size of the new hole should be twice the size of the root ball.
The new location should get at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. Also, there should be no stagnant or accumulation of water. The soil should preferably be loose and well-drained. The distance to other trees should be at least 3 feet.
Mix the excavated soil from the new hole with the same de amount of quality compost or soil conditioner. Place this soil mix on the side of the hole.
If the Japanese Maple is spread out, tie it gently with elastic rope so that the branches do not interfere with transplanting. This is usually the case with upright maples that have many side branches.
Prepare a clean and sharp trench shovel. You will also need a burlap or other thick material and possibly a wheelbarrow.
How to dig up and replant?
No matter how small the Japanese Maple is, start digging at least 1 foot away from the trunk. You need to save as much root mass as possible.
For 3 to 5-foot tall maples, the distance from the trunk where you need to dig should be at least 2 feet. This will result in an initial root ball diameter of 4 feet. But in the process of digging and moving, some of the soil will fall away from the roots and the root ball will be about 3 feet wide.
In general, the more roots you save, the better the chances for successful rooting of the maple. If the root ball is too heavy, get someone to help.
Place the root ball on a piece of burlap and tie the opposite ends of the burlap diagonally together. You can use any other sturdy material instead of the burlap. The burlap will help to ensure that as little earth as possible falls off the roots as you move the maple.
Move the Japanese Maple quickly to its new location. Do not allow the soil on the roots to dry out. You can use a wheelbarrow for this purpose.
Sprinkle some soil into the planting hole and place the maple there but first remove the burlap from the roots. The surface of the root ball should be about 1 inch above the surface of the garden around it. If necessary, pour some more soil under the maple.
Next, fill the entire space in the hole with the prepared soil mix and gently compact it. Do this with your foot but take care not to damage the roots.
Water the newly planted maple with 2 gallons of water. When the water has soaked into the soil, water another gallon.
The first thing to do after replanting is to mulch the root zone. Use organic materials such as pine bark or compost.
The thickness of the mulch layer should be about 2 inches. You do not want to bury the trunk of the Japanese Maple in the mulch. There should be a gap of about 2-3 inches between the trunk and the mulch material.
For the first two years, regularly monitor how wet the soil in the root zone is. Don’t let the soil dry out more than 1-2 inches. Use at least 1 gallon of water when watering.
If the weather is very sunny and hot after transplanting, put a shade over the maple for 1-2 months. You can do this with a large umbrella or shading net.
Do not cut back the branches after transplanting. Pruning will only increase the stress experienced by the tree.
You also do not want to use any fertilizer on the transplanted maple. In the first year, the tree will be rebuilding its root system and does not need any fertilizer. Also, you should not expect vigorous growth in the first growing season.