Moving my Japanese Maple + ID? (pics)

spup345August 24, 2006

So this maple is about 6'6" at its highest point. It was here when I bought the house this past October. The previous owners planted it right next to the house for some odd reason so it'll block everything out over time...

I would like to move it to the corner of my driveway by the house to give it plenty of room to grow and look nice upon driving up the driveway as it grows out.

I plan to rototill it's new home with about 6 inches of compost into the existing clay soil. Then after planting it, I'll mulch over the area.

Few questions:

-Does anyone know what type of maple it is?

-When is the best time to move it (Zone 6)?

-How wide should the roots be cut? How deep?

-How wide & deep should the new hole be?

-Should I apply root growth liquid when moving it?

-Should I fertilize the new area (balanced?)?

-What should the PH be in the new area?

Any other tips? I've read many postings on this topic but it's hard to get down exactly what to do...


2 Pics of tree + leaves:

1 Pic of new spot (look at top-right of picture for the rounded section of grass where I'd like to move it to, it's about 20 feet away from the existing spot):

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The photos are a bit indistinct, but it is possibly a coral bark Japanese maple, most likely 'Sango Kaku'. And it IS a bit too close to the house.

The least disruptive time to move it is during dormancy. While I'd recommend late fall in my climate, early spring just prior to bud break may be better in yours. You can attempt root pruning this fall - with a sharp spade, dig straight down all the way around the roots at a distance of 18-24" away from the trunk. This will generate the development of feeder roots within this diameter and make it easier on you and the tree to move when the appropriate time comes. Tree roots are generally not very deep, but this will still make a good sized root ball and you will need some help. Sliding it out of the original planting location and onto a tarp will make transport easier - just drag it to the new location.

Prepare the new planting hole before moving. It is no longer recommended to amend individual planting holes for a variety of reasons. If you have clay soils, loosen the area sufficiently and plant the tree high to assure proper drainage. You can then mulch upto the crown if necessary. Preparing a wide, shallow planting hole is suggested, specially if soils are heavy and drainage is questionable. No fertilizer, no root "stimulator". Keep it well watered during its first season in its new location.

Japanese maples prefer a mildly acidic soil - 6.8-6.0 is ideal.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 4:47PM
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Thank you! Excellent stuff. I will do exactly as you suggest. Early spring in my area, would that be sometime in early March? And as for root pruning, should I do it after the leaves all fall off?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 6:08PM
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You can move it as early as you like once the soil is workable - the risk comes when moving it too late, after it has emerged from dormancy or bud break.

Mid to late October is a good time for the root pruning.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 11:14AM
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Ok...the time has maple is JUST starting to bud a very little bit...I will move it today before it really gets going now that the weather is warming up. I already loosened up a lot of the soil in the new area with a gas rototiller (thank you neighbor!), and will work a few inches of fresh compost into it to loosen things up since I have heavy clay soils.

If myI root pruned 24" out, how big a ball should I make (width and depth)?

Also, websites say 15-20' in width, so do I need to plant it in an area where it has 10' all around it (from the center) to spread without encroaching on other plants/trees?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 8:51AM
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There have been a lot of topics here about how to move/transplant trees. My views are if you have the time/patience, it is better to be extra careful and do as careful/thorough a job as possible. Some here have thought my methods are overkill. You might want to read the topic recently about moving the older maple--I forget the exact title. Lots of advice was given, but in the end, because of soil conditions and a lack of the expected help, the methods used turned out to be somewhat different from what was recommended by myself and others, but the move was a success anyway.

As for the size of the root ball--that depends a lot on what you can manage. You did not give the diameter (caliper) of the tree, but if it is a husky older tree, it could require a root ball at least 3 feet in diameter and about 18 inches deep. That could be rather heavy--too heavy to carry, but not too heavy to slide along on the ground on some kind of tarp.

If the tree is younger/thinner, I would think a smaller root ball would be OK. And because maples are relatively tolerant of transplanting, if your soil is very sandy/loose, you could probably move it bareroot. If that is what happens, just get it into the ground immediately and don't let the roots dry out at all. Have the hole where you will put it ready in advance. And make sure this pre-dug hole is really, really large enough. You donÂt want the tree laying there in the sun while you are preparing/enlarging the hole.

When moving a larger tree I like to dig out the root ball by trenching all around it so the tree, at one stage, it standing alone on its own pillar of soil, which is the root ball still attached at the bottom. Then I have access to get under the root ball to carefully cut off the deeper roots and then lift the tree gently out of the hole. In this case some kind of board or something else can be used as a lever if it is too heavy and then it can be swung to the side and rolled on to the tarp for dragging to the new site. If you donÂt do this all around trenching, you may not be able to cut the underneath roots properly and you end up prying the tree out of the hole, damaging the root ball.

Because you are moving it just a short distance, I see no need to secure the root ball with any kind of wire basket, as I usually recommend for longer moves of larger trees where the root ball can be shaken.

Finally, if you feel that you did not get as much root as you think you should have, or if the stress on the tree seems great, you can do some judicious pruning to reduce the foliage without harming the overall form of the tree. I posted my ideas about this recently--I am not sure in which topic right now. If you want my ideas about how to do that and canÂt find my pervious post, let me know and I will review them again.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 9:27AM
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Caliper is about 1 to 1.5 inches, it's very young, about 6'6" tall. I did a 20" root prune in the fall so I'll just trench around it @ 20" now. Sounds like the root ball doesn't have to be 20" deep as well, so maybe I'll go down a foot and see if there are a lot of roots there, is yes, maybe I'll go another couple of inches, new hole is dug and compost is mixed w/ the heavy clay to loosen it all up (rototilled it w/ gas rototiller), wish me luck, gonna do it over the next 3-4 hours.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 4:13PM
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It's moved. roots were fairly shallow, unfortunately, between the 3 of us doing it, a lot of the perimeter dirt fell away fairly easily when we leveraged it out of the ground, I'd say about a 12" wide by about 5" deep root ball or ball of dirt came with it. We put it on a sled and dragged it 50 feet across my lawn, quickly put it into the already dug hole, rested perfectly, just slightly above grade as desired, backfilled immediately with mixture of backfill & compost & then topped it off with some store-bought topsoil, then covered with landscape fabric and pine bark nuggets. Watered various times while backfilling.

Will know by next year how it is doing!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 12:43PM
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