Dogwood trees are native to forest undergrowth, but popular around buildings for their white and pink flowers. Transplanting them is difficult. Their wide, shallow root structure is difficult to remove from the old location without too much damage, and changes in light levels tend to shock the trees, requiring a long time to recover, if at all. Many suggest it is easier and more effective to simply buy a new tree, where the root ball has been trimmed and controlled for transplanting by the grower. However, if you are determined to try, the hints below should help improve your chances of success.
Step 1: Choosing a New Location
Dogwoods are native to the woods, growing in the shadow of the taller trees. Low light levels are not a good reason to move a dogwood. It is possible to move a dogwood from a low light level area to a high light level area, but the tree may not transition well and the recovery time will be extensive. If possible, maintain the light levels of the original location in the new location.
Step 2: Prepare the Tree for Moving
Water the tree well before digging it up. Don't provide fertilizer as this will just promote new growth that will need supporting after the transfer.
Step 3: Dig Up Your Dogwood
Prime transplanting time is just after the frost of winter melts or at the end of autumn, when the tree is dormant.
Dogwoods naturally have shallow, widespread root systems. This makes digging up the complete root ball very difficult. Rather than digging with a shovel, try teasing the roots free of the soil with a digging fork. Loosen the soil around the trunk and work out until you are confident you have the bulk of the roots. Expect the root ball to extend at least as far branches. Don't just look for large roots. It is the small feeder roots connected to the larger roots that you especially need to maintain as these feeder roots are the way your tree collects water and nutrients from the soil.
Expect to need five people or more to move a full-grown tree.
Step 4: Prepare the New Location
You may wish to prepare the site before digging up the tree from the original location. The faster the tree is returned to the ground the better its chances of survival. However, even if you plan ahead it may be necessary to enlarge the hole depending on how large the root ball ends up being. The hole for the tree should be 2 to 3 times the diameter of the root ball. This will provide uncompacted soil around the root ball for the tree roots to easily expand into. If the soil is very dense, dig deeper than necessary and add loose soil back to the bottom of the hole.
Step 5: Plant Your Dogwood
Place the root ball in the hole prepared. The top of the ball should be slightly above the soil, as the soil will compact under the tree.. Planting the tree at the same height as before is acceptable, but planting it deeper is not. This will damage the tree.
Fill in the hole with loose soil and water very well. Provide a layer of partly composted mulch for nutrients and moisture retention.