How to Transplant a Holly Tree

What You'll Need

Holly trees are popular for their glossy green leaves and vibrant red berries. They make beautiful garden accents. However, the time may come when you decide the location of your holly tree no longer works. A holly is not easy to transplant, but with some pre-planning it can be done.

Step 1: Choose a New Location

The new location needs to have the same characteristics as the old one. Holly thrives in full sun to partial shade, but a sudden temperature or sun exposure changes will scorch the leaves. Also, the soil should be moist but well draining, and should be slightly acidic. The location should be protected from the wind and excessive heat to prevent leaf burn.

Step 2: Root Trimming

One reason why so many trees die when moved is the loss of the necessary small feeder roots that provide the tree with nutrients and water. A way to ensure that you bring along these feeder roots is to encourage the tree to grow new ones in a small, compact area that you can move. Begin the process the fall before you plan to move your holly.

Provide 9 to 12 inches of root ball diameter for every 1 inch of tree trunk diameter, with a minimum of 16 inches. Dig a trench 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide so that the outer edge is the outer edge of the root ball. Fill the trench in with 2 parts top soil and 1 part compost. The area should fill with feeder roots by the time you transplant. Water the whole root area once the soil is back in place, and continue to water well through the winter.

Step 3: Prep the New Location

Dig a hole that is twice as wide as your root ball and the same depth. Estimate the depth by assuming 6 inches of depth for every 1 inch if tree trunk diameter. You want the tree at the same level with the soil at both locations. Do not provide fertilizer in the hole. It will burn the roots.

Step 4: Move Your Holly

In the early spring, after the frost, dig up the root ball as laid out the previous fall. Make it as deep as your hole prepared in Step 3. Water well before beginning. Wrap the root ball in burlap or plastic to keep it together when moving it. Cracking the root ball can kill your tree. Carry at the root ball, not the trunk.

Step 5: Place Your Holly

Place the root ball in the new hole. The trunk should be at the same level as it was in the old location. Fill in the hole with the soil removed. Water well and top the soil with 2 to 3 inches of mulch to retain moisture. Keep the mulch away from the trunk as the moisture retained can trap diseases and mold against the trunk.

Keep the soil around your holly well moist for the next year to encourage new growth, but do not kill it by over watering. Test the soil under the mulch with your hand. If it is dry a few inches into the soil, water. Otherwise, check again in a few days.