How to Transplant a Serviceberry Tree

The serviceberry tree is a popular plant in the U.S., due to both its attractive ornamental leaves and flowers and its delicious berries. You can transplanting this tree easily because it will adapt to a variety of soils. But remember that serviceberry trees require full sun and possibly a protected area away from strong winds.

When to Transplant the Adult Serviceberry

It is best to transplant the serviceberry after it has produced seeds and shed leaves for the winter, and before it begins to produce leaves in the early spring. Don’t transplant the tree in summer, as this timing can stress the tree and even cause it to die. If you are moving in the summer and wish to take the serviceberry tree with you, do one of the following:

  • Dig up the plant during the preceding winter and wrap the roots securely until the following late autumn.
  • Remove the plant in the summer and let it stand in a damp mulch for several days before you wrap its roots and wait until autumn.

How to Transplant

Dig the soil about a foot from the base of the tree (or at the point where roots are not visible on the surface). Remove both soil and roots together. This method helps to preserve any small roots which are in the soil and prevent transplant damage. If you plan to move the serviceberry a long distance, put the root ball into a plastic bag and seal it.

Serviceberry trees bought from garden centers often arrive with their root balls wrapped in plastic. In this case, lay the serviceberry tree on the ground, then cut through the wire holding the bag into the tree. Remove the plastic gently.

Dig a hole approximately four or five times (both wide and deep) the size of the root ball. Put the serviceberry into the hole and fill the hole with about half of the removed soil. Water the tree thoroughly and give time for the roots and soil to soak up this water.

Fill the hole with the remaining soil, until the hole is now nearly level with the surrounding ground. Water it again and leave the tree to settle overnight.

You may notice some shifting of the ground when you return. Water around the base of the tree until a puddle forms. Add a significant pile of mulch and leave the plant to settle again.

In the next few weeks, attend the serviceberry, at least every other day, with watering and mulching. If you transplant the tree after late November, add a fertilizer to the watering can once a week.

Transplant Shock

Transplanted serviceberry trees can suffer with what is known as transplant shock. The tree will wither, lose leaves and take on the appearance of a tree in deepest winter. Some serviceberry trees may appear fine the first year after transplanting but take on the "dormant" look the year after. This condition is known as "die back."