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How to dig up palm trees

Updated April 17, 2017

There are many reasons you may find yourself with the need to dig up a palm tree. Maybe you've discovered you have a valuable tree, such as a large Canary Island Palm, and you want to sell it. Perhaps you're redoing your landscape and need to transplant your palm. Maybe you just want to dispose of a palm tree that's in the way. Whatever the reason, digging up a palm tree probably isn't as difficult as you think -- as long your palm is 3 m (10 feet) tall or less.

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Check with the electric, gas and water companies before you dig to make sure there are no utility lines in the area.

Dig around the palm tree with a shovel, keeping in mind that your aim is to end up with a root ball that is about 75 cm (30 inches) in diameter. Roots that extend beyond 75 cm (30 inches) should be cut with sharp, heavy-duty garden shears.

If you have a small palm that one or two people can easily lift, skip to Step 4. Otherwise, work sacking or fabric under the root ball. Tilt the tree slightly to work the burlap under one side, then tilt the tree in the other direction to pull the sacking the rest of the way.

Ask friends to help you lift the palm tree into a wheelbarrow or trailer. If the palm tree is large, each person should grab a section of the sacking securely with one hand, leaving the other hand free to support the trunk. Everyone should lift the sacking at the same moment while steadying the tree trunk. Center the root ball in the wheelbarrow or trailer for safe moving.


If you're digging up your palm tree to transplant it, make careful root cuts with very sharp shears. Hacking at the roots with dull shears decreases your palm tree's survival chances. Prune away half to two-thirds of the palm's leaves if you're transplanting it. This will put less stress on the tree and help it survive the move.


Crown-shafted palms, Shaving Brush Palms, Mexican Blue Fan Palms and King Palms often do not do well when transplanted. If your palm tree is more than 3 m (10 feet) tall and could damage a building if it fell, it's best to call in a professional palm digger. At the very least, be sure you are insured in case of any mishaps.

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Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Professional-quality garden shears
  • Sacking or sturdy fabric
  • Wheelbarrow or trailer

About the Author

Kate Aldrich is a professional copywriter with over 10 years of writing experience. She graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts in communications in 1996, and has written professionally for a variety of companies. She currently writes full time for a large cookware company and does freelance work part time.

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