Many varieties of cypress trees have tap roots that go nearly as deep as the tree is tall. Since this is the main root of the plant, you want to get as much of it out of the ground intact as you can. This can make transplanting a mature cypress impossible without the help of a tree service and the use of a tree spade, which can be very expensive. For practical purposes, transplant a cypress by yourself or with a partner before the tree is more than 5 to 6 feet tall.
Choose a new site for your cypress tree in the fall, where it has plenty of space, full sun and well-drained soil. Dig a hole that is half the height of the tree you are transplanting, and as wide as the diameter of its drip line.
Fill a bucket with water and pour half of it in the transplant hole. If it does not drain quickly, amend the soil with equal parts peat and sand until it does. Cypress trees will die if left in standing water.
Dig in a circle around the drip line of the cypress tree you are moving. Point the shovel at a 45-degree angle toward the centre of the tree and the tap root.
Pry up gently as you dig. If you feel resistance, dig deeper and try again. If the tap root still won't come out, clip it with long-handled pruning shears as deep in the hole as you can to get as much of it as possible. Gently lift the tree out of the hole and place it in the wheelbarrow. If the tree is more than 3 feet tall, you may need someone to help you lift it.
Roll the tree to its new site. Pour the rest of the water in the hole to help reduce transplant shock. Lift the cypress gently out of the wheelbarrow and set it in the planting hole. Stand back to check that it's standing straight, and adjust if necessary.
Backfill the hole with dirt, pressing it firmly to eliminate air spaces around the roots. Pour another bucket of water at the tree's base to water it in. Shovel the remaining soil into the wheelbarrow, roll it back to the original hole, and backfill.
Water well every few days for the first three weeks after planting, to help the cypress adjust to its new environment and begin to grow.
- Always try to transplant trees and shrubs in the fall when they are dormant and less likely to suffer severe transplant shock.
- Lift through your knees, not your back, when transplanting a tree with a heavy root ball.