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Transplant Advice

Q: I am going to try to transplant an Alberta Spruce three that is about 3 1/2 feet tall. I am in Boulder, Colorado.

Could you please suggest anything that you think might help in the transplant process. Also, does this tree have tap roots or spreader root?

Thank you, Lisa

A: Actually, a dwarf Alberta spruce this size should be pretty easy to transplant.

If possible, dig the root ball as wide as the spread of the bottom branches. This should get you a good portion of the root system (this is critical to transplant success).

If this is not possible, dig as wide of a ball as you can (and can lift, too). The ball depth should be about 18".

I would water the tree thoroughly one week before moving it, to get it nice and "hydrated". Transplanting is a big shock, and transplanting a tree that doesn't have sufficient moisture within it makes it harder on the tree.

You will not encounter any tap roots. Roots on trees spread out pancake-like, and very few trees develop a true tap root.

What you'll likely encounter is a "ball" of roots out to the spread of the bottom branches (maybe beyond) and possibly 18" deep (depending on the type of soil it's growing in).

The more friable the soil, the more roots you'll encounter versus soil that is hard-packed.

After transplanting. be sure to water once a week, first checking the soil moisture to be sure watering is needed. I use a long-shanked screwdriver to check -- just push it into the ground within the root zone of the plant.

If it's the least bit moist when you pull it out you're good to go for the time being. If it's bone dry, apply about 1 gallon for every square foot beneath the plant.

I would also suggest applying an anti-transpirant before moving the plant. You should be able to secure this at a local garden center. Anti-transpirants reduce the amount of moisture the plant will naturally lose through its needles, which will help reduce the transplant shock.

I would also apply the anti-transpirant every fall, to help it through the winter.

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Tom Mugridge

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