Transplanting Spruce Trees - Do it in the Fall!

Transplanting Spruce Trees - Do it in the Fall!

spruce tree

Fall is here! And that means time to plant and transplant your Spruce Trees! With cooler temps above ground and prime root development conditions below, autumn is a great time to relocate or install some more of your favorite Spruce and Pine trees.

Nurseries found that if you water the soil well, or dig after a rain so the ground is moist - September/October is an excellent time to dig and transplant, or purchase new and get them planted now into that nice warm soil!

  • Why Transplanting in the Fall is Best
  • Regional Considerations
  • Transplanting Coniferous Evergreens
  • Evergreen Tree After Care
  • Spruce Tree Relocation Time!

Spruce, Fir, and Pines are incredible bird-friendly shelters and perfect for including in your windbreaks, shelterbelts, hedgerows that stop the drifting snow, and privacy screens!

Providing pinpoint shade and year-round screening, these trees may be a bit on the slower-growing side, but a specimen planting in your front yard will be a lasting legacy for generations to come!

Whether you are planting for any of these reasons, having a gorgeous focal point that doubles as a holiday feature that you can decorate during the winter months!

Why Transplanting in the Fall is Best

The new growth on Spruce and Pines has typically expanded and hardened off by later in August. So the trees are not growing anymore by late summer. The plants can now focus on putting on new roots in the warm and moist soil before winter comes!

Whether you have a new tree you are planting, transplanting a container tree you’ve enjoyed as a thriller planting on a patio or porch planter that is ready to move into its permanent location in your yard, or you have a young in-ground tree that needs to be relocated - the fall is a great time to move that Spruce tree or shrub!

For Pines and Fir Trees - spring can sometimes be best for transplanting many Fir trees, Jack Pine, and Austrian Pine may be best transplanted in the spring in colder zones, or if it gets too late in the fall. You want the Evergreens to have enough time to make new roots before the ground freezes in the colder hardiness zones.

Fall Planting is Best For -

  • Smaller Bareroot Evergreens
  • Container-grown Evergreens (can transplant throughout the year but now is an excellent time)
  • Balled and Burlapped Evergreens fresh dug and planted right back in the ground for great success.

planting tree

Without the need to fight the summer heat and drought conditions, autumn gives Spruce the entire winter season to reestablish root systems. Giving you a tree that is far less stressed and grows faster in spring.

  • You can plant at any time when the ground isn’t frozen, but fall gives plants all autumn, winter, and spring to establish before summer's heat and drought kick in.

The key is to be sure you do not plant too deep, and give your plants a really thorough soaking. As with all evergreens, but sure the soil has good moisture right up until the plants go dormant and the ground freezes in your yard! This is vital for many coniferous evergreens and Broadleaved Evergreen plants alike!

Regional Considerations


Your local County Extension Office can be an amazing resource when researching specifics regarding when to plant certain evergreens.

  • Northeast - Typically has cool, wet springs, hot summers, long autumns, and cold winters. Evergreens are typically planted here in spring or fall.
  • Southeast - Fall is a great time to plant anything since summers can be incredibly hot and humid.
  • Northwest - Higher rainfall and mild temperatures mean planting at about any time can be successful.
  • Southwest - Hot dry summers and arid conditions mean planting in the fall or winter is preferred allowing the plants to root in before the heat arrives.
  • Midwest - Cold winters and sluggish springs, plus unpredictable weather mean planting evergreens early fall or spring is best for this region.

Transplanting Coniferous Evergreens

  • Call your local Diggers Hotline to locate any underground structures before digging!
  • Water your soon-to-transplant tree well or soak its container until the bubbles stop
  • Find a location in full sun all day in well-drained soil
  • Dig a hole twice as wide but just as deep as the root ball/container of your tree
    • If you see water pooling at the bottom of your planting site… consider relocating or ‘mound up’ and create a berm 18-24 inches above the ground. Then plant in that hole.
  • Set your tree into the hole and fan its roots out gently
  • Fill the hole with water and let it drain away
  • Backfill with the soil you removed from the planting site and tamp down gently
  • Ensure your tree's roots are just below the soil surface and it is planted at the same depth it was previously in its container or planting site.
  • Water again and saturate the area well, tamping down again to remove air pockets
  • Top with a 3-4 thick layer of mulch, spread out about 2-3 feet away from the trunk
    • Avoid ‘mulch volcanoes’ and keep the mulch/soil from piling up against the trunk
  • Water regularly using the Finger Test method

Evergreen Tree After Care

  • In cold exposed locations you may consider treating your tree with anti-desiccant to prevent the winter’s drying northern winds from drying them out. Spray on according to the product directions.
  • Protect these trees from drying out further by watering them regularly - right up until the ground freezes. Break out the hose again during extended warm bouts throughout the winter.
  • To prevent deer browsing, from the first day and as often as the product directs, spray your tree regularly to train deer in your area to avoid your tree, teaching them that it tastes bad.

Spruce Tree Relocation Time!

When it’s time to put down roots in a new location, your Spruce tree will appreciate moving in the autumn months when they can focus on getting established best!

You’ll appreciate the cooler fall weather to perform this garden chore too!

Happy Planting!

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