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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - July 17, 2008

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Trees
Title: Transplanting live oaks in summer
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a need to transplant a live oak tree on a home building site. The need is now, the house is almost completely built out and the owners did not prep the site by moving trees or prepping them to be moved and now need a plan to try and relocate the trees on the site within the next week. What is the best way to try and save/replant these treasures in light of these circumstances. Thanks

ANSWER:

One of the problems of moving a live oak at this time of year is that  damage to the tree might make it vulnerable to Oak Wilt disease, because the insect that spreads this disease is active in warm weather. You need a tree expert with the right equipment and knowledge about avoiding damage, not advice from us on how to use a shovel, which is about how far our information on transplanting goes. And, of course, transplanting anything when it is as hot as it is now in Texas is going to make transplant shock a good possibility. We looked at a number of websites on transplanting trees and particularly on live oaks. Almost uniformly, the first instruction was to transplant the tree during its dormant period, which in Texas would be about November to February. The second instruction was to start preparing the tree to be transplanted about 6 months in advance, with root-pruning. Since you don't have time for either of these suggestions, getting help from an expert is the next step.

We went to our Suppliers site, put your town and state in the Enter Search Location and got a list of nurseries, seed companies and landscaping professionals in your general area. You might begin with contacting the landscaping professionals. If they cannot help you, they may be able to give you some referrals to someone who can. Then we Googled "tree specialists Austin TX" and got this list of arborists in the area. We have no way of recommending a specific company, you will need to call around, talk to them, try to get some references. Clicking on each company's name will give you a website with contact information for that specific firm. We have a feeling that either they are going to try to discourage you from doing anything this time of year, or that you will find the costs higher than you expected.

Unfortunately, this is another example of failing to plan ahead on landscaping. If the house is being built close to the trees in question, they may have already suffered damage from the construction activity and compressed earth caused by parking trucks beneath their branches or piling supplies on their roots.

 

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