En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - August 18, 2009

From: Florissant, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Transplants, Trees
Title: Transplanting aspens and Colorado blue spruce trees
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Please help me with info on transplanting aspen and blue spruce trees in Colorado. I live at 8600ft and have tons of deer. thx


Colorado State Extension Service has an excellent article, Transplanting trees & shrubs, that recommends transplanting small trees and shrubs in the spring as soon as you can easily dig the soil.  The article also tells you how to go about digging up the tree in preparation for moving it to its new site.  They also have an article, Planting trees & shrubs, that has additional useful information for Colorado residents and a more extensive article, The Science of Planting Trees, that should also be helpful for your project.

It is best to collect Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) for transplantation before they leaf out. You should realize that aspens growing close together are essentially a clone sharing the same root system so you will have to sever the roots between trees to dig up a single tree.  You should try to get trees from a soil type and elevation that match the site to which you are transplanting them.  Utah State University Extension Service says that success for transplanting aspens is 'fair to good'.

Picea pungens (blue spruce), the State Tree of Colorado, is reportedly relatively easily transplanted.  According to Watson and Sydnor [Watson, Gary W., and T. Davis Sydnor. 1987. The effect of root pruning on the root system of nursery trees. Journal of Arboriculture 13(5):126-130] rooting pruning young blue spruce trees five years before transplanting them essentially doubles the root surface in the root ball so that the trees have a better chance of surviving the transplant.  You probably don't want to wait for 5 years to do your transplanting, but even one year's or a few months' wait after root pruning would increase the root surface by producing new small roots at the cut ends.

For both trees, when transplanting you should consider adding root stimulator.  You can read more advice about tree planting and how to apply root stimulator from Precision Tree Care, Inc.

Your Colorado blue spruces should be fine with all the deer since they are listed in the book, Solving Deer Problems, by H.Peter Loewer, 2002, as being on the 'deer-dislike' list.  However, you might not be so lucky with your aspens since they are in the 'Often Browsed' column in Table 1. Plants and their relative susceptibility to deer browsing in Colorado State University Extension Service's article,"Preventing Deer Damage", by C. E. Swift and M. K. Gross.  There are other suggestions, however, in this article for preventing deer damage.

Picea pungens

Populus tremuloides




More Trees Questions

Thorny plant for fenceline security
December 23, 2009 - What kind of thorny plant or vine would you suggest to place along a fence for security purposes
view the full question and answer

More on preventing suckers on live oaks in Austin
August 01, 2010 - I just received an oak sprout answer id=6021. I have a followup question. Our sprouts are caused by the motte we live in - 12 live oaks on 1/4 acre. I understand we will have to hand dig 1000s of t...
view the full question and answer

Killing oak sprouts from El Paso TX
August 16, 2011 - I want to know how to kill oak root sprouts and seedlings. Very dense and out-of-control in huge area of front lawn. I had tree cut down and I still cannot get rid of them. They're only getting wors...
view the full question and answer

Need to identify leaf extensions on the leaves of an elm sapling in Houston, Tx.
May 22, 2013 - I have an elm sapling which grows strange leave extensions on its leaves. Can I send you a picture? Tree looks healthy
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native indoor palm in Guilford CT
April 08, 2012 - My question is I have an indoor palm plant that I have had for 7 yrs. It has grown from about a 5" plant to about 3' tall plant. The past few weeks the leaves are turning yellow & brown and lost abo...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center