Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moving a VERY Large River Birch Tree

What do you do when you find you've planted the right tree in the wrong spot? Well move it of course. But-shhhh-I really didn't plant the right tree in the wrong spot, I simply changed my mind about having this river birch in it's location near my driveway and decided it had to go. My neighbor jokingly said, "Tina, you really must quit changing your mind." Ha! How right she is since I often change my mind. Don't we all? Styles and desires change and things have to change. That is just the way of life.

I woke up one Saturday in March all set to saw this river birch down to the ground, but since I wanted to replace it with a crepe myrtle and would need to dig out the roots anyhow, I decided to begin digging before I began sawing. As I dug it seemed I would be able to completely dig this nearly 20 foot tree out of its spot. And I did!
Okay, I did most of it. My neighbor and Mr. Fix-it helped, and a chain and a truck were also instrumental in removing this birch from its very comfortable spot-to a new spot next door!

I did not expect the tree to survive and it might not, but as of now, six months after the move, the tree is doing fine in my neighbor's yard. It gives her a bit of shade on her deck; which faces west. The best part? I get to enjoy the tree as well and it was a successful
transplant. The key to successfully transplanting this tree was using large loppers to cut the many roots in order to dislodge the tree-I did not rip them out. River birches have an extensive root system that helps anchor them to river banks. The root system also works well in good garden soil as I found out. This river birch had been growing here about four years. I planted it as a six foot tall tree with twigs for trunks. It is now a three trunked tree with 2-3" caliper tree trunks. I am told river birches are tough and should survive the move with no problem. In fact, Dirr even says so in his book. Another helpful fact with moving this tree is that it was moved while dormant during a very wet spring. Some additional watering has helped it to re-establish itself in its new spot during this hot and dry summer.

If you ever need to move a river birch, don't be so quick to get out your chainsaw and instead try digging it out....

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team,

In the Garden


  1. I wish I had you here to help us relocate that 95 foot oak tree! LOL, you are such a brave one to tackle such a job girl! I would have thought it a gonner for sure. Am glad you were able to save this beauty.

    Everyone have a great day!

  2. Hmm, I may be thinking about move two birches this fall after dormancy. One for sure but the other is still up in the air. I'm glad ot hear they transplant well!

  3. It is good it survived the transplant well.
    And before it got way too big to move.

    I used to work on my Dad's tree farm and transplanting trees was back-breaking work.

  4. Skeeter, Pretty sure even I couldn't relocate that!

    Carla, Thanks.

    Dave, They do they really do!

    Rosey, Yes indeed-very difficult but oh so rewarding too.

  5. unbelievable. i have never heard of
    moving a tree that big.

    well done! nothing better to save than
    a tree!

  6. OMW, that was some feat to do. I wouldn't attempt that myself. That is great. I really like those river birches. I think they are very pretty.
    I'm glad you still get to enjoy it even tho it's in your neighbors yard.
    Go for it girl.

  7. You are so amazing. First the pool and now a tree. You're not wanting your house in a different spot in the yard are you? :-)
    I'm glad to see you saved the tree and that it seems to be doing so well.

  8. Lea, It was wonderful saving this beautiful tree-which I had pruned exactly correct to show off its form. My neighbor loves it.

    Lola, That part about still enjoying it is awesome for me. I see it as I sit here and type. I hope it grows big for her.

    GSS, No, not so amazing just a go getter who wants some things done so does them. It saves time and effort later so truly I'm selfish up front for reducing my maintenance. Now on the house...hmmmm. No, we would like more land though but our house is perfect. Amen!

  9. Best of luck with your transplanted birch. I love those trees. My son sent me a letter when he was out camping in the North Woods this summer written on birch bark. They were careful to take the bark off a dead tree.

  10. Wow, Tina -another amazing garden feat! You are so darn cool girl!!!!
    I think these plants/trees really like you -they would've never done so well for me, hehehe. Ciao!

  11. And I thought I was good moving some lilac bushes this year - that was nothing! Very, very impressed and I hope it continues to thrive.

  12. For all that work it will be rewarding that you can still enjoy it.

  13. We have two river birch planted out in the HOT, all day summer sun in front of the house out in the meadow. They look unfazed by this record heat and dry summer.

    Of course, now we're having monsoons!

    Hope all is well. Thanks for you kind comments. We're trying to adjust.

  14. Congratulations on a successful tree move, always nerve wracking even with a toughy like river birch. They are great trees in every season!

  15. One of my favorite trees ... so happy, that's it's happy, in its new home.

  16. Glad you were able to save this tree for the neighbor Tina. Hey I got a Crepe Myrtle I might move, you want to help me dig it out? lol ;) Just kidding!

  17. Tina, What a lovely story. I'm glad it survived.

  18. Wow, this is something I never would have even attempted! Kudos on doing such a great job, Tina. Now, I have a huge spruce tree that is much too close to the house and really needs to be moved; would you like to visit Illinois?:)

  19. Love it that you found a new home for your birch - one of my favourite trees. Impressed at you moving it almost single-handed - I was chuffed to have moved a very large hazel this year, but you have me beat!

  20. Wow, that is so cool that the tree is making it and close enough for you still to enjoy. :)

  21. That's neat! Let us know how it goes.

  22. I want to move my River birch tomorrow. It is the same size yours was and it is three years old. How wide was the root system that you took up? What was the radius? Hope this works!

    1. Becca, This is a very good time to move a river birch. I moved mine in March as well. The longest root left on the tree after I pulled it out was probably about 3-4 feet long. I tried to leave as much root as possible all over but river birches have extensive root systems and it is difficult to get it all. They are hard to dig out too. Once you get it out (we had to use a chain and truck to pull it from the ground) as long as you plant it correctly and keep it well watered the first year you should be home free. I am sitting here looking at the one I tugged out three years ago and it is still doing well and has grown at least seven feet in the three years! It was in place about four years before I had dug it and was about 10 feet tall. Good luck! You can do it. These guys are tough characters in the garden.

  23. Another Plant that survives transplant is red tip. I thought I killed red tip by moving without dirt on roots.