Transplanting Crabapples: How To Transplant A Crabapple Tree

Transplanting Crabapples: How To Transplant A Crabapple Tree

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Moving a crabapple tree isn’t easy and there are no guarantees of success. If the tree is more mature, it may be best to start over with a new tree. If you’re determined to give it a try, read on for tips on crabapple transplanting.

When to Transplant Crabapple Trees

The best time for moving a crabapple tree is when the tree is still dormant in late winter or very early in spring. Make it a point to transplant the tree before bud break.

Before Transplanting Crabapples

Ask a friend to help; moving a crabapple tree is much easier with two people.

Prune the tree well, trimming branches back to nodes or new growth points. Remove deadwood, weak growth and branches that cross or rub on other branches.

Place a piece of tape on the north side of the crabapple tree. This way, you can ensure the tree faces the same direction once placed in its new home.

Prepare the soil in the new location by cultivating the soil well to a depth of at least 2 feet (60 cm.). Be sure the tree will be in full sunlight and that it will have good air circulation and ample space for growth.

How to Transplant a Crabapple Tree

Dig a wide trench around the tree. As a general rule, figure about 12 inches (30 cm.) for each 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of trunk diameter. Once the trench is established, continue to dig around the tree. Dig as deeply as you can to avoid damage to the roots.

Work the shovel under the tree, then lift the tree carefully onto a piece of burlap or a plastic tarp and slide the tree to the new location.

When you’re ready for the actual crabapple tree transplanting, dig a hole in the prepared site at least twice as wide as the root ball, or even larger if the soil is compacted. However, it’s important that the tree be planted at the same soil depth as in its previous home, so don’t dig deeper than the root ball.

Fill the hole with water, then put the tree in the hole. Fill in the hole with removed soil, watering as you go to eliminate air pockets. Tamp the soil down with the back of a shovel.

Care After Moving a Crabapple Tree

Create a water-holding basin around the tree by building a berm about 2 inches (5 cm.) high and 2 feet (61 cm.) from the trunk. Spread 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm.) of mulch around the tree, but don’t allow the mulch to pile against the trunk. Smooth out the berm when the roots are well established – usually about a year.

Water the tree deeply a couple of times per week, decreasing the amount by about half in autumn. Don’t fertilize until the tree is established.

This article was last updated on

Read more about Crabapple

Flowering Crabapple Plant Profile

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Flowering crabapples are a favorite sight in the springtime throughout the United States, and are a popular deciduous ornamental tree. They're a colorful sign that "spring has sprung" with their fragrant, delicate blossoms that cover their intricate branches. Once planted they can live a long time, needing only occasional pruning to shape them. These trees are native to temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia, and are believed to have originated in central Asia in Kazakhstan. Also known as wild apples or "schoolboy apples," they are very similar to apple trees with the main difference being the size of the edible fruits, which vary between a half inch to two inches in diameter. They're a good choice for birdwatchers and those who want trees that can attract wildlife and pollinators.

Botanical Name Malus rosaceae
Common Name Flowering Crabapple
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 15 to 20 feet, on average
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Rich, moist, good drainage
Soil pH Slightly acidic 6.0 - 7.0
Bloom Time Late spring
Flower Color White to pink
Hardiness Zones 4 to 8
Native Area North America, Europe, Asia
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

" data-caption="" data-expand="300" data-tracking-container="true" />

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

" data-caption="" data-expand="300" data-tracking-container="true" />

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

" data-caption="" data-expand="300" data-tracking-container="true" />

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Comments (4)


It would be best if you do the moving while they are dormant. They should be waking up very soon with this mild weather. I know my crabapples are pushing new growth already here and little north of me. If the basement is for safety purposes (tornado shelter) that takes priority for me. I would then have to transplant them now. I would not wait until April. If the project can be put off until they are dormant this fall, since you like them so much, I'd do that ideally. Remember, small crabapples are pretty inexpensive, you could just start over. But transplanting in the growing season is not a death sentence, just a lot of work keeping them alive and disease free in the harshest time of year (summer) with a massively reduced root system.


Yes, if you can physically do it, or if you can afford to have equipment brought it, it certainly can be done. With the right equipment, fully mature trees can be moved.

April or May, though -- no, sorry, it needs to be done while dormant. Which, with the kind of weather in your neck of the woods, is NOW. Before the buds break and grow, at least. The sooner the better.

Watch the video: How To Grow An Entire Apple Orchard From Existing Tree Cuttings