How to Transplant Citrus Trees

Citrus trees are an asset to any garden or landscape. Many of them have attractive foliage and flowers, especially in spring, and all of them produce tasty nutritious fruit. It is usually best to start a citrus tree growing in a pot indoors and transplant it outside at five or six months. Sometimes, though, you may want to transplant a tree that is already growing outside. In either case, the process is simple but the execution can be tricky. Recruit a friend to help you with the digging and carrying and make sure you have all your supplies before you begin.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Large burlap cloth
  • Hoe
  • Mature compost
  • Water

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Transplant citrus trees in late March, after the ground has thawed but while the citrus tree is still dormant. The tree will adjust better this way. Avoid transplanting very young trees or trees established in the ground more than 18 months as they will not adjust as well as an adolescent tree.

Prepare the soil in the new location. Dig a hole about 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Hoe the soil in the hole gently to break it up and make root growth easier. Mix the soil from the hole with about 2 lbs. of mature compost.

Allow the citrus tree to dry for about two days before transplant. This will help the root ball to stay together. Spread out the burlap cloth next to the tree right before transplant.

Remove a potted tree from its container by gently pulling it at the base and rotating it until it pops free. For trees planted in the ground, use a shovel to cut a circle in a 2-foot radius around the base of the tree. Push the shovel into all sides of the circle and push down on the handle to loosen and lever the tree free.

Place the root ball of the tree in the center of the burlap cloth. Allow the branches to hang off of the cloth as you and a friend grab the corners of the cloth and carry the tree to the prepared area.

Loosen the root ball with your hands if it is tightly tangled. Moisten the inside of the hole with water and place the tree into the hole. Moisten the root ball and cover it with the soil and compost mixture. Do not cover the trunk.

Water the citrus tree generously, until the soil is wet but not soaked. Water lightly every two days and do not fertilize until the end of the growing season.


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