Friday, February 8, 2013

To move or not to move

Early last year, I became aware of an organization here in Philadelphia called Tree Philly. It's a greening initiative that, among other things, gives away free yard trees to interested residents. Though we put up a fence last year, it didn't enclose our entire yard. I was (and am) interested in natural privacy screens and a free tree seemed like a great idea. So, I filled out a short application and picked up my tree on a rainy day in April.

I selected an Eastern Redbud both for the size that it would eventually become (only 15-30 feet) and for the beautiful display of flowers in the spring. I wanted to plant it on the side of the house, where it might eventually screen us in from all of the new construction going on next door. But it had to remain pretty small because we only have about 10 feet between our house and the property line. I didn't want something that was going to bump into the house.

Photo from

As this fall and winter progressed, and the ugly construction next door resumed, I found myself looking out the window. In full view is the blue porta potty that has a place of honor for the contractors. And I realized - I planted the tree in the wrong place. I don't know what I was thinking. It is off to the side of the kitchen window, not really in front of it (where it'd block out some of the ugly new view). Again, what was I thinking?

So now I don't know if I should move it when spring arrives or hope it will block some of the view when it gets a little bit bigger and a little bit leafier. 

According to, it's perfectly okay to transplant a tree. I'm assuming it's probably doubly okay to transplant one whose trunk is about the size of two quarters (read: tiny). And according to the USDA, my tree may eventually spread 15-25 feet (hello shade!). So it looks like either of my options would work. I guess I'll wait to see what the tree does in the spring and decide from there. And hope, in the mean time, that the blue porcelain throne makes an exit sometime soon.


  1. Move it! Worst case, it'll sulk for a while. It will catch up eventually, though. But if you don't move it, you will be kicking yourself FOREVER.

  2. Absolutely you can move it.

    I have moved several large sapling trees, and although the bigger ones I need muscle help with (I'm a female gardener in my 60s), all of them moved easily and were happy in new locations.

    Just be sure to dig a really nice big hole first, before you dig the redbud out of the ground. Have the new spot ready, and once the tree is in the new location water it well. Give it supplemental water all the first season. It will be fine. I have moved a sourwood, conifers, a large doublefile viburnum, sapling maples, several young oaks, taproot and all... no tree grows in my garden that can't be moved at least once.

  3. Thanks for your comments!

    I'd be moving it about two feet, so not far at all. Truth be told, I think the supplemental watering is what was holding me back. I obviously had to water it a LOT this first year and was hoping to do less work with it this year. But I think Jason's right - I'll be kicking myself if I don't, and now is the time since it's so small.