How to transplant a large palm tree

How To Move A Large Palm Without Killing It (with Pictures)

Whether you are trying to move a palm tree from one location of your yard to another, or getting a field-grown palm tree from a nursery, the planting steps would be the same. Understanding how palm roots grow and respond to being cut, will help you avoid damaging them and increase palms survival rate.

In short, to transplant a mature palm tree without killing it, you need to dig it out with minimum root damage, safely transport it to the new location, prepare the soil and the planting spot in advance, and take extra care of the palm after planting to minimize the transplant shock.

It’s a little more traumatizing for the field-grown palm to be moved from one location to another than for the container-grown palm because of the greater root damage.

Even though the roots of the container-grown palm will still be exposed to light and air, they won’t be cut unlike field-grown palms.

Be prepared for your palm to undergo so called “transplant shock”. Transplant shock happens when palm tree experiences number of stresses after being recently transplanted. Those stress include new soil, new sunlight levels, new temperatures, and water stress.

1. How Far To Dig Around Palm Tree Root Ball

Palm trees don’t have woody roots like broadleaf trees. They have a lot of small roots, tightly packed together, growing from the base of the trunk, similar to grass roots. Unlike broadleaf trees, palm roots don’t increase in diameter and remaining the same size as they first emerged from the base of the palm. The palm roots don’t go very deep.

Research done by University of Florida, showed that different palm species respond differently to root cutting. Roots of some palms like Sabal palmetto will die back after being cut and will be replaced by the new roots. Thus, it really doesn’t matter how close to the palm base you cut them.

In some palms like Coconut palm, half of the cut roots will survive and start branching no matter how close you cut it. That being said, for these two palm species, you can keep the root ball small when digging them out. However, most palm species depend on the existing root survival.

For palms that are less than 15 ft tall, I would recommend leaving at least one 1-2 ft radius from the trunk. Since rootball is three-dimensional, you will also need to dig 1-2 ft down. But of course the root ball radius depends on the size of the tree.

If you are not sure how sensitive a particular palm species is to root cutting, leave enough distance from the trunk. Keep in mind, that while larger root ball will minimize the transplant shock and speed up the recovery, the additional cost and weight involved, might not be worth it.

2. Dig Out The Palm

Now that you know how big of a radius to leave, start digging a trench around the palm. No matter how careful you are, some of the roots will be cut. Push the palm gently to tip it over and cut the rest of the roots.

Depending on the size of the palm, you might need three to four people to lift out the palm from the hole. If the palm is over 30 gallon, you will need a tractor or a crane. Palms are heavy. For example a 20 ft tall palm can weigh around 1,000 lbs!

3. Leaf Removal

To reduce amount of water stress in larger palms, a lot of nurseries remove ½ to ⅔ of the old palm leaves. I’ve also seen some people removing all of the leaves. It does depend on the type of the palm you are moving.

For some species like Sabal palm that will loose all of its roots during transplanting, a full leaf removal is the best method of insuring survival.

From my personal experience and by looking at the recent research, leaving some leaves on the palm will significantly improve regrowth and survival rate. If you’ve visited Florida during spring months, you’ve probably seen a lot of just planted palms all looking like a rooster.

4. Preparation For Transport

Before lifting the palm with a crane, tie the remaining fronds together to prevent leaf damage. Additionally, slender palms can easily snap. To avoid that, attach 2 splits to the trunk on opposite sides and the leaf bundle.

Also never nail anything directly to the trunk because unlike broadleaf tree, palm can’t heal itself when its trunk is injured. Scratches or scrapes on the trunk might leave palm vulnerable to insects and fungus. Before attaching chain, ropes or cables to the trunk wrap it with a nylon slings.

Here is a great photo illustrating how you need to prepare large palm before loading it on to the truck.

You should wrap the roots with wet burlap to ensure roots stay moist during transit. If transported by a pick-up truck, make sure to wrap the entire palm with a damp tarp. This will not only protect from damaging roots, bark, and fronds, but will also help to prevent roots from drying out from the wind during the trip.

5. Site Preparation

Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball. Since palms require a good drainage, test the soil before planting. Fill the whole with water and wait for an hour. Then fill again and see how long it takes for the water to go away. If it takes a few hours, you have a great drainage. If it takes days, there is a problem.

To improve drainage you can add some sand. For clay soil use three parts of native soil with one part of organic soil mix and one part of coarse sand. If you have sandy soil, just use three parts of your native soil with one part of organic soil mix.

Aside from adding sand to the mix, you can add stones to the bottom of the planting hole, drill some holes at the bottom to loosen up the soil, or in severe cases install a drainage pipe that will take the water away from the plant.

6. Planting Palm

Try to plant it as soon as possible. If you can’t, place it in a shady spot and keep the roots moist. You can cover them with a layer of mulch to keep them from drying out.

The palm should be planted on the same depth at which it was growing before. Planting it too deep may result in water stress and nutrient deficiencies. Planting the palm too high is also a not a good idea. Since roots of the palm have not established yet, wind can actually blow it over.

Saturate the soil with water before planting. Center the tree in a hole, then backfile it with half of the prepared soil mix. Then water it again before backfilling the rest of the soil. Making sure there are no air pockets.

While you can just use your native soil for backfill, I like to mix it with organic matter to provide plants with better nutrients. A research showed, that if the backfill soil differs too much with your native soil, the new roots of the palm will stay within the amended soil like in a container. However, amending about 25% should be ok.

After you are done backfilling, create a soil barrier on the perimeter of the tree to retain the water.

7. Watering

Unlike container-grown palms, field-grown palms have had their roots cut when dug and thus have a smaller root ball to absorb water. While they are regenerating new roots, their water requirement is greater than that of contaier-gown palms whose roots have not been disturbed as much.

You will need to provide them with greater amount of water and water them more frequently until new roots regenerate. Water your newly planted palm every day for the first three weeks, and every other day for the fourth week. If you are planting during hot season, you might need to water it twice a day during the first few week.

Deep watering method works the best. Leave a water hose with slowly dripping water for 20 min to make sure soil around the root ball is moist. It takes time for the soil to absorb water. After about six weeks you can cut back on watering and just go back to the normal schedule.

8. Adding Mulch

To retain moister and to keep weeds out, use mulch around the base of a palm. As the mulch breaks down, it will provide palm with an enriched organic soil. Add about 2 inch of mulch making it thinner near the trunk and thicker over the root zone.

To much mulch against the trunk can cause fungal diseases and rot in the trunk and prevents water from getting to the roots. Keep mulch 1ft away from the trunk of a smaller palm and about 2 ft away from a large tree.

Mulch is a much better groundcover than lawn, which uses up nutrients and moister meant for the palm. Also, lawn creates a maintenance problem when it needs trimming close to the trunk. Avoid using a string trimmer around palms because string can cut and permanently damage the trunk.

9. Untying Leaves

There are a lot of arguments about this one. Many gardeners believe that keeping the leaves tied up for a few weeks after transplanting will reduce loss of water and prevent palm from moving in the wind.

However, recent research showed that keeping the leaves tied up will not improve the growth, but might provide a favorable environment for plant diseases. I would strongly recommend untying the palm fronds right after planting.

10. Creating Support

While container-grown palms rarely need staking because their root balls are big enough to hold the palm upright, field-grown palms have smaller root balls in proportion to their height and need to be supported.

To prevent newly planted palms from toppling during wind storms, support it by timbers. Never nail anything directly into the trunk. Wrap the trunk with burlap before attaching 4 short lengths of lumber with metal bands or a similar tie. This should not damage the trunk while preventing the wood from slipping up or down.

Next, nail four or five support timbers into these pieces. Leave the support for 1 year or until the palm has reestablished enough roots to say on its onw.

12. Fertilization

Do NOT fertilize the palm until you see new growth. I see a lot of articles on Internet recommending to apply a fertilizer right after transplanting the palm. Until the palm grows a new root system there is really no need to fertilize it. In about two months apply a good quality slow-release fertilizer.

13. Transplant Shock

If your transplanted palm tree looks like it’s dying, it’s probably experiencing a “transplant shock”. Some of the signs are brown and yellow leaves with dry tips. There is little you can do. The palm needs to get used to the new place and grow new roots.

It might take up to 4 months for the palm to get acclimated to the new place. Be patient. Sometimes palms loose most of their leaves in the first year after transplanting. Also, don’t expect it to produce a great deal of new growth during the first year.

It usually takes palm about 3 full growing seasons to get fully established at the new location.

When Is The Best Time To Transplant A Palm Tree

If you live in a tropical climate, you can transplant your palm any time of the year. However, it’s best to transplant palm during spring or early summer when it’s warm so the palm has enough time to establish and grow new roots.

Ovoid moving palm trees during periods of drought. Since palms loose a lot of their roots, they already have hard time providing enough water without having to deal with the stress of the drought.

Keep in mind, that root growth is significantly slowed down by the soil temperatures below 65F.

Can You Sell Mature Palm Tree

When moving, many homeowners want to sell their mature palms that are growing in their backyard.

The problem with large palms like 20ft tall is that they need a lot of manpower and heavy equipment to dig them out and to transport them. Also, the larger the palm, the less chance it has to survive the move.

In the end, if you have to rent the equipment and transpiration to move the palm, it might be easier and less expensive just buying a new container-grown palm from the nursery. Of course if it’s some kind of a rare palm that is hard to find, many nurseries will be happy to buy it from you.

Related articles:

–Transplanting Palm Tree to a Bigger Container
–How To Plant A Palm Tree In 10 Easy Steps (with Pictures)
–Top 10 Palm Tree Planting Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make
–Transplanting Palm Tree from a Container into the Ground

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Moving a Palm Tree | Home Guides

By Amy Rodriguez Updated October 30, 2019

Adding a tropical appearance to your landscape, palm trees also shade your sensitive garden plants with their widespread fronds. However, you may need to move your palm tree for aesthetic or functional reasons -- some species grow too large near a structure and need more root spread or canopy space. Moving a mature palm with a maximum 10-foot height, like dwarf palm (Sabal minor) growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10, allows you to safely transplant the tree compared to younger palms; immature palms may not survive a transplant.

Considering Palm Tree Roots 

To move a palm tree successfully, you need to consider the unique root structure of palm tree roots. Unlike trees with wide, sprawling roots, palm trees grow roots from a trunk section called the root-initiation zone. Multiple, narrow roots extend out in every direction from the initiation zone, but they do not grow any wider in girth.

As a result, your transplanting palm trees process does not involve cutting into large, anchoring roots that can easily kill an established tree. Roots are constantly generated from this zone when the palm is planted in ideal soil conditions.

Preparing for Planting Palm Trees in Pots

Before you remove the palm from the ground, carefully water the soil surrounding the rootball. This dampening strategy provides adhesion for the thin palm roots to remain intact during removal – you reduce root loss as the moist soil holds the roots in place.

Create a hole in the new palm location using the rootball's size as a guide. In general, your planting site diameter should be two times the width of the rootball. If you move a full-sunlight palm tree to a shady area, allow approximately one year for normal growth to resume. Your palm tree must acclimate to the new surroundings and growth may be stunted after transplanting.

Digging and Transplanting Palm Trees

Because you need to cut some palm tree roots to remove the tree from the ground, you want to transplant the palm during its most active growing season to recover from the stress. The mild months between May and July are suitable for successful palm transplants, especially since the soil should have a warm temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a tree spade or shovel, cut the palm from the ground while leaving at least 3 feet of space around the trunk. This rootball size provides enough anchorage for the tree at the new site, as well as adequate root quantities for moisture and nutrient absorption as the palm generates new roots.

Success Planting Palm Trees in Pots

As you settle the palm into its new location, inspect the soil line against the trunk. Your palm tree needs to be transplanted to the same depth as its previous location to avoid growth stunting. Maintain a moist soil environment around the palm for six months after the move; the moisture encourages root growth away from the original rootball space.

If your palm is relatively tall, support the transplanted trunk with angled lumber pressed against it and secured with straps – do not harm the tree by sinking nails or staples into the trunk. With consistent watering and support, your transplanted palm should thrive for many years.


  • Kendall Palm Nursery Inc.: Transplanting Palms
  • Reef Tropical: How to Transplant a Palm Tree in South Florida
  • Better Homes and Gardens: Palm Tree Care

Writer Bio

Writing professionally since 2010, Amy Rodriguez cultivates successful cacti, succulents, bulbs, carnivorous plants and orchids at home. With an electronics degree and more than 10 years of experience, she applies her love of gadgets to the gardening world as she continues her education through college classes and gardening activities.

How to transplant a palm tree at home?

Palms are hardy plants that are quite easy to grow at home. They can be placed in a house, in an apartment or even in an office, they are also found in commercial premises. Often they order ready-made specimens, which are sent from the store already in a cache-pot. Such an indoor palm tree received comprehensive and timely care, therefore it is full of strength for full growth and development. In order for her to continue to delight with her appearance, she needs to provide good conditions for growth.


1. Do I need to transplant a palm tree immediately after purchase?

2. How to transplant a newly purchased palm tree?

3. How to transplant an adult palm tree?

4. How often will a transplant be required?

If you have acquired a palm tree, sooner or later the question arises about its transplantation. This procedure is simply necessary for the normal development of the root system, and hence the whole plant. If you ignore planting in a new pot, growth retardation will appear, diseases may occur and pests may be disturbed. To avoid these unpleasant consequences, you need to properly monitor the exotic representative and provide him with the proper conditions for development.

Do I need to repot a palm tree immediately after purchase?

As a rule, after the purchase, many people try to immediately replant the plant, but this is not always necessary. First, it is advisable to quarantine it, separating it for 2 weeks from the rest of the flora. This will help prevent infecting others if the palm is infected with fungus or pests. If she is sick and needs to immediately change the pot, she may die from such stress, since there will be no strength to recover.

But in certain cases it is better to transplant the palm tree right away - this information is listed in the table:

Small planter Often, when selling, a palm tree is planted in a rather narrow and shallow pot and the root system simply does not have enough space for normal growth. If you delay with a transplant, there may be difficulties with further cultivation.
Spring This time of the year just corresponds to the transplant. If it is not possible to withstand quarantine, you can carry out the main procedure, and then isolate the plant for 2 weeks.
The tree began to get sick, but there are no signs of diseases and pests These symptoms indicate that the root system is cramped in a store planter. An urgent transplant is required into a new soil and into a wider and deeper container.
As recommended by the seller Honest florists always give useful advice when buying and hide nothing. If you are advised to transplant a palm tree immediately, you need to urgently address this issue.

How to transplant a newly purchased palm tree?

The general rule is with old soil, so as not to injure the roots. For the first landing, you need to use a specialized substrate purchased in a store; you should refuse to prepare it yourself. The pot is selected 3-4 cm more than the previous one, and drainage is formed at its bottom, so there should be holes. It is better to abandon plastic containers, opting for ceramics. Under such conditions, the root system will have a place for new growth, it will "breathe", and the soil will not be waterlogged.

For replanting, the following actions are carried out:

  • the old soil is poured abundantly so that it can be separated from the walls;
  • in a new container, a layer of coarse gravel is laid on the bottom to ensure drainage;
  • , if necessary, a small layer of earth is added if the pot is higher than the previous one;
  • then the plant is transplanted into a new container carefully so as not to damage the stem and roots;
  • free space around the periphery is also sprinkled with new soil.

This is the first transplant done with the old soil, so the tree should not get sick. If any symptoms appear, they will talk about acclimatization in a new place. Further procedures are carried out already with the change of the substrate and they require more responsibility.

How to transplant an adult palm tree?

But if the plant has already acclimatized and stood in the room for several months, its transplantation is a little more difficult:

  • We prepare the substrate - for it you need to take 1 part of rotted manure, 2 parts of light clay-turf, 1 part of peat, 2 parts of humus-leaf soil, 1 part of sand and a little charcoal. This is the most optimal substrate; palm trees do not grow very well on others.
  • We select a pot - depending on the state of the measles system. To do this, you need to carefully remove the tree and inspect the roots: if they have grown in width, you will need wider dishes. When they accumulate at the bottom, we select a deep container.
  • We prepare a new pot - we pour small pebbles on its bottom, then sand and a pre-formed substrate. In the center, be sure to make a hole for the convenience of landing.
  • Then water the palm tree abundantly so that the old soil softens. You can additionally lower the pot into water and leave it there for 10-15 minutes. You can check the condition of the soil with a tool.
  • Carefully remove the palm tree from the pot, separating the old soil. This is done manually so as not to damage the root system. We cut off old and dead tissue with secateurs.
  • We plant a tree in a new pot, sprinkle the roots with earth, but don't tamp down much. Water thoroughly and leave in partial shade at room temperature to restore.

The palm will be sore for a few days and this is absolutely normal. It needs to be watched, periodically watered, but not too plentifully. The exotic tree is very afraid of drafts, especially at a young age. It is better to put it in a place with good lighting, but avoid direct sunlight.

How often will a transplant be required?

Usually the first transplant is carried out immediately after purchase, in the year and at 3 years, then every 3-5 years is allowed. Mature trees do not like this procedure very much and can live in a pot for quite a long time. If the container is spacious, and the conditions for development are suitable, this representative feels comfortable for years, grows and develops normally. If you need a transplant, you need to treat it as responsibly as possible.

correct approach, what to do with a big palm tree


  • Basic Rules
    • Site preparation
    • Palm relocation
    • Watering
    • Mulching
  • Root cutting
  • How to prevent transplant shock
  • Conclusion

If you grow a palm tree at home and want it to grow well all year round, you need to properly care for it and periodically transplant it either into a new pot or to another plot of land, depending on where you grow the tree: indoors or outdoors . The process of transplanting a palm tree is not much different from transplanting other types of trees. But this procedure must be approached responsibly, performing certain actions in the right sequence. Let's figure out how to properly transplant a palm tree.

Palm trees need to be repotted regularly for optimal growth

Basic Rules

If you are trying to move a palm tree from one place to another in your garden, or transplant it from one pot to another, there are certain rules to follow. Transplanting a palm tree is quite simple, but you must take every precaution not to damage the plant. Before transplanting a palm tree to a new permanent place, you need to prepare all the necessary equipment:

  • spade;
  • sand compost;
  • burlap fabric;
  • mulch;
  • water.

The best time to transplant palms is from late spring to early summer when the soil temperature is above 18°C. While most of the 1,500 species of palm trees need subtropical or tropical climates, 100 species will be able to grow in other areas with cooler temperatures.

Watch this YouTube video

Site preparation

First of all, you need to choose a suitable place for the palm tree. It should be well lit, protected from winds and water accumulation. The soil should be fertile and soft, but in any case, you can independently prepare the desired soil. When you find a good spot, dig a hole twice the size of the palm's root ball. It is desirable that the soil be oxygenated, as aeration in the ground will help prevent transplant shock.

Transplanting a plant into a pot is much easier. All you need for this is a larger container and a pre-prepared soil mixture.

Before planting a palm tree in a new container, it is better to immediately choose a place in the house or on the veranda where the plant will stand. It is better to transplant in the same place, so as not to move the tree later and simply not to disturb it.

Moving palm tree

When pulling a palm tree out of the ground, it is very important not to damage the roots. To do this, dig a small hole around the trunk, thus removing the top compacted layer of soil. Carefully dig the root ball out of the ground and pull out the plant. When lifting it, hold the base of the roots with one hand and hold the top of the trunk with the other. Try not to damage the buds of the tree.

If you are using special tree lifting equipment, still lift the palm from below and support the top. Hold tree upright while hauling. After you get the tree out of the ground, moisten the burlap and wrap it around the root system, and then you can prepare a new hole.

When transplanting a palm tree, make sure you don't plant it too deep. The top of the root system should be above the top of the soil. Fill the hole with high quality compost mixed with fertilizer and drainage sand.

Palm tree should be transplanted together with an earthen ball


After transplanting, give the tree plenty of water to compact the soil and hold the palm firmly. When the water is absorbed, you can sprinkle some more earth on top. The soil should always be moist, but try not to overwater the plant. Leave the hose with slowly dripping water for 20 minutes to keep the ground around the root ball moist. It will take some time for the soil to absorb all the water.

Constantly check the soil moisture level. After a week, make sure the soil is not too wet, as too much moisture causes root rot, which can destroy the root system and cause the palm tree to fall or die.


Fallen leaves, weeds, straw, sawdust and other natural waste can be used for mulch. Such organic top dressing will provide the soil with the necessary beneficial trace elements.

Add about 7 cm of mulch around the base of the tree without touching the trunk. The mulch will break down over time and act as a fertilizer and keep the exposed roots healthy and safe until they get established.

Straw excellent for mulching

Root cutting

The allowed size of the root system depends on the type of tree. For example, the roots of the Royal Palm (Syagrus romazoffiana) should be 15-30 cm from the trunk, and the roots of the African wild palm (Phoenix reclinata) should grow 1.2-1.8 m. In most palm trees, the roots grow up to 30 cm in depth, so you need to have time to plant a tree in a permanent place until the root system is fully formed.

Big root tubers are usually better than small tubers, so if you're going to shorten the roots, as is usually done with other trees, it's not necessary at all. The palm tree will grow much faster when it has long roots. If you want to plant a plant in a pot, then you should not worry about this. A pot with a diameter of 50-60 cm is quite suitable.

Understanding how palm tree roots grow and how they respond to pruning will help you avoid damaging them and increase plant survival. Palm trees do not have woody roots like broadleaf trees.

They have many small rootlets, tightly joined together, growing from the base of the trunk and similar to grassroots. Unlike broadleaf trees, palm roots do not increase in diameter and remain the same size as when they started growing.

Research has shown that different types of palm trees respond differently to root pruning. The roots of some palms die off after pruning, later being replaced by new roots. It doesn't matter how close to the base of the trunk you shorten them. In some species, like the coconut tree, half of the roots survive after being shortened, no matter how close to the trunk you cut them. After transplanting, the plant will grow very few new roots.

The growth of most palm species depends on the survival of the roots. If you don't know how sensitive your palm tree is to root shortening, then it's best to leave enough distance from the trunk. It is recommended to leave at least 90 cm of roots. The root ball is three dimensional, you will also need to dig a hole 90 cm deep.

Each variety of palm has a particular susceptibility to root clipping

How to prevent transplant shock

When a palm tree is transplanted from one place to another, it is much more injured than when it is transplanted from a pot into the ground. When you move a tree out of its pot, you can simply take it out and put it in the ground without damaging the roots. Be prepared for the fact that your palm tree will receive the so-called "transplant shock". Transplant shock occurs when a palm receives various stresses during a move. These stresses arise from new soil, sunlight, new temperature, etc. To avoid them, you need to perform certain actions.

  1. Step 1. Remove leaves. To retain water in transplanted palms, many remove half or two-thirds of the old palm leaves. Some people remove all leaves. As practice shows, leaving some leaves on a palm tree significantly improves their growth and survival.
  2. Step 2: Humidity control. When palm trees are cut off their roots, they can suffer from a lack of water. Before digging up the plant, water it well and wait until the water is completely absorbed and the earth dries out. Then you can moisten the hole in which you are going to plant a tree.
  3. Step 3. Tie the leaves. Before picking up the palm, pin the leaves together to prevent damage. Thin trees can crack easily. To avoid this, tie two sticks to the trunk on opposite sides.
  4. Step 4 Raise the palm tree. You need to be careful when using special equipment for lifting trees. The bark can be easily damaged and damaged areas make the plant vulnerable to insects and fungi, never attach a chain, ropes or cables directly to the trunk. Wrap nylon straps around the barrel and then attach them to the faucet.
  5. Step 5. Planting a palm tree. Try to plant the tree as soon as possible after you have dug it up. If you cannot immediately place the plant in a new place, then constantly make sure that the roots are moist. The palm tree should be planted at the same depth at which it grew before. Deep planting can lead to water shortages and nutrient deficiencies. Planting too high is also not suitable, since the roots are not yet fixed, and the wind can blow against the tree.
  6. Step 6 Untie the leaves. Recent studies show that keeping the leaves tied will not improve growth, but may provide a favorable environment for disease. Experts strongly recommend untying palm leaves immediately after planting.
  7. Step 7. Fertilizer. Don't fertilize your palm tree until you see new growth. There is no need to fertilize until the tree has a new root system. Approximately two months after transplanting, slow-acting fertilizers can be applied.

Watch this YouTube video

After transplanting, the tree will need a little time to form a new root system. It will suffer from water scarcity and a frequent watering schedule should be established. Water the palm tree every 2 days for 2-3 weeks, after which you can go back to your regular schedule.

Don't worry about your plant getting a shock. The palm tree must get used to the new place and form new roots.

Acclimatization and adaptation may take up to 4 months.

Learn more