Transplanting Cedars

The expert gardeners at GardenWise Online answer user questions about their gardening challenges.

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Beautiful cedar tree.

Beautiful cedar tree.


I have several rootbound 4 – 6 ft cedars in large containers that I’d like to replant in the ground. I live in the Lower Mainland and would like to know when is the best time to transplant these trees and how to do so.

A: Carolyn Jones, GardenWise Horticulturist

Plant your cedars early spring (late February until the end of May) or late fall (October to December unless there is frost). You can push it into June if we have a rainy month.

In any event, start by digging a hole as deep as the containers and about a foot wider. If the soil is very sandy, add some organic matter to retain moisture. Slip the trees out of the containers with as little damage to the roots as possible. Set the cedars in the bottom of the hole and check the roots. If they are going around and around the root ball, they must be gently teased off this circular path. Start at the bottom of the root ball, tease out some roots, cover them with soil, and work your way up the root ball.

WATER WELL when you are done and add three inches of weed-free mulch around the planting area to reduce soil moisture evaporation. Keep the plants watered deeply and weekly for the first summer, unless it is very rainy. The most common cause of death in cedars is dehydration.

Once they’ve been in the ground for three years, they’ll be much more drought tolerant.