Moving 3 year old peach trees?


In central Virginia, Piedmont region I have transplanted trees February - December and all have lived. The only issue I have ever had is transplanting early August in the middle of a heat wave on a location where I could not irrigate the tree. The tree stressed but was fine next year.

I had one tree, a Reliance Peach, that was 4 years old that grew initially than stunted. It was planted in hard clay. I moved it to a better location, the tree lived but did not fix the stunting issue.


I’m sorry, but I’m not sure his business entails much transplanting of larger peach trees. Does he sell them- on how much actual experience is his opinion based?

I’ve been selling bare root baring age peach trees for decades and do 75% of my moving of them in fall, sometimes preceding test winters with lows between -15 to over 20 below zero. That 25% of spring plantings gives me a pretty good control to allow comparison. Of course, because I do it so much, I have a system where tress are carefully dug up early in the morning saving as much as an 8’ root spread. Roots are immediately wrapped with wet sheets and placed in huge, waterproof, used fertilizer bags and transplanted that day. Not all transplanting methods are equal.

In order for me to evaluate someone else’s opinion on the subject I need to have some idea of their level of experience and methodology. Do you happen to know what that is? I suspect his statement may be about whips that have been ripped out of the ground. The cheap bare root peach trees I buy form most nurseries have butchered roots. Anyway, I assume older trees are tougher- I lose a few new trees from nurseries every season. .


I tried moving a 3 year old apricot and it snapped in half at the graft with hardly any pressure! I think apricots must be weaker than other trees - I’ve had another apricot crack at the graft, but other stonefruits were fine. Just be careful not to pull on the trunk above the graft when uprooting!


I’m sure he is referring to typical nursery age trees. One and two year old trees, which is my experience as well. As mentioned I’ve never moved a 4" peach tree. As it appears you have moved these larger trees, I will defer.

I do suspect there are local conditions which color your experience (as is common to me as well) so I do believe I’ve experienced peach trees which go into winter “softer”, as Matt Moser mentions, than perhaps you’ve experienced. As I’ve indicated in the past our soil here is more closer to corn soil, with some trees hitting 4" trunks at 3 years. My experience has me shy about recommending fall transplanting of peaches, although I do it myself and sometimes suffer consequences.

To be clear once again I’ve not transplanted any peach trees with 4’ trunks, so perhaps they would respond differently.


Yeah, I knew you already understood my point but I was speaking to others here. I would add that once a tree starts baring real crops its physiology changes and the tree seems to harden up and be less likely winter killed.

This is unscientific, because the nursery trees I purchase are different in other ways than the ones I move, but I have much higher mortality with young nursery trees I received and planted in spring than with the more mature trees I move in the fall (I’m speaking of the following winter in both cases although the mortality is also higher the first growing season with the young nursery trees).

Incidentally, I often see fall root growth of apples (this fall I will look more closely for hair roots on peach trees I dig up), but it may not even require root growth for roots to become more established as I think of it. Mychorizal strands may infect or surround roots in the fall which also can increase access to water- especially when the are under stress. Fall may offer perfect conditions for this development as the soil is relatively warm and aerated compared to spring.

I was shown a study on this forum some time back (hell, I might have even been the one who sourced it), of a comparison of fall planted to spring planted apple trees in which fall planted far surpassed the spring planted trees in growth. The study was done in the early 20th century.


When you transplant them do you soak the roots in a tub of water like you would in the initial planting? Or do you just soak the soil after you replant it?


I never soak roots of even whips from a commercial nursery, I make some effort to keep roots moist while out of the ground and make sure the soil is at or near maximum moistness when planting, but I don’t fill holes with water as the literature often suggests. I don’t believe some air pockets are bad as long as soil is moist.

When transplanting plants in leaf it’s a different story, I tend to water my vegetable starts in.

The fine roots are mostly lost when transplanting while larger roots are sealed with suberin and are not in danger of quickly drying out. The advantage of bare root transplanting is that it’s easier to move a lot more large roots which have their own protection from dehydration but moving rootballs allows the preservation of more fine roots.

If you move a large enough ball you can move trees in the middle of summer without any shock at all, but it’s extremely labor intensive and large balls can weigh tons.

For some reason, trees without a fibrous root system like pears and persimmons are difficult to transplant bare root. Even whips sometimes take a long time to recover from bare root transplanting. Once pear trees get larger than about 2" diameter, BR transplanting becomes dicey- I have lost trees. In my nursery all my pears are propagated in in-ground bags and never moved bare root after the initial planting.


What are your thoughts on pruning the trees at time of transplanting? I’ve read that it’s nexessary to balance the tree out. Tree loose roots when you dig it up so you have to prune out the top pretty much. Does it not apply to dormant transplanting?


It’s a bit complicated. Research of immature trees shows that pruning back trees does not help them establish with the limited species researched, however peaches and plums are born adults (sexually mature), investing in flower buds their very first season. Peaches are a species that sometimes end up bigger when pruned then when left alone for this reason.

In the industry, it is sometimes suggested to prune back pears hard to assure they establish successfully and quickly.

I believe in pruning trees for shape when I transplant them but I only cut back peaches and nectarines hard.

However, I’ve never done comparison studies of my own, but you should know that the idea of the necessity of balancing branches to root is at least questionable, according to hort literature in the last 30 years or so.


I always make sure the roots have some moisture on them when I receive the trees from the mail order nursery.If I cannot plant them right away I keep the roots moist in their bags.
I agree with you, I do not like the process they suggest of filling the hole with water. I never understood why that would be beneficial.
I have had the worst luck with planting bear rooted pear trees. My apple trees plantings I have about 99% luck with. Pears about 40%.


Do you cut back the pears aggressively? I’m told they suffer disproportionately from dehydration after transplant so may benefit from this regimen.


I usually cut them back to about 32" high when I transplant them.


Do you plant them in early spring?


Yes, usually always in the springtime. I have not planted too many trees in the fall over the years.


No, what I meant is you don’t wait until mid-spring after threat of hard frost, do you. The sooner trees are planted once the soil is thawed is usually better, so that’s why I ask.


So plant them in very early spring or is it better to plant in the fall?


Nurseries don’t usually sell trees for fall planting, but if survival has been a consistent problem I’d run with early spring anyway.


I appreciate the good advice. I see a few trees in the local nurseries around here but usually nothing I want.


Trees in pots are harder to establish in difficult environments than a good BR anyway.


It’s a nice fall day here, 54 degrees and sunny. I decided to move my 2 year old peach tree. It’s lost most of the leaves. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. It had a lot more roots than I imagined they develop in 2 years. This is what I managed to pull up. Hopefully it’ll get through the winter. To make it easier to move, I decided to chop off all the branches too.