A cautionary note….

Transplanting a plant puts a lot of stress on it. Even if you do everything right, it might not survive. Therefore, removing native plants from the wild is only acceptable if they are plentiful in the given area and there is no damage to the natural landscape.If plants are endangered, or rare…leave them alone!

Transplanting Native Trees

When to Transplant

The ideal time to transplant is immediately after the ground thaws in the spring, before the new growth begins. Transplanting native trees and shrubs while they are still dormant will give you the best chance of success. If you have difficulty identifying trees and shrubs without leaves, select and mark them during the summer while they are in leaf and transplant them the following spring.

Selecting the Plants

When transplanting wild trees and shrubs to landscaped situations, it is always best to select plants growing in open, exposed areas because they are already adapted to windy conditions. Trees and shrubs removed from sheltered locations are less likely to survive in an open landscape.

Resist the temptation to take large trees. It has been proven that small trees (less than 1m tall) are easier to transplant and will grow faster, often surpassing the growth of larger trees transplanted the same time. Smaller trees will also resist damage from strong winds while they are anchoring themselves with new roots.

Removing From the Wild

When removing trees and shrubs from the wild, dig and pull at the same time in order to get as much of the root as possible. Some of the roots will inevitably be lost (as well as soil around the roots) but if the trees are planted immediately and kept moist, an 80 to 90 percent success rate can be expected.

Do not allow the roots to dry out while moving the plants to their new location. As soon as the tree is removed from the ground, place a plastic bag around the roots. If the tree is going to be stored for a day or so, place some damp peat moss inside the bag to maintain moisture around the roots. Allowing the roots to dry out for even an hour or so may kill the tree. However, contrary to common belief, it is not recommended to soak the roots in a bucket of water because this washes the soil away from the roots.

Planting in the New Location

When transplanting native plant material, remove some of the soil and organic matter from where the plant was growing and mix it with the soil in the new location. An application of peat moss may be necessary if the planting soil is poor. Dig a hole deep enough to bury the roots and wide enough to ensure proper drainage. It is important that the roots be spread out much the same as when they were growing in the wild.

Once the tree is planted, firm the soil around the roots (to eliminate air pockets), and then water thoroughly. A small tree may require ten litres or more to soak the soil. Water uptake is critical to the survival of a transplanted tree. It is important to water regularly during the first year, especially on dry, windy days. Mulch the area with some coarse peat and/or bark to keep grass and other weeds from growing and competing for moisture and nutrients.

Growing Native Trees from Seed


Some native trees and shrubs can be grown from seed. For example, the seed of evergreens such as spruce (Picea) spp., fir (Abies spp.), and pine (Pinus spp.) is contained within the cones. Collect the cones in early October when the seed is mature. Dry them inside and then shake them to release the seed. The seed contains a little wing, which helps disperse the seed in nature. Gently rub the seeds together to remove these wings. The seed of native mountain ash (Sorbus spp.) is contained within the red berries and can be extracted when the fruit is mature. It is important to remove all the fleshy pulp from around the seed as the pulp may contain germination inhibitors.


The seeds of most plants that are native to colder areas require a period of cold stratification to break dormancy and induce germination in the spring. This is nature’s way of preventing the seed from germinating in the fall. The most practical technique is to plant the seed in containers in either a cold greenhouse that freezes, a cold frame, or even a sheltered area where the containers can be protected from ice build-up. Plant the seed at a depth of twice the diameter of the seed and make sure that the soil is moist and will not dry out during the winter. In the spring, when the weather warms up, a certain percentage of the seeds will germinate to produce little seedlings. Alternatively, the seeds can be mixed with damp peat moss, sealed in a plastic bag, placed in cold storage for a specified amount of time, and planted outside in the spring. Each species varies with respect to the temperatures and time periods required for cold stratification.


Seedlings should be grown in a sheltered area for the first year. The following spring they can be transplanted into larger containers and, in the third year, they can be planted in their permanent location. After the first year, feed the seedlings with a dilute solution of 20-20-20 early in the season.