How to Transplant a Blue Palo Verde Tree

by Jessica Westover

The blue palo verde tree (Parkinsonia florida, formerly Cercidium floridum) appears bluish-green, a characteristic that makes it stand out in the landscape. This deciduous tree grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11 and reaches a mature height of 30 to 35 feet with an equal spread. A plant for arid climates, the blue palo verde tree requires fast-draining soil and minimal irrigation once established. Time transplanting for the late fall through early spring while the tree remains dormant. If possible, root-prune the tree six months before the move, in the spring just before new growth or in the fall after its leaves drop.

1. Root Pruning

1 Water the blue palo verde tree one day before root pruning. Apply 2 to 3 inches of water to moisten the root ball to a depth of 24 to 36 inches.

2. Root Pruning

2 Measure the width of the tree's trunk in inches with a caliper, 6 inches above ground level. Round the measurement to the nearest inch if needed. Multiply the measurement by 10 to determine the radius of the root pruning circle. For example, if the trunk's width equals 2 inches, then multiply 2 by 10 to get 20. You would dig in a circle around this tree, 20 inches from its trunk.

3. Root Pruning

3 Draw a line in the soil surrounding the tree with a stick, marking the perimeter of the root pruning circle. Dig down to a depth of 24 inches around the circle's perimeter with a shovel. Position the shovel with the back of its blade facing the blue palo verde tree. Push the shovel through the tree's roots to sever them. Reach down into the trench and cut through any large or stubborn roots with a pair of loppers. Leave the tree to sit for 6 months.

4. Transplanting

1 Pull weeds and remove debris from a planting site that receives full sunlight, contains fast-draining, neutral to alkaline, loamy or sandy soil and sports at least 35 feet of open, vertical space. Dig a hole in the planting site with a shovel. Space the hole 35 feet away from other plants, buildings and stationary objects. Make the hole twice as wide as the root pruning circle and 24 inches in depth.

5. Transplanting

2 Tie a piece of string to one of the palo verde's north-facing branches, marking it for future orientation. Dig in a circle around the tree, just outside of the root pruning circle. Dig to a depth of 24 inches. Push the shovel horizontally across the bottom of the root ball, severing the roots and separating the tree from the ground.

6. Transplanting

3 Spread a piece of burlap on the ground next to the tree. Lift the tree from the ground by its root ball. Recruit help to lift the tree if it proves too heavy to move by yourself. Place the tree on the center of the burlap. Wrap the burlap up and around the root ball, tying its edges in place with string.

7. Transplanting

4 Load the tree into a wheelbarrow or wagon. Transport the tree immediately to the new planting site. Unload the tree next to the planting hole.

8. Transplanting

5 Untie the string and pull the burlap off the blue palo verde's root ball. Trim back any broken, dead, discolored or mushy roots with pruning shears.

9. Transplanting

6 Place the tree in the center of the hole, positioning it with the marked branch facing to the north. Add or remove soil to the hole, if needed, to position the top of the root ball level with or 1 inch higher than the surrounding ground.

10. Transplanting

7 Fill the hole one-half full of soil, tamping it down firmly around the tree's roots. Fill the hole with water from a garden hose. Wait for the water to soak completely into the soil, settling it. Fill the remainder of the hole with soil, tamping it down as before. Do not overfill the hole or bury the root ball deeper than it was previously growing.

11. Transplanting

8 Remove the string from the tree's branch. Pile soil up in a 3- to 4-inch-tall ring around the tree, underneath the perimeter of the tree's canopy to create a basin for water. Fill the basin with water. Wait for the water to drain completely into the soil.

12. Transplanting

9 Spread a 3-inch-deep layer of mulch over the planting site with a rake. Keep the mulch 4 inches away from the tree's trunk to provide adequate air circulation and prevent the bark from rotting.

13. Transplanting

10 Drive an 8- to 10-foot-long metal stake 36 inches into the ground with a mallet. Position the stake outside the perimeter of the root ball, at least 18 inches away from the trunk, on the windward side. Drive one to two additional stakes in the ground, spacing them evenly around the tree.

14. Transplanting

11 Cut three pieces, 10 to 12 inches in length, from an old garden hose using a utility knife. Thread the end of a 9-gauge wire through one of the hose pieces. Wrap the portion of wire covered in hose around the side of the trunk opposite the first stake and position it below the tree's bottom-most branch. Pull the two ends of the wire towards the first stake. Cross one side of the wire over the other, creating a figure-eight pattern. Wrap the ends of the wire around the metal post. Repeat this process to attach the two remaining stakes to the trunk.

15. Transplanting

12 Prune the blue palo verde tree's canopy, reducing it by no more than 20 percent. Cut out any dead or broken branches, making each cut 1/4 inch above the swollen ring surrounding the branch's base. Use pruning shears to cut limbs with diameters of 1/4 inch or less and loppers for diameters of 1 1/2 inches or less. Remove branches that cross or rub against others. Cut back outer branches by one-fourth to one-third, trimming them back to a lateral branch or leaf bud. Reducing the canopy will allow the tree to survive while it establishes new roots.

Items you will need

  • Garden hose
  • Caliper
  • Stick
  • Shovel
  • Loppers
  • String
  • Pruning shears
  • Burlap
  • Wheelbarrow or wagon
  • Mulch
  • Rake
  • 2 to 3 metal stakes, 8 to 10 feet long
  • Mallet
  • Old garden hose
  • Utility knife
  • Wire

Tips

  • Remove the stakes one year after planting the tree.
  • Water the blue palo verde tree when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil begins to dry. Never allow the soil to become soggy as this will negatively affect new root development.

Warnings

  • Never transplant a large blue palo verde tree with a trunk width of more than 2 to 3 inches by yourself. Contact a professional tree service for help to prevent injury to yourself or the tree.
  • The blue palo verde sports thorns along its branches. Wear protective clothing when handling the tree or working around it to protect your person from injury. Do not plant this tree near walkways or children's play areas to prevent its prickly branches from causing cuts or scrapes.
  • Wear gloves when digging or handling the tree to protect your hands from injury.