How to Transplant a Hemlock Tree
The tall, graceful hemlock tree, an evergreen with sweeping branches and springy, soft-tipped needles, will recover well from transplanting when all the details of the transplant are prepared in advance. In the proper site, with well-conditioned soil and balanced watering, your hemlock tree will live a long, healthy life. Follow these steps to ensure a successful transplant of your hemlock tree.
Step 1: Choose a Suitable Location for Your Hemlock
Hemlock trees fare best in a semi-shaded location, away from prevailing strong winds. They can grow well near other trees or shrubs. Avoid planting them in the middle of a lawn where they will have to compete with grass for water and nutrients.
Step 2: Check the Soil pH, Moisture, Drainage, and Organic Content
When transplanting trees, always check the soil pH. Hemlock will do best in a slightly acid soil with a pH from 6.0 to 6.5. Add some coarse gravel to the soil as needed to improve water drainage. Put in some organic compost such as peat moss and leaf mold at the base of the hemlock tree's planting hole before inserting the tree's root ball.
Step 3: Dig a Deep Planting Hole for a Hemlock
The hemlock has a wide trunk even as a sapling, and it grows out of a large root ball, more than 2 feet in diameter. Dig the planting hole at least 12 inches deep and put the root ball to the bottom, on top of gravel and organic compost you add just prior to planting.
Step 4: Prepare the Hemlock's Root Ball for Transplant
Remove the burlap coating around the hemlock roots and loosen the root mass gently with your hands. Be sure to wear gloves during contact with the roots, to avoid transferring any mold spores or other disease vectors to them. Set the root mass gently into the bottom of the planting hole, and water it thoroughly at once.
Step 5: Stabilize the Trunk of the Planted Hemlock
Shovel in garden soil around the trunk quickly, and compress it with your feet, while holding up the tree as straight as possible. Water the top of the soil so it is wet to a depth of about 2 inches. The roots will seek this water as it percolates downward. Water hemlocks regularly as they do not tolerate drought conditions.
Step 6: Lay an Acidic Mulch Around the Root Crown
Use an acid mulch such as pine bark or conifer needles right up to the root crown of the hemlock, to help retain moisture and hold off the growth of grass or weeds.
In later years, if you find you would like to start a hemlock hedge from the transplanted one, add more hemlocks at a distance of at least 15 feet from each other. The hemlock will expand in width at the base to around 30 feet in circumference, and the branches will grow snugly together to make a strong, beautiful hedge. The hemlock hedge will need only occasional pruning to maintain a graceful, neat profile.