How to nurture a newly transplanted tree
February 23, 2021 3:15 PM   Subscribe

I just transplanted a small (7 foot tall) but very mature (30-40 year old) meyer lemon tree in southern California It moved from poor soil to very nice soil and was out of the ground 30 minutes. What can I do to increase its chance of surviving?
posted by arnicae to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (To prepare it i dug a trench around it 6 months ago). Should I remove flowers if it flowers this year (to let it focus on roots rather than fruit)? Should I trim its (modest) branches? Should I water it a LOT or just drip water it regularly? Any supplements (I'm assuming not)?
posted by arnicae at 3:17 PM on February 23, 2021

From here - you can put root stimulator in a ring around the dripline but otherwise I think you're right, just let the tree take root. For root stimulator I'm not an expert really, but seaweed fertilizers and stuff with B vitamins is good. If the tree is really big (how big could a meyer lemon be?) then maybe do it a bit closer than the dripline, but that's about the area. I don't think you want stimulator right on the rootball.

You can water broadly a bit but basically it needs a few deep waterings and then get left alone. No need to trim it as they will just end up stimulating leaf/branch growth.

I'd also suggest mulching over the base of the tree. The good news is that my experience with my one meyer tree is that they're extremely hardy as as long as you water it once a month this year it should be fine.
posted by GuyZero at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2021

The tree planting guidance from my city (in the context of street trees) is to water 5-15 gallons per week in a deep water, for as many summers/dry seasons as the caliper of the tree (ie the diameter of the trunk a foot off the ground). And to not plant too low/too giant of a hole where it will be like a bucket of water.
posted by janell at 4:22 PM on February 23, 2021

Don't overwater! It's not going to be used to richer soil, which most likely means the soil will retain water longer than its previous home. If you have a sizeable amount of the previous root ball, it may only take 1-2 seasons to get really established. If the root ball was stripped down, it may take longer than that. At least you're doing this in the (sort of) wet season, so it has a few gentle months to adjust.

The urban tree planting nonprofit FUF up here in SF convinced me years ago that mulch is preferable to fertilizer for just about every tree that isn't struggling to survive in its climate zone. Meyer lemons in SoCal are not struggling at all. I wouldn't remove any flowers--honestly I wouldn't remove anything. The transplant was a trauma, and the tree doesn't need any more of that. If it flowers and can't handle setting fruit, the flowers or subsequent budding fruit will simply drop off.

Three cheers for transplanting big, mature plants in need of good homes. Well done.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 6:49 PM on February 23, 2021

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