About: Retired Firefighter 1966 to 1986; Retired Wheat Farmer 1987 to 2003. Drapery Sales 1969 to 1987. 17 year Quintuple Heart Bypass Surgery Survivor; 14 year Melanoma Cancer Survivor. 81 years young.

This is the accumulation of knowledge about transplanting pecan trees I have gained in 40 tears on my 15 acres in Oklahoma, USA. Pecans are rather hard to get to sprout from seeds and harder to move them to another location. It took me a while to learn to do it like the experts do, the squirrels being the experts. I tried planting them about 3 to 4 inches deep with no success. I then started watching what the squirrels did. They plant the nuts barely below ground level covering them with 1/8" to 1/4" of dirt. The bad part of that is they don't know where I want them planted, so if they come up in the middle of the yard or in the flower bed, I must move them to a better location. Let's get started

Step 1: Tools & Supplies

Long handled shovel, AKA digging shovel

Plastic or clay pot approx 14" to 16" wide

Plastic sheet capable of lasting 3 months outside (I use Cat food sacks)

Scissors (to cut the plastic into strips)

Wire clips (to hold the strips in place)

Mulch (leaves, grass clippings, shredded newspaper) to put in bottom of pot

Good loam soil & water (to settle dirt ball into pot)

Patience :-)

Step 2: Preparation

I cut the cat food sack up into strips about 4" wide. I clip one end of the strip to the top of the pot, run it down inside the pot to the opposite side. I clip the ends of the strips to the pot with pieces of wire bent into a "U" shape. I use these strips to raise the dirt ball and tree out of the pot when I move it to it's permanent location. Without the strips, the dirt ball will break up, exposing the tree's root, killing the tree.

Step 3: Digging Up the Tree

Rather than digging the little tree and moving it to it's permanent home, I dig them and place them in pots. In a month or two, if the tree has survived the move to the pot, I move it to it's permanent home. Pecan seedlings have a tap root that is as long or longer than the part above the ground. That is, if the little tree is 3 inches tall, you can expect it's tap root to be 6 to 9" deep. If you break off the tap root, it will surely die. You must dig the tree and a dirt ball as big as the pot will hold. You must hold the shovel to where it goes straight down on all 4 sides pushing the shovel as deep as it will go. You then push down on the handle, tilting the dirt ball onto the shovel. Push the shovel handle down to ground level, raising the dirt ball and sliding the pot onto the ball. Fill in any voids beween pot and ball with loose dirt. Water good. Try not to disturb the dirt ball (and tree inside the ball). Fill in the hole you created. Don't want someone to break their leg.

Step 4: Finished Digging Them Up

In the 1st photo, the left one is the one with broken root. On the right is the 2nd one I dug. It should survive to be transplanted to it's new location. Behind them is one I dug up several months ago. Any trees that live through this will be distributed over my 15 acres. My dad once told me, "Young people hardly ever plant trees. Old people plant them." I guess he wa s right. I am 80, so I will not live to see these little ones mature, but someone will enjoy their beauty.

The last photos are some that I planted or transplanted 30 to 40 years ago.

Step 5: Lifting Tree & Dirt Ball Out of Pot

I added tis step even though I am not ready to move them to new locations. These photos show how easily I can lift the dirt ball out of the pot when I dig a hole for it in a desirable location.

1st pic shows tree in pot with plastic straps running under the dirt ball.

2nd pic shows plastic with the clips removed.

3rd pic shows me supporting the tree & dirt ball, ready to gently lower it into a newly dug hole. Click on that photo for a better view.

More on this later.

Here is a eBay Guide I wrote on "Pecan Tree Planting and Grafting" that has a lot of information & photos comparing pecans from a grafted tree & pecans from an un-grafted tree. There is no doubt which pecans you would want to gather from your trees.

I'll edit this or write a "TRANSPLANTING PECAN TREES #2" to report on the progress of the ones I dug.

If you like this, please scroll back to the top right and push the VOTE button & vote for this in the contests. Thanks.

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    5 Discussions


    Question 7 days ago on Step 4

    I enjoyed reading you tips on transplanting pecan trees. Very interesting!

    I have several pecan saplings that have come up this year in my flowerbeds where one of the "Experts" had buried some pecans. They are about 8-10 inches tall now. I live in north Texas and would like to transplant them to my place in east Texas. When do you suggest would be the best time to transplant them? I would like to put them in pots first and keep them there for a few months as you suggested before transplanting them. It is now mid October and the temps range from the mid 50's at night and mid 70's to mid 80's during the day. What are your thoughts?

    And thank you for your service as a firefighter.
    Thank you,
    David Salinas


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Here is the URL of some of Oklahoma State University's Pecan bulletins:

    Just click on the above or cut & paste it into the URL line. I hope this helps.
    Rainycat, You don't gain any advantage by planting "big paper-shell pecans". Just get any pecans you can, preferably fresh from this year's crop. The little trees will still need to be grafted with scions from a tree that produces big paper-shells. Your tree will then produce just like the ones on the tree that the scions came from.

    5 years ago on Introduction

    I am 60 and I have never seen a pecan tree in Pennsylvania. Do you know. Where I could get a young healthy pecan tree? Do you know if I bought some whole PECANS, how do they germinate into sprouts? Pleas tell us what your experience is please. We would love to he a r from you. Joe Johnson at Thanks p.s. I was just a boy when I picked up PECANS before the squirrels got to them.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Rainycat,

    I sent you a PM, but decided other readers might want to see an answer to your questions. Not sure about pecan trees in Pennsylvania, but I published an instructable on grafting here:

    Plant pecans in fall & they will come up in spring. I plant 4 to 6 in one spot and put a PVC stake by them so I don't mow them when they come up.

    You can get bulletins from Oklahoma State University on all aspects of growing & grafting pecans here:

    OSU has a whole list of different vendors of scions at a reasonable price. They have free downloads of different methods of grafting.

    You don't want to plant a tree and not graft it. You will wait 15 years only to discover it produces pecans the size of your little finger. Get scions in Feb., & graft in June. It's a long process, but well worth it.

    Here is a eBay Guide I wrote: Pecan Tree Planting and Grafting that has a lot of info and photos.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very good information. Thank you so much for sharing and happy growth!