8 Best Ways To Transport Maple Trees (And How To Do It)

Large single maple tree on sunny summer day in green field with blue sky

At some point in life, you may have to transport a tree, either to transplant it or to move it from the nursery to your home. Sounds like quite the undertaking, no? The good news is there are several things you can do to easily transport your maple tree. 

In general, the best way to transport a maple tree is to make sure to protect the root ball and bark by lifting from the pot into your vehicle. Wrap the maple tree foliage lightly to protect it from the wind while driving and when you are stopped, make sure to provide air circulation.

Most of the procedures and considerations are the same for transporting any tree, though there are differences when it comes to the height and some types of trees. Read on to find out more about how to transport your maple tree!

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Equipment Needed For Transporting Maple Trees

If you have a maple tree that is coming from the nursery then you’ll need to see how they deal with the storage of the tree. Are they root balled or burlapped? If so, for both they’ll be quite heavy. 

The one thing to remember is to never pull, drag or lift a maple tree from the bark. This may not only hurt you–but hurt the tree in a way that will start it dying early. The way to understand this is to look at the bark like the skin. 

According to a study by the American Society for Horticultural Science, tree health can suffer due to rough contact with the bark and or foliage. If you rupture the skin, you’ll let in bugs and disease. The best way to give your maple tree regardless of age or size a great chance at a healthy life is to protect that bark! 

So, use a hand truck or dolly and get help to lift it into the truck without engaging the bark by pulling or lifting. 

You can find a tree cart like this Mac Sports Collapsible Outdoor Utility Wagon to make transportation easier!

Additionally, since you’re most likely trying to transport a younger maple tree – take a look at Fiskars 46 Inch Steel D-handle Transplanting Spade if you’re going to be digging up the maple tree yourself. It’s ideal for penetrating the ground around tree routes in order to make translating go quite easily.

Make sure to wear proper gardening clothing, such as long sleeved gloves, shirts and pants along with protective glasses.

1. How To Transport A Container Grown Maple Tree

Young maple seedlings in pots waiting to be planted outdoors

Using the same considerations for the bark as you would for any tree, lift, preferably with two people if it’s a heavy tree, into a wheelbarrow and place it into a flatbed truck or an enclosed moving-style truck.

Do not put the maple tree lopsided inside a small car or a place that will crush the foliage, tender small branches, or hurt the bark of your maple tree. We will hit that point home! 

Maple trees in the pot also need to be watered and provided protection to the root ball while the tree awaits replanting.

2. How To Transport A Maple Tree On A Roof Rack

Most people who are transporting only one maple tree will end up putting the poor thing on the roof rack of the car. This typically happens because folks are unaware of the care of the tree in transport. 

Once you understand the care of the bark and the foliage you can make the roof rack thing work. All you need to do is wrap the maple tree from root to top. 

The age and size of the tree should dictate what you would use to wrap it. Especially when it comes to the branches and bark. You also don’t want to knock the dirt off the root ball if you’ve dug it up. 

Let’s address that first. If you’ve dug up the maple tree and plan on transporting it on your roof rack then take a burlap or just some old blankets and carefully wrap and knot them around the root ball being careful not to damage the roots. 

If it’s pot-bound then make sure you pack some plastic down in the soil to keep it from spilling out and then wrap it with the blankets. The dirt in the pot or any dirt around an exposed root ball is important and it is recommended not to remove it. It serves as nutrients and protection. 

Now, let’s address the branches and trunk. A tarp may be the best bet for covering the tree foliage and tender branches. If you will be driving in wind or at speed on the freeway or anything over 35 MPH we suggest using a tarp with twine or rope

We do not recommend wrapping bungee cord around the maple tree body. Bungee is too tight and will tear and break the branches. It may also rip off the foliage. The tree will be in shock, to begin with, and we don’t want to push it into a nervous breakdown! 

So, we suggest that you only use a bungee cord to put through the loops in the tarp to attach it to the inside of the roof of the vehicle. Use twine or rope to firmly, but not too tightly wrap the tarp around the tree. 

High quality bungee cords can be found online like these Rhino USA Bungee Cords Outdoor with Hooks.

You’ll have to experiment with it. If it’s too much, you may want to find another way to transport your maple. The roof rack is the most common other than a flatbed which is better, but not the most ideal.

If your maple tree comes in a netting already, then leave it on. If you pick one up from a nursery, it may be pre-netted. Don’t remove it. Make sure you’ve measured the car and the tree to ensure it is not falling off or smacking on the car. 

3. How To Transport Your Maple Tree In A Flatbed Truck

Flatbed truck ready for tree transport

Transporting your maple in a flatbed truck is simple and the same precautions should be taken to protect the tree as you would transporting it on the roof rack. 

Be sure to measure the flatbed against the maple tree you want. You want a foot all the way around the tree. You do not want to bump the tree around but you also don’t want to squash it. 

The best practice for transporting your maple tree in an open flatbed truck, meaning no cab is enclosing the bed, is to use old blankets and pillows. 

Line the bottom of the flatbed first. Then, place it in the middle and surround it gently with pillows and blankets. Place one blanket over the top loosely and place a tarp over the blanket. 

If there is more than one maple tree, they will be young trees with fragile foliage and branches. You would not be able to fit more than one more mature maple in the flatbed. 

Then, using the eyelet holes that should be on the insides of the truck, attach bungee cord crossways over the tree and the top blankets. Make sure they are not crushing the tree branches.

Finally, make sure you are not allowing the root ball or pot (if it is pot bound) hang out of the back of the flatbed more than a foot and not without being wrapped. The trees should be short enough to fit entirely into the back. Make sure that tree is snug as a bug in a rug! As they say. 

4. How To Protect Your Maple Tree From Weather During Transport

The one threat that your maple tree has in transport apart from getting injured is the weather. Heat and extreme cold can be enemies of trees. However, the cold, most can withstand for some time. 

Heat, on the other hand, can be deadly, even for a short time. Make sure that you climate control your vehicle if it’s enclosed and it’s cooler than the outside by at least a degree or two. 

You don’t need a refrigeration truck, but it must not be hot. The foliage will wilt and it can damage the root ball. 

If you are moving the maple tree via a flatbed truck, you can’t climate control it. However, you need to get to the destination in a timely manner. We would suggest traveling after sundown if you are going a distance. Any exposure to direct sun for any part of the maple tree in transport is not good at all. 

5. Cost Of Getting A Professional To Transport Your Maple Tree

Tree with root ball intended for transplanting

If all else fails, you may need to get someone to transport the tree for you. The nursery may have someone or you may have to go to a larger DIY chain with a nursery. Hiring someone on an app where people offer their services may be an outlet. 

In general, transporting a maple tree should cost around $200 to $400 to get it out of the ground if it’s a maple tree that needs to be uprooted. With transportation, the whole project could run over $600 plus.

You have to figure out what’s worth it for you. You may not want to pay to transport one maple tree or pay more than the tree was acquired for.

6. How To Transport Your Maple In A Car Or Utility Trailer

This is not recommended for trees larger than a sapling level. The maple tree must be inside the car all the way and can’t be forced for fear of crushing it or drying it out. Getting a maple into your Mini is simply not going to work!

If you absolutely can’t avoid it, here’s how to transport your maple tree in your car. 

Follow the same instructions consistent throughout this article. If you can’t – and you most likely won’t – fit the whole maple tree inside the car all the way and at the same time not squash it, then tarp or net the foliage and wrap the root ball.

A utility trailer that is hooked to your car is the better choice as you will have markedly more room to maneuver. Just understand as we stated before that for long distances or more than under an hour, in the heat, is not good. 

Get the maple tree to the planting site ASAP and plant the same day. This is the recommendation you should follow for all methods of transporting a maple tree. 

7. How To Properly Load And Unload Maple Trees During Transport

For large maple trees, the use of a root sling and hook can be used. You will have to learn how to use this or hire a company with one. The first way is to place a specialized band around the root ball and attach it to a hook and further attach it to another band around the trunk.

You would have to wrap jute or burlap around the trunk to protect it and the lifting is through the root ball. 

The second method is for multi-stemmed maple trees and maple trees with root balls at 80 plus centimeters. The hook and strap go from the root ball to the back limbs. This is to protect the small limbs from snapping during the lifting process which is common. 

8. How To Transport Your Maple Across The Landscape

Using or investing in a tree cart is the smartest way. Especially if you are moving it alone and can’t lift it. You will still have to have it lifted off the truck. Once that happens, you’ll place the tree root ball first and place the tree trunk carefully over your shoulder.

Of course not with a mature and very heavy tree. Also, watch your eyes and face from the small limbs that could cause injury. If it’s a small tree in the way of the limbs, but the root ball is kinda big, you’ll want to use a tree cart. The way it works is by using leverage so that you aren’t using your strength to push it.

If the utility cart mentioned earlier in the article doesn’t suit your needs, take a look at this heavier duty option, MacSports Heavy Duty Collapsible Wagon Cart.

How To Transplant Your Maple Tree

The one thing you must remember about completing the transition for your tree is to get it in the ground the same day you transport it. You want to make sure that it’s well-irrigated if you need to keep it on the planting site for a day. 

Do not leave it for more than a day. Only if you have no other choice. The root ball can’t dry out and the dirt around the root ball must not detach from the root ball.

Understand that you must follow the planting, climate, and watering instructions for your species of maple. 

Here are 12 steps to transplanting a maple tree:

  1. Be sure to clear the ground on the planting spot of any vegetation.
  2. Dig the planting hole 18 inches into the ground.
  3. Mix in organic compost.
  4. Continue to dig the hole as deep and wide as the root ball.
  5. Pour several gallons of water into the soil and give it a few minutes to seep into the earth.
  6. Go and mark the north side of the maple tree by tying a ribbon or something to demarcate it without marring or injuring the bark.
  7. Move the maple tree to the hole ensuring the root ball is shielded from the direct sunlight.
  8. Lower the maple tree into the hole. The marked side facing north. 
  9. Fill the hole with the soil that you extracted from the hole.
  10. Meet the soil at the soil line on the trunk that was left on it from the prior location.
  11. Water thoroughly and deeply after planting. When water is left on top of the soil and no longer seeping in.
  12. The watering schedule should be as follows: Water deeply like this twice in the same week. Water normally when the Earth is dry 3-4 inches deep. If there is little to no rain then water twice a month deeply near the roots. 

Check out this article on the 5 Best Maple Tree Fertilizers (And How To Use Them) to learn more about taking care of your maple tree!

Below, we’re going to go over several variations for what you’ll need to do, depending on your equipment and situation, for transplanting a maple tree. Let’s get to it!

That’s A Wrap! 

We hope that you’ve gotten enough out of this to make an educated choice as to how you’d like to handle your maple transportation. It’s very simple when you break it down!

Here are 5 simple steps for transplanting a maple tree:

  1. Make sure you measure the maple tree against your vehicle or method of transportation.
  2. Keep the maple tree inside the vehicle. If you can’t be sure to cover the foliage and root ball.
  3. Keep it out of direct sunlight. 
  4. Do not drag, pull or lift from the bark so as not to injure or strip it.
  5. Do not break the root ball or allow the dirt to detach from a root ball. 


Gen, M., Li, Y., & Ida, K. (1999). Solving multi-objective transportation problem by spanning tree-based genetic algorithm. IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Fundamentals of Electronics, Communications and Computer Sciences82(12), 2802-2810.

Xiao, Z., Wang, Y., Fu, K., & Wu, F. (2017). Identifying different transportation modes from trajectory data using tree-based ensemble classifiers. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information6(2), 57.

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