From time to time I want to move trees anywhere from 5-500 miles to either a new nursery location or permanent planting location. Usually these trees are potted, sometimes they're bare root, rarely are they ball & burlap.

How should one move trees using a pickup truck? When possible, I just put potted trees in the cab. Trees larger than a few feet need to go in the bed however. With bushes I've transported them standing up but this seems very risky with wind damage. The best way I found so far was to actually lay the trees gently on their side, root-end against the cab and crown toward the tailgate (or even hanging over the tailgate with a ribbon tied to their top if they're longer than the bed). I then tied the root/pot against the cab/down against the bed to keep the tree from sliding away from the cab, potentially damaging its crown. Then I covered it using a tonneau cover (which only worked because I only had a couple of potted trees at that time - if I had to stack many pots of trees that way I'd probably need an agricultural fabric or a truck bed canopy).

How do experts (e.g. nursery workers) move many/long trees in pickup trucks? If using a trailer, what kind and how?


I can tell you what not to do and what I see landscapers doing.

Do not put the root ball near the cab and lay the tree down so the trunk bounces up and down on the tail gate. This will damage the bark and cambium at the point of contact. Your chances of the tree dying back at the point of damage are high.

Do not drive fast! Wind shear will damage the new growth.

Landscapers with a pick truck and a trailer lay the stock on the trailer, whether ball and burlapped or potted, with the root ball towards the truck and crown flat against the deck. Some will tarp the load.

If you have a tractor and flat deck trailer the idea is the same with stock laid flat, secured with chains and multiple tarps. Done this way you can cruise down the highway with a forest.

Notice the root ball is chained but the trunk is not. moving Olive trees

from here

For those who like the old way of doing things here is what Capability Brown pioneered for moving trees in the 1700's. It worked great unless the frame broke when it became an accidental catapult. Horse drawn tree mover

from here

  • What about laying the tree down flat on the bed, with the tailgate dropped so it is all a flat surface, then having the stock against the cab and all tied down? What you described sounds like having the stock against the cab and the trees pinned down against an upright tailgate - is it that, or are you referring to my scenario of the down tailgate and the damage is just coming from the tree crown hanging off the edge of the truck bed or a trailer platform? – cr0 May 5 '17 at 0:10
  • 1
    @cr0 The problem with any load bed area is that you do not want the trunk of the tree to bounce on anything hard. Secure the pot or root ball. – kevinsky May 5 '17 at 0:15
  • Gotya. Good stuff adding the picture too - it's worth a thousand words! – cr0 May 5 '17 at 0:20
  • That canopy is a mighty big sail should you encounter crosswinds! I can't tell, is the trunk strapped at that second point near the back of the raised bed? – Wayfaring Stranger May 5 '17 at 13:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.