A 30 gallon container tree purchased and planted commercially can cost hundreds of dollars. Even small trees purchased in containers can be expensive. Planting a bare-root small tree seedling can often cost no more than the trouble of transplanting it from your flowerbed or garden to your yard.
Late winter is an excellent time to transplant trees. Trees everywhere are dormant, but preparing to leaf out and grow vigorously in spring, and the new leaves will help the trees to grow new roots. This is what they need most after being transplanted.
The first step to free seedlings is to identify the trees you want to propagate. You can identify them most easily in the growing season by the shape of their leaves. Get a good Texas tree identification book here, and learn the names of your favorite trees.
Flag the seedlings you want to transplant ahead of time in the summer or fall, so that you can find them when the leaves are off in winter. You will also have a reference point to compare with other seedlings.
The smaller the tree, the easier it will be to uproot and transplant. Look for seedlings in the loose soil of flower beds or in a "forest-floor" setting.
Wait for a good ground-saturating rain in late winter or early spring, and pull up your trees! Rainy weather is the perfect occasion at any time of year to pull weeds, but now you are putting your "weeds" to good use.
Collect your trees in a wet paper bag, so that the roots will stay moist, and plant them right away. It takes just a few minutes to dig the small holes necessary for tree seedlings. Plant your seedlings properly, and be sure to take particular care watering your young trees during the first few summers.