Gilman, E.F., C. Harchick and C. Wiese
Pruning roots affects tree quality in container-grown oaks

Journal of Environmental Horticulture 27 (1): 7-11


Height and trunk growth of Quercus virginiana 'SDLN' Cathedral Oak® tops was not affected by root pruning that occurred each time trees were potted into a larger container, beginning when rooted cuttings were planted into #3 containers. All trees produced in air root-pruning Accelerator® containers without mechanical root pruning produced enough circling roots to make them culls according to Florida and California standards for nursery stock. Removing root defects by pruning roots when trees are potted to the next larger size reduced culls from 100% to 40% of the crop and is recommended for quality tree production. Root pruning when trees were potted from one container size to the next size had no influence on the number of primary structural roots that grew directly from the trunk base. Root pruning had no impact on the number of roots that were deflected down. Waiting to root prune until #3 containers were potted into #15 containers did not increase the number of straight roots compared to non-pruned controls. Slicing the root ball edges vertically from top to bottom in several places appears to reduce circling roots capable of forming stem girdling roots. But slicing in the manner described in this study did little to reduce descending root defects.

Click here for full article (PDF file)