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Cut roots at planting

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cutting root ball with a shovelConventional wisdom has been to slice the sides of the container root ball as deeply as possible to severe circling roots (right photo). Also cut kinked and circling roots that occur on the top of the container (see photos below). This will reduce likelihood of the tree dying from these severe root defects later. In most cases there is little or no negative impact on the tree from this aggressive root cutting, as long as trees are irrigated. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Remove roots that are positioned on top of the main flare roots as shown below.

New research (2008) is suggesting that slicing roots balls does not result in more roots in landscape soil nor improve tree stability in the landscape. Instead we think that the entire outer inch of the sides and bottom of the root ball should be removed. Click here for more.

expose the roots
Expose the roots by removing soil or media from the top of the root ball. All these circling and crossing roots should be removed.

begin removing roots across top of root ball
Begin removing roots that circle and cross the top of the root ball.

main root flare will be visible upon completion
When completed the main flare roots will be visible as shown above. The pink line was at the original soil level.

roots that strangle trunk should be removed
These roots should be removed because they are likely to strangle the trunk.

tree after roots around the trunk have been removed
After removing the stem girdling roots the tree has a much better chance of thriving in the landscape.