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Cut roots at planting

Deeply cutting sides of the root ball with a shovel

Conventional wisdow has been to slice the sides of the container root ball as deeply as possible to severe circling roots (above 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 (2009) is suggesting that slicing root 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 details.

Exposed roots around trunk

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

Pruning roots

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

Flare roots

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

Encircling root

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

indented trunk from encricling root

After removing the stem girdling roots the tree has a much better chance of thriving in the landscape.