Planting a Tree


Headache !
Aug 12, 2006
I've been thinking lately that with all the girdling roots & problems I see that arise from how landscape is installed that it'd be a good idea to implement a step in "How To Plant A Tree" that would include making 3 vertical cuts from the trunk outward to about 5" from the base and about 3" deep. Even if 'everyday people' screwed it up & scarred the trunk(s) doing this, it'd be better than what I'm seeing in about 90% of urban trees. Sorta like vertical trenching, only early, and on every newly planted tree / specimen.
What say you ? Good idea or bad idea ???
I would say wash the soil off the root ball, then cut appropriate roots, re-plant.
I've been doing what NoBivy says. I'll get back to you in ten years and let you know how its going.
tc you are talking about "butterflying" i THINK. This does a lot of unnecessary damage. better to wash and then straighten what can be straightened and cut the circlers that cannot.
Have you folks seen the presentation by the two fellows from Wisconsin, don't remember their names, entitled "Twenty Minutes in the Death of a Tree"? It talks about planting too deep leading to girdling roots and lays the blame on the nursery trade for selling us B&B and container trees with the root flare up to 12 inches below the surface and then telling us to plant the top of the ball level with the ground. And for many years we have done just as we were told. Next time you get a tree, dig around until you find the first major roots going off the trunk and then plant at that level. I think you will find as I have that in most cases you have to remove up to 1/3 of the dirt you bought with the plant and are left with much less root that you thought. I can almost guarantee you that this method will lead to better survival and less girdling roots.
I've taken the task of deeply slicing in a few places on the root ball only on the most root-bound trees (that HAD to get planted). Ideally, trees with less than ideal root balls should remain in the nursery, or better yet- turned into mulch.

Ed Gilman seems to be a proponent of slicing the root balls.

I think the best solution is to inspect each tree that gets planted. Make sure there are no girdling roots. I like the idea of washing soil away so you can see what you're dealing with.

Other than a few live Christmas trees ,I just dig them up from the woods and transplant them .Never had a problem .The transplants are done late in the fall when the trees are more dormant .