Never carry trees by the trunk because it will break the roots and reduce the amount of water the tree can absorb.

  • Keep roots moist and protected from the environment whether they are in a container, balled & burlap, or bare root; use a mulching material.
  • Keep plants watered while in storage.
  • Prune roots that are diseased, damaged, or circling the container of root ball with clean cuts.
  • The more recent recommendation for preparing a planting hole recognizes the need to prepare the area where most of the roots grow — in the top 12-18 inches.
  • The planting area should be roto-tilled or loosened 3-5 times as wide as the root ball and a minimum of 8 inches deep.

The planting hole should not be deeper than the root ball and the sides should be gouged to prevent a sheer edge.


  • Container grown plants that have roots, which have become “rootbound” must be separated prior to planting. Separate and spread the roots so they will grow out into the soil.
  • Lower the plant into the hole by the root ball not by the trunk.
  • Carefully cut back the burlap or wire baskets and remove any rope, or plastic twine from around the trunk and roots.
  • Soil from the hole should be loosened if compacted and redistributed around the root ball. Organic material should be added only if the soil is of poor quality; be sure they are thoroughly mixed.
  • The soil should be adequately settled around the root ball with water.
  • The original soil level should be slightly lower than the trunk collar (where it flares).
  • Soak the ground thoroughly to insure the root ball and surrounding soil is saturated.
  • Mulch the soil surface with 3-4 inches of a coarse material such as shredded bark, wood chips, or leaves. To keep pests away, mulch should not be placed directly against the tree trunk.
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