There are a several common tree planting mistakes which affect both the long-term health of the tree and its overall potential. These mistakes include the following:
- Poor tree choice
- Not giving the tree enough room to reach its potential
- Planting too deep
- Planting too high
- Planting root-bound trees
Selecting the correct tree is very important. Often people tend to pick trees that they like based upon their personal preferences. While you want to plant a tree that you will enjoy, not researching the species can lead to many problems including disease or pest issues, poor growth and lack of performance. By properly researching the species, you might find varieties with the same attributes you want that are resistant to common insect or disease problems. Web research is generally a good resource but should also include local gardening clubs and local gardening centers. To minimize poor growth and performance issues, select trees that are acclimated to your area.
Before planting a tree it is crucial that you understand how big it will grow. All too often trees far outgrow the area. Again this goes back to doing your basic research to find the mature height and width of the tree. Typical heights for ornamental trees are around 30 feet and a spread of 15 to 20 feet. When the tree is growing into the side of your home, arborists have little choice but to remove the tree or radically prune it.
Planting either too deeply or too shallow affects the tree root system and how well the tree establishes itself. Typically the root ball of the tree must be planted at the same level or slightly higher (1-2 inches) than the top of the hole. Also the hole must be wide enough (2-3 times the width of the root ball) to allow for lateral root growth.
Once the tree is in the planting hole, all burlap, wire, rope, or plastic container must be removed from the tree. Inspect the root ball to find if there are circling roots. This is a sign that the tree may have sat at the nursery for an extended time. These roots must be cut to encourage outward growth so that they do not continue to grow and completely encircle the tree which results in girdling of the tree.
In summary, planting trees is a task which requires some forethought, research and care to insure that your tree has the best chance for success. An old arborist adage about planting trees is “Dig a $50.00 hole for a $5.00 tree”.