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Planting Trees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2013

Arbor Day in Illinois is always celebrated on the last Friday in April – this year being April 26th. If you decide to plant a tree to celebrate Arbor Day, before grabbing the spade and digging a hole, Richard Hentchel, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, provides some tips to assure your tree will live well into the future.

Retail nurseries and garden centers carry a great many kinds of trees for our home landscape. There are understory trees for established landscapes that already have large growing shade trees. You can find ornamental trees that provide great fall color, a flower and later a fruit or seed pod of interest and are typically of a smaller size than the shade tree. Once your selection has been made and you have that tree at home, it is important to understand the differences of planting a container grown potted tree and one that has been field grown and now available as a balled and burlapped tree (B&B). In a lot of cases the smaller caliper trees can be found as container grown, while the larger-sized trees will be the B&B.

In either case, the trees have been professionally grown with the kind of management that will ensure good survival and establishment in your home landscape. Container grown trees have their entire root system in the pot and need special attention when being planted. B&B trees differ in that a portion of their root system is left behind when dug, yet nursery grown trees have been root pruned earlier in their growing cycle to ensure more roots are closer to the trunk before they are dug.

When you are digging your hole for your newly purchased tree, that planting hole should be no deeper that the soil in the pot or the depth of the ball. The tree will benefit if the hole is wider at the top than the bottom as this will allow newly expanding roots to more easily grow out into the that transitional backfilled soil. Planting at the correct depth is very important. If you feel the need for improving the soil drainage for the new tree, you can always plant the tree slightly shallower in the hole and allow the roots to seek their preferred level as the tree goes through the transplant recovery phase.

A critical difference in planting your potted tree vs. the B&B tree is the need to be sure any roots are not left to continue to circle as they likely have been, having been growing in the container. You will need to work the soil away from the roots and gently or not so gently move those roots out in a radical pattern as they naturally would have grown. If you come across a root that is too woody to bend out, you are better off to prune it away so that the roots that form later at the cut end begin to grow out naturally.

When you are planting a B&B tree, the critical part is being sure to remove the burlap and twine from around the trunk and over the shoulder of the ball. If your tree has a wire basket, cutting or bending down the wire over the shoulder should be done too.

The longer term attention you should give your newly planted tree is watering. Watering is something we typically think about that first year, but not much longer. A good rule of thumb is that for every inch of trunk caliper, there is a year of recovery. So that second or third year, watering is still critical to the transplant recovery.

Source: Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator, Horticulture, hentsche@uiuc.edu