One of the most common mistakes inexperienced gardeners make is failing to recognize the importance of proper planting depth. They usually err on the side of planting too deep. A properly planted tree will be more tolerant of adverse conditions and require much less management than one planted incorrectly.
Take a look at the trees in your neighborhood. Do the trunks naturally flare out as they enter the soil or do they more resemble a post, going directly into the ground? If you don’t see the flare, the tree is planted too deeply. Trees that are planted too deeply often have root rot, girdling root issues, slowed growth, lost vigor and premature death.
When selecting a tree, make sure you can see the trunk flare before purchasing. If you can’t see the trunk flare, excavate the top of the ball to expose it. The tree may have been planted too deeply at the nursery. Also, don’t be fooled by burlap. Often it is wrapped around the trunk. Unwrap the burlap and find the correct soil level around the trunk.
When planting the tree, do not dig the planting hole deeper than the height of the root ball. Again, start to measure the top of the root ball at the natural trunk flare, not the original soil line at purchase. In fact, a few inches more shallow than the root ball will allow for any settling or flattening that normally takes place.
The width of the hole should be wider than the root ball. Break up the soil on the sides of the hole to assist new roots as they grow. Remove any cages, straps, twine, burlap, wire, etc before placing the tree in the hole. Position the tree in the hole and check to make sure the trunk flare is at or above (by an inch or two) grade.
Finish by filling in around the tree, watering it in thoroughly to compress the soil. You don’t want air pockets, which can cause feeder roots to dry out. Once the tree is properly planted you may have extra soil. Do not be tempted to add it to the top of the rootball. It has the same effect as burying the stem too deeply.
You may decide to add a layer of mulch around your new tree. Two to three inches is a good way to help retain moisture and keep mowers and string trimmers away from the trunk. However, you do not want the mulch to touch the trunk. Your mulch ring should look like a flattened doughnut, NOT a volcano!
For larger trees that were planted too deeply remedial action can be taken to save the tree. All soil and mulch in contact with the root collar must be removed. A root collar excavation can be done by carefully using small digging tools and a brush. An alternative is using a compressed air device to blow the extra soil away. Thank you for reviewing this information. Schneider Tree Care is committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of your property through tree care education and services. We employ professionally trained and certified arborists who are available to meet with you for a consultation at no charge. If you have any questions or need additional information regarding the health of your trees, please contact us.