Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Buy a Healthy Sapling

We are getting closer to planting season every single day. Soon, the shopping for bulbs, seeds plants and sapling will be in full swing – it is so exciting! Do you want to make sure that your new investments will grow up to be happy and hardy? A healthy tree starts as a healthy sapling, so be discriminating when picking out the perfect specimen for planting! Make sure that you are getting the most viable option available by covering the bases of RIF: roots, injury, and form.


When buying trees, the roots usually come in one of three forms: bare root, root ball, and container grown. Bare roots should not be torn or crushed, with the ends being clean cut. Damaged roots can be repaired with a clean cut directly before planting and watering.

Roots balls need to be around twelve inches times the diameter of the trunk, measured from 6 inches above the trunk flare (where the trunk meets the roots). Trunk flare should be visible – if not, gently expose the buried portion before planting.

Container grown roots should not twist or circle, but should be growing straight down with plenty of space. Circling roots can eventually girdle and kill other roots, leading to noticeable growth issues as the years pass.Tree removal services are a lifesaver, but can be costly, so it is best to save the trouble and inspect roots before a major purchase!


Inspect trees for insect damage and trunk wounds before making a purchase. The most common cause of sapling injury is incorrect pruning - ensure that no cracks, cankers, or decay surround pruning cuts. Trees with “stubs” left over are typically more prone to disease and defection. Saplings that are wrapped in burlap should be uncovered and inspected completely.


Strong form as a sapling often indicates that the tree will be easy to maintain throughout its life. Strong architecture starts with branches that are firmly attached and evenly spaced along the length of the trunk. Branches that are too closely spaced, whether vertically or horizontally, may squeeze together during growth increasing the chances of cracks and splitting.

If your favorite sapling has a few minor defects here and there, corrective pruning may remedy the problems if caught early. The best time to do this is one full year after planting – patience is necessary. Starting with a hardy sapling saves future headaches, tree maintenance, and repair. Our trees are not only an investment for ourselves, but also an investment for generations to come. Choose a healthy sapling to represent the Earth’s healthy future.

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