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Selecting a Healthy Tree

Good tree care starts with a healthy tree. Follow these tips and learn how to buy a tree.

What to Look for on Your New Tree

Inspecting your tree upon delivery or at the nursery will help your tree provide a lifetime of benefits.

  • Bare root tree: Abundant root growth, fiberous and numerous small roots, good color; moist
  • Balled and burlapped tree (B&B): Firm soil ball, with trunk securely tied. Do not accept a plant with a broken “ball”. Do not accept a tree with circling roots at the base of the trunk. Always carry B&B plants by the soil ball, not the trunk, stems or branches.
  • Container-grown tree (containerized and potted): Avoid trees that are “root-bound” in the can. Roots can circle around the edge of the container may become circling roots. (Cut any circling roots when planting.) Because of this, B&B trees are generally preferred for large trees. Always remove can, basket or pot when planting.

Bare Root Seedlings Bare Root Seedlings

  • Roots should be moist & fibrous.
  • Deciduous seedlings should have roots about equal to stem length.
  • Balled & Burlapped Balled & Burlapped

  • Root ball should be firm to the touch, especially near the trunk.
  • Root ball should be adequate for the tree’s size.
  • Balled & Burlapped Potted

  • Pot should not contain large, circling roots.
  • Pruned roots cut cleanly, none wider than a finger.
  • Soil & roots joined tightly.
  • Some Extra Things to Consider When Purchasing Mature Trees

    When choosing trees for city plantings along streets and in parks, you will want to trees with fairly substantial caliper (trunk diameter).

    Mature Tree
    • Strong, well-developed leader (or leaders in a multi-leader tree).
    • Bright, healthy bark.
    • Trunk & limbs free of insect or mechanical injury.
    • Branches well-distributed around trunk, considerably smaller caliper than trunk.
    • Ideal spacing between branches, at least 8–12" for most species.
    • Good trunk taper.
    • Wide-angle crotches for strength.
    • Low branches—they are temporary, but help develop taper, promote trunk caliper growth, and prevent sun damage.

    After a good start with good nursery stock, now it is time to learn how to plant your tree.

    Next Tip: Tree Planting 9 Tree Care Tips: Table of Contents