Not all trees are as healthy or as promising as the next, even within the same nursery. The tree’s life in the pot is one thing to look for when getting ready to invest in a tree.
Look for roots growing out of the bottom of the pot. If there are small, uncut roots peaking out from the weep holes or no roots showing at all then the tree has probably been growing in that pot for a short period of time. If there are roots growing far through the weep holes or roots that have been repeatedly cut then the tree has spent a long time in that one pot. This is important because the longer a tree of any type grows in a pot the more the roots become intertwined and the plants are referred to as “root-bound”. Trees that are root-bound generally have shorter lives and are much less likely to grow properly once in the ground. The bound roots can choke off the proper flow of water, energy, and nutrients or not properly grow away from the trunk even after being planted which affects the tree’s wind resistance and increases its probability of tipping over or leaning once a decent canopy starts to form.
If you find yourself pulling a root-bound tree out of a pot the best solution is to loosen the roots before planting. Ideally you would pull and loosen the giant root knot apart by hand as best you can which is the least damaging way. If doing this by hand is not an option then the next best option to pry the roots apart by using a wood stick(shovel handle), metal bar, or construction stake. The final option and most destructive option is using a machete, axe, pruners, saw, or shovel head to partially cut the ball apart. Try to loosen bound roots as much as possible while trying to destroy the least amount of roots. Some trees are more resilient than others and will hardly drop leaves from the de-tangling/breaking of the roots while others may go into complete defoliation and possibly die, so do this carefully. Better yet, avoid this whole problem with some patience and buy the less mature tree. It may take another year or two to get to the size of where the root-bound tree was but it will grow more vigorously and you will have much less to worry about in the long run.
If you need help selecting, buying, transporting, or planting a new tree in South Florida, contact us or give me a call at (561) 403-0777. I’ll be glad to help!
“Making the right decision the first time will save you twice the money.” -me