Should burlap be removed from root balls when planting?
The state university's tree planting web page says yes. However, I've read
that if the root ball comes apart, that's bad. On the other hand, I've seen
diagrams of how to split root balls or cut the sides to get the roots freed
up from the root balls mass to promote growth.
Is there any consensus on this?
Well, I think you've already ruled-out that there can be a consensus by
presenting two conflicting opinions. Best we can do is discredit one or
the other opinion, vote on which one this group likes best, or flesh-out
situations where each one would be more appropriate than the other. But
we're past the point of consensus.
One thing you don't want to do is leave part of the burlap exposed. That
will result in water being wicked away from the root ball. I don't think
you're going to find anyone who thinks leaving part of the burlap
unburied is a good idea.
Burlap is biodegradable, so leaving it buried shouldn't be a problem.
But if someone has balled it up in some synthetic tarp that isn't going
to biodegrade, then that needs to be removed. But removing what's
holding the root ball together leaves you with a whole lot of other
problems. This may not be much of a problem with a small shrub, but if
you're talking about a big tree, you don't want to have to figure out
how to support the tree while you pull a David Copperfield, and get the
tarp out from under the root ball. A better idea would be to get the
tree from somewhere that uses real, biodegradable burlap. Save the
synthetic stuff for debris barriers.
Yes. Put tree in hole. Push to one side as far as possible, and cut the
burlap low on that side. Remove what you can, and push the rest under the
root ball as far as possible. Tip the tree as far in the other direction
as possible, and pull the burlap out. Set the tree straight. Continue
If that's too much work, cut burlap all around the root ball as far down
as you can reach, and remove most of it, leaving only the patch under
the center of the root ball.
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Zone 5 next to Lake Michigan
Depends on what you're calling a broken root ball. If you haul a b&b
tree around by the trunk, you're probably going to break roots. That's
a big deal.
If some soil or other packing material falls off the root ball while
you're getting the burlap off by rolling it from side to side, that's
not a big deal. Of course, you've used straps or ropes to support the
root ball as it was placed in the hole anyhow, so you've not broken
roots as it was placed.
And then there are the abominable tree in wire basket problems...
my unfavorite way of dealing with transplanting trees.
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For me, I do. Why? Because I want to prune the roots before I plant it
some a ring of callus forms from which new non-woody roots come from. Plus
I want to see where the roots come off the trunk because the planting depth,
for me, must be the area where the roots are coming off the trunk.
Remember, the flair at the base of the trunk is truck tissues and not woody
root tissues. If you had a high quality nursery, I have only heard of two,
you may not have to prune the roots because they prune them. Oh, yes, they
prune the correctly.
John A. Keslick, Jr.
Beware of so-called TREE EXPERTS who do not understand TREE BIOLOGY!
Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us
that we are not the boss.
Some people will buy products they do not understand and not buy books that
will give them understanding.
Yes, remove it -- CAREFULLY -- so you don't disturb the roots more than
necessary. Being buried in the ground, the burlap will decompose very
slowly. And the new root growth will probably reach the burlap long before
Suzy, Zone 5, Wisconsin
I depends upon the burlap.
Some large nurseries that ship long distances use treated burlap. This
must be removed because the treatment keeps it from rotting.
If you buy directly from the grower, ask about the burlap. Most local
growers use a raw burlap that rots quickly and is easily penetrated
before it rots. Remember that tree roots will break open rocks so
burlap is no problem. When leaving burlap in the ground care must be
1: the burlap should pushed down the bottom the hole so that it never
comes in contact with the air. Otherwise it will wick moisture out of
2: cut slits in the part of the burlap you can see, but don't disturb
the roots. The reason for the burlap is to keep from disturbing the
roots. Removing the burlap usually disturbs the root ball.
It depends upon which state you are talking about:
Arkansas: You dont need to remove the burlap, since its biodegradable.
Colorado: Roll the burlap down to the base of the plant if possible,
slash it with a knife, or remove it from at least the top third of the
Georgia: Before planting balled-and-burlapped plants, cut any wire or
cord from around the trunk and pull back the burlap from the top third
of the root ball. This will allow newly formed feeder roots to grow into
the new environment. When planting on poorly drained soils, remove the
Indiana: Roll back the burlap to below the soil surface.
Minnesota: Cut and remove the twine from around the trunk. Next, with
wire cutters and scissors, remove as much of the wire basket and burlap
containing the soil ball as possible without allowing the soil ball to
fall apart. Water slowly to saturate the soil ball and to remove air
pockets in the backfill. Finish filling the hole with soil. No burlap
should remain above the soil surface as it may act as a wick and dry the
Montana: set the tree in the hole and remove the ties that hold the
burlap to the root crown (at the top of the ball, where the roots join
the trunk). Remove the materials if it's plastic or synthetic. Natural
burlap does not have to be completely removed. After removing the ties,
tuck the burlap back against the sides of the ball so that no burlap is
exposed to the air after the hole is backfilled. Inspect the root ball,
taking care not to damage the roots, and gently untangle any circling
New Hampshire: Remove rope and burlap entirely if root ball is intact.
If root ball is loose, cut away only half of burlap. If root ball is in
a wire basket, cut away and remove entire basket.
North Carolina: fold back the burlap, and remove the nylon strings. Be
sure to remove plastic liners or synthetic burlap-type materials.
North Dakota: To plant, leave the burlap around the roots, but untie
Ohio State: Slowly lower the root ball into the planting hole to prevent
breaking or cracking of the soil around the roots of B & B plants. After
placing in the hole, the burlap of B & B plants should be loosened and
rolled down the sides of the soil ball. No burlap should be exposed
above the soil surface in order to prevent wicking and drying which
interferes with proper moisture flow between the soil ball and the
backfill. Cut and remove all twine, cords, wire, or strapping material,
especially around the trunk or stems. Also, remove all labels attached
with wire or nylon twine that can eventually girdle stem tissue.
Oregon: Cut and remove all twine around the trunk. Pull or cut the
burlap away from the trunk and top of the ball as far down as possible.
Sometimes the root ball is wrapped with non-degradable fabric; be sure
to cut away this fabric.
Utah: if the root ball ... is strong and firm all packing materials
should be removed, including ... burlap. If the root ball is broken and
loose, remove these materials carefully and only to the extent that you
can keep the root ball together. Backfilling as you remove these
materials may help keep the root ball intact. Any burlap ... that must
be left on should be slit in several places to allow roots to grow
through. It is less important but still desirable to remove packing
materials left underneath the root ball. Cleanly cut any circling or
damaged roots that are exposed at this point to promote good root growth.
Vermont: to ensure root growth and access to nutrients and water, pull
the burlap down off the root ball and leave it in the bottom of the
hole. Do not attempt to pull the burlap from under the plant - this
could damage the root ball.
1) Remove all wire baskets, twine, and burlap from the root ball.
Working on top of a
tarp will allow you to transport the root ball remnants elsewhere.
2) Remove all clay from the root ball. This can be done most easily by
using a water
bath or a hose. Use your fingers to work out clumps of clay from between
3) Look for and prune out defects in your freshly denuded roots. Be sure
to keep the
roots moist during this procedure and work in the shade if possible.
West Virginia: It is not necessary to remove the burlap as it will rot
in a short time. Only loosen it from around the trunk and lay back or
cut it off.
Wisconsin: Do not remove burlap from B&B plants, but be sure to take
off rope or twine tied around the stem.
Yes, but not unanimous. The consensus is to remove all twine but leave
the burlap in the bottom of the hole.
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