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Plant an Investment, Not a Liability

Selecting Quality Trees and Ensuring they are

Planted in a Healthy Condition.
Course # 20120274 - 1 PE/LA PDH
Richard Gass, Senior Landscape Architect, Region 10
The fundamentals of Shade/Street tree selection
ANSI/American Nursery Standards
Considerations for B & B, Container-Grown and
Bare-Root material
Selection of quality material, features to avoid to
increase long term tree health
Handling and inspection at delivery
Where will the tree be planted
Size of tree
Season of planting
Method of transport
Planting technique
Is the plant list already determined or are you
determining the plant list ?
Choose the right plant for the right place
Availability in the species and size needed
Cost bigger plants usually cost more to
And Cost more to ship, handle and plant
So. What do you want to get?
Always rely on scientific names.
Common names are inaccurate Red Maples
Nursery invoices are supposed to be reliable.
Is the tag correct, ask and check
Nomenclature does change.

Acer platanoides
Crimson King
Acer palmatum Acer rubrum
Provides uniform standards
Based on various types of plant
Sets minimum criteria for size
and quality
Creates Uniform expectations
Helps with comparison
of material
Divided into 13 categories by major plant types
Section 1, Shade & Flowering trees
Further divided into Four types, Two of shade
trees, Small upright trees, Small spreading trees
Example species for each type are provided
Caliper, Average height range & maximum height
Method of production
Minimum ball or container size and proportions
by Type
Minimum number of branches/stems
Three basic growing methods.

Ball & Burlap

Container Grown

Bare Root
Hand dug VS.
Machine dug
Field or nursery grown
Root pruned VS.
Tree spades have different
shapes and the ball shape can
vary, some dig wider with a
truncated ball, others are
pointer, dig a deep, narrow ball
(with possibly less roots)
Most people are familiar with basic planting technique
Plant can be held out of the ground for several months
Soil may be similar to surrounding soil
Common production method
Over 80% of the fine roots of a B&B tree are
lost, 90% of the total root length is lost
Root ball soil may be incompatible with native soil
Shipping and handling can be difficult and expensive with
larger trees
Wire root baskets need partial removal
Most trees are dug when dormant
Limited planting season
Shrubs are most common
Trees are becoming more common, up to
landscape sizes, such as 2.5-3
Roots should reach the edge of the container.
May be grown in the pot for a year or more
Trees may be referred to as Pot in Pot
Longer planting season
Plants can be held easily until needed
Transplanting shock less of an issue
Most or all roots are in the container
Lighter, less shipping cost, easier to
handle and plant
Soil compatibility less of an issue
Grow bags result in more fibrous roots
Plants may be root bound
Less familiarity with planting issues
Roots may not grow out from
container soil quickly
Shaving or cutting the ball reduces the
number of girdling roots.
Soil may dry faster
Recent research by U of Florida recommends shaving container
root balls to reduce girdling roots in container plants.

A simple, fast procedure using a shovel or a saw

Vertical slices, top to bottom along outside of root ball
The plant may need additional water initially
Reduces girdling or pot bound roots
Typically smaller plants, 2 and under
Often seedlings or mail order plants.
Can also include landscape size material,
2.5 caliper
Dug and planted dormant
Most material starts out as Liners or
whips from large national suppliers
Often cheaper to purchase
Lighter, less shipping cost
Easier to handle and plant
Soil compatibility not an issue
Roots must remain cool and moist
Careful planting and watering required
Limited dormant planting season
Often smaller
Planting technique not as well known
Simple specifications reduce costs
Describe the minimum expectations
Genus and species should be correct
Multi-stem, Clump or single leader
Understand what you specify and that it
is available
Specify both plant and container size per
ANSI Standards
How will caliper relate to size/height
Wire friendly
Street tree quality, lowest branch may
be 7 or as specified.
Type 3 & 4 trees are measured by height to 6
Measure caliper 6 above grade for up to 4 diameter
trees and at 12 for larger material
Specimen or Street Tree allows designation of
specific criteria deviating from standard minimums
such as caliper, height, fullness of branching, root ball
or some other unique features
Unique characteristics:
Sheared, Topiary, Espaliered,
male plants only, ratio of
female to male plants
The tree should be locally hardy, hardiness zones change
Most trees are not local genotypes. Origin is often unknown
Was the tree grown locally or shipped from the South
A soil root ball should have a similar soil type
Fall can be a great time to plant some species but some
trees do not transplant well in the fall

Fall Planting Hazards:

Trees that have a low survival rate if dug in the fall.
Often trees that do not grow new roots quickly, or tend to be
coarse/deep rooted. Oaks, Tupelo
Also broad leaved plants or those with thin bark and
abundant twigs, Holly, Willow
Trees that do not harden off early in fall. Sweetgum, Cherry
Specify as Spring Only.
Trees dug in spring and held do better, digging larger balls
or protection from drying winds helps
Our specification have not required nursery tagging
since EI 03-021 unless noted.
The nursery confirms they have the material in advance
You have the plant list with specifications
You can identify the plant
The tree is available for digging or already dug
You can mark or tag your selections
No broken or saggy balls
Size meets specifications
No broken limbs, untie the tree and check
Get images if you cannot visit the nursery prior to delivery
One central leader or typical form
Even trunk taper
Limbs well spaced vertically
Limbs arranged radialy
Branches are attached at a wide angle
Root flare visible
No whorled branch attachment
No broken leaders
No codominant leaders
No major broken limbs
No included bark
No major unhealed wounds
No Frost cracks
Check for nursery tape, tags and wires
No wounds larger than a quarter dollar
Trunks should not go straight into the soil
Root flare is visible
No root suckers below the graft
No girdling roots
Grafting has healed
Clump form, three or more young
trees planted together and grown as
Multi-stem, three or more stems arise
from a single root system
Shrub form, multiple stems arising
from the root crown in a shrub like
Form shall be specified
Some species are typically grown
in clump form but may be
available as single leaders also.
Measured by height to the
average top of the plant.
Optional specifications include
number of stems and caliper of
stems for clump form
Measured in one foot increments
to 8, then every two feet
Six Types based on form
Type 1 -3, Creeping, Semi-Spreading and Broad spreading
Type 4 6, Cone type pyramidal, Broad upright type and
Columnar type.
Types 4-6 sizes measured by height, above two feet in one
foot intervals up to 10 feet, then two foot intervals
Similar designations such as specimen, nursery grown,
plantation grown and collected.
Christmas trees or collected trees often are not root pruned
Ball size for sheared trees should not be based on height but
caliper, for Type 1 and 2 Shade Trees
Caliper should be proportionately compatible to height
Transplanting seasons are critical
Some species prone to multiple leaders that can fail
Correct scientific name
Nursery certification
Plant meets standards/specs
Size is based on caliper or height
Ball/Container size meets standards
No damage to the material such as
broken root balls or limbs
Plant is not falling out of the container
and is not loose in the pot due to
Know common problems for the genus or variety
Does the block of plants look healthy, no leaf drop or dieback
No insect infestations, galls, scale or egg cases
Leaf spots, discoloration or fungus
No borers or oozing sap
No cankers
Bringing clean material to the site will eliminate the need
for future weed control or pesticides
Some weeds are more serious than others
Can it be controlled easily?
Is it invasive, which could prohibit sale of the plant
Know what the plants are growing in the soil with the tree
Invasive plant No sale lists helps
After plants are dug their roots should be protected
Protection of plants is the contractors responsibility
Water for roots and cooling help
Storage techniques vary by method of production
Heel in B &B and Bare Root with wood chips
Bare root is the most critical
Trucks are tarped to prevent windburn
Enclosed trucks are ventilated or cooled
Material is not crowded or stored too closely
Balls are not dropped
Material is tied to prevent damage
Keep it moist
The plant appears healthy
You should see a root flare or trunk flare, where the
base of the trunk spreads out to become roots.
Examine the root mass of containerized trees to locate
any circling roots. Roots of B&B trees cannot be
Inspect the trunk and main stem. Look for good taper,
vertical and radial spacing of the main limbs, and
for one main leader.
Then consider the branches that make up the canopy,
looking for any discolored wood or insect damage.
No serious disease, insect or weed problems
Handle with care
American Standard for Nursery Stock (2004)

Info on Planting trees and planting container material.

Strategies for growing High Quality trees in a Nursery

State wide Invasive Do Not Sell List pending Oct. 2013 or latter.
Suffolk & Nassau County Do not sell list
Poll Questions
Poll Answers