Feature Story

Linda Chalker-Scott
Extension Specialist and Associate Professor
Washington State University
WSU Puyallup

Chalker-Scott, L.*1,
1 Extension Specialist and Associate Professor, Washington State University, Puyallup, WA, 98371

Though gentle handling of roots is good advice when transplanting seedlings, woody perennials, shrubs, and trees from the nursery can all benefit from a more vigorous approach. By “taking it all off” gardeners can

  1. remove all of the foreign material from the root ball, including containers, twine, burlap and soilless media or clay;
  2. find and correct circling, girdling, or other flawed woody root systems; and
  3. ensure the transplant is situated at grade – meaning the root crown is visible rather than being buried.

By removing all of these barriers between the roots and the native soil, gardeners can ensure that their plants will establish more quickly and have better survival than those plants that are planted with an undisturbed root ball.

This article appeared in Fine Gardening magazine February 2020, pp. 22-24.