Girdling roots are often visible at a glance: they coil around the tree trunk, slowly strangling it. When the tree trunk can’t get enough nutrients and water, it starts looking weak and limp. If girdling roots are not taken care of, they may eventually kill a tree within 5 to 10 years!
The main reason for girdling roots is poor planting practices. As tree movers here at Environmental Design Inc., we have the right knowledge and expertise to plant trees in an optimal way for long-term growth.
Girdling roots usually occur when the tree is planted too deep. The roots lack oxygen and water at such depths, so they slowly rise to the surface where they begin their coiling pattern around the tree trunk.
If you have a large landscaping project, you should trust tree specialists like Environmental Design Inc. to plant and transplant trees correctly. When the first stages of a landscaping job are done correctly, you are sure to have healthy trees adding value to your investment for years.
What Are Girdling Roots?
Girdling roots are roots that grow in circular patterns around the tree trunk. They can be visible to the eye or just below the surface.
The girdling roots form a sort of root wall around the tree trunk. As the tree grows and its trunk caliper expands, it eventually hits the root wall. The girdling roots then act as a container that strangles the tree trunk.
Gradually, the tree trunk can’t get enough nutrients and water to the branches and leaves and the tree starts displaying stunted growth and signs of stress. The tree declines over a long period until it’s too late to prune the girdling roots and the tree has to be removed.
The best thing, therefore, is to avoid the development of girdling roots in the first place rather than trying to save an already dying tree. The first thing toward this goal is to understand the underlying (pun intended) causes.
What Causes Girdling Roots?
Girdling roots are mainly caused by inadequate planting practices. Here is a list of the most common ones.
Planting Your Tree Too Deep
When you plant a new tree, you should make sure it is planted at the right depth. You should be able to just see the tree flare. Your tree roots shouldn’t be too deep or they will naturally rise to the surface to find oxygen and water.
The Tree Has Remained in a Container for Too Long
When you buy from a tree farm or tree nursery, you should make sure that the container is not stifling the root ball. When trees have stayed in their container for too long, the rooting system has nowhere to go, so it starts coiling around the container walls.
Loosen the Roots When You Plant
If you plant a tree whose roots appear bound and girdled, you should take the time to loosen them so that they lose their encircling pattern. When container-bound roots are planted as such, they may continue their circular pattern. As the roots grow stronger, they will become woody and may start strangling the tree trunk.
You Left the Wire Basket or Burlap around the Root Ball
There is a difference of opinion when it comes to planting trees: should you keep the wire and burlap? When you plant a tree wrapped in burlap, the burlap may sometimes fail to degrade in time. If the roots can’t escape from the burlap, the tree may start forming girdling roots.
The Tree Hole Is Too Small
The tree hole should be 2-to-3 times wider than the root ball. This gives enough space for the roots to expand, grow, and spread out away from the tree trunk. A tree hole that is too small compels the roots to grow around the hole and not beyond it.
The Soil Is Too Compact
When the soil is too compact, the tree roots may lack the strength to pass through. Instead, they may start growing inside the tree hole in a circular pattern. When you dig a hole, make sure you don’t compact the walls of the hole more than you should.
The Tree Root Balls Hits Obstacles
In urban environments, it is easy for tree root balls to hit any number of obstacles: curbs, sidewalks, walls, and foundations are everywhere. It is impossible for roots to go through these barriers, so they may start going in circles in their available space. That, however, is how girdling roots are created.
Piling Too Much Mulch Against the Trunk
Fertilizing a tree can be tricky. Mulch is great because it gives extra nutrients to the tree. You should, however, keep it away from the tree trunk. When you create what has been called a mulch volcano, you bury the tree flare in mulch. The roots may start to girdle because the excess mulch is strangling the tree.
How Do I Know My Tree Has Girdling Roots?
Even if the girdling roots are underground and you can’t see them, a tree may still display stunted growth because of them. Large branches may die and the crown may appear thin. The leaves may drop before the fall season and look scorched or very light green, as if suffering from chlorosis. The tree itself may look weak and be vulnerable to insects and diseases.An additional tell-tale sign is that the tree doesn’t have a flare at the bottom but looks like a pole dug in the soil. Finally, the tree may be leaning or unstable because it’s getting strangled by the girdling roots and has lost its firm attachment to the soil.
What Can I Do About Girdling Roots?
Even if the girdling roots are underground and you can’t see them, a tree may still display stunted growth because of them. Large branches may die and the crown may appear thin. The leaves may drop before the fall season and look scorched or very light green, as if suffering from chlorosis. The tree itself may look weak and be vulnerable to insects and diseases. An additional tell-tale sign is that the tree doesn’t have a flare at the bottom but looks like a pole dug in the soil. Finally, the tree may be leaning or unstable because it’s getting strangled by the girdling roots and has lost its firm attachment to the soil.
Which Trees Are More Prone to Girdling Roots?
While all trees can develop girdling roots, some trees are more prone to this problem. Maples, lindens, beeches, pines, crabapples, cherries, dogwoods, and oaks, for example, seem to suffer more from girdling roots. If your landscape design includes such trees, make sure you plant them in large holes, away from obstacles and not too deep.
Trust Environmental Design Inc. for Your Tree Needs
Here at Environmental Design Inc., we have arborists and tree specialists who are experts at planting trees.We can transplant existing trees and move them to a better location. During the planting stage, we will make sure that the tree is planted in a way that gives roots plenty of space to expand horizontally rather than around the tree trunk.We can also plant mature trees in your landscape project. Our arborists will ensure the tree roots are loose and planted in soft soil that doesn’t compact.
Contact us online or call now (281) 376-4260 and we will help you develop your landscape project the right way.