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Soil compaction

Propagation through cuttings

Community tree plantings

Magnolia grandiflora

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Mulch and restoration factsheet

Root inspection

Shoot and crown inspection

Sequoiadendron giganteum

Pacific madrone

The myth of soil amendments

Compost tea


Sustainable Horticulture

Root Inspection


Prior to purchasing plants, it is vital to inspect them for serious problems. If you are buying large quantities of a species, inspect a representative sample. Plants that have life-threatening injuries or problems should not be purchased. The following are some things to look out for when buying a plant.

Root quality is essential--poor roots can damage or even kill plants and need to be corrected or removed prior to installation. Be sure to take this step before making your tree purchase. Things to watch out for include:

  • Circling roots - these can circle back and girdle the stem, and should be straightened or removed

circling root

Circling roots above the soil surface are indicative of stress

  • Kinked or kneed roots - as the kinked portion of the root hardens, the plant will no longer be able to move water and nutrients through that root

kinked root

This kinked root turns and grows at a 90 degree angle when it enters the soil

  • Uneven root growth – can lead to uneven shoot growth and be indicative of stress that killed roots on one side; these plants can survive, but will need extra care and water
  • Pot bound roots: when left in a container too long, roots often grow all around the edge of the container, circling back on themselves and getting kinked; container bound roots should be loosened and straightened and defective roots pruned out prior to planting
  • Dead, damaged (including rotting or decayed), or diseased roots - should be removed
  • In container grown plants, you should be able to wiggle the trunk without the root system moving. If the roots do move, the plant may have a poor system or may have been recently transplanted to a larger container. Inspect the root system carefully.

This plant was in a four-inch container for too long before being potted up into a larger container. The roots should have been straightened and spread out when it was repotted.

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