Thursday, November 20, 2008

Landscape - Problems Associated with Poor Planting Procedure

Many of our failing plants in the landscape are due to poor planting procedure. The following is an article on the subject.

The planting process involves the preplanting examination and evaluation of the plant stock type (bare-root, container, balled and burlapped [B&B], mechanical tree spade), the actual physical process of planting and the follow-up maintenance. Problems related to the planting process can originate within each of these.

Consider the idiosyncrasies with each of the previously mentioned stock types, for example, the depth of the trunk/root collar on B&B trees, encircling roots in container- grown plants, root desiccation on bare-root plants and glazing in mechanical tree spade plantings. Each one of these factors can contribute to the success or failure of the plants.

Improper handling and planting procedure contribute significantly to abiotic consequences, especially when they’re combined with soil or environmental limitations at the planting site. Symptoms related to poor planting procedures are similar to those of drought and flooding: shoot dieback, reduced leaf size, minimal shoot growth, root injury and poor root regeneration. If plant excavation is possible, examine the root system for white root tips and signs of root regeneration. Under drought or water deficits, white root tips will be absent, and existing roots will be dried and shriveled. Under excessive moisture and poor drainage, the root system will also lack white root tips and exhibit signs of anaerobic conditions. The blackened outer surface of the roots will slough off, exposing inner gray and water-soaked, stained tissue.

In addition to the obvious plant symptoms, evidence of twine around the base of the trunk, scars from staking or other signs of mechanical injury may lead to conclusions on the causal factors and required treatment. Problems caused by poor planting procedures can be due to marginal plant stock quality; poor soil ball or container media moisture prior to planting or during establishment; improper planting depth, either too high or too low; compacted planting sites and poor drainage through the soil profile; improper irrigation scheduling following planting; and improper mulching practices.

This tree was planted too deeply. The palnting depth is marked by the darkened area. Trees planted too deeply may be drought stressed and often have poor root development. Photo by Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia,

Information from a section of "Abiotic Plant Disorders - Symptoms, Signs and Solutions A Diagnostic Guide to Problem Solving" by Robert E. Schutzki and Bert Cregg, Departments of Horticulture and Forestry, Michigan State University Michigan State University. Go to for the full factsheet with photos.

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