Trees planted too deeply in the soil exhibit a gradual decline in their growth and development. Deep planting acts as a primary stress factor and can lead to stem girdling roots which will eventually choke the trunk. It can also make trees more susceptible to disease and insect pests, and frost cracks; can cause roots to grow up toward the surface where they will have to compete for nutrients and water; and can activate suckering shoots or adventitious roots that grow from the underground part of the trunk. If you cannot see the root flare of your woody plant, then it is planted too deeply.
Avoid planting too deeply, especially with balled and burlapped plants. When planting new woody plants, gently scrape excess soil away from trunk until you see the root flare. Prune out any adventitious roots from the trunk and remove encircling roots. Plant your tree/shrub so that the root flare is at or slightly above (1-2") the surface of the soil. Don't pile mulch like a volcano around woody plants. Keep mulch at least 2" away from the trunk. If you have trees that are already planted too deeply, there are few easy solutions. For newly planted specimens, (within a couple of months), consider raising the rootball. This requires digging the tree up and raising the bottom of the hole until the root flare is 1-2" above the soil line. If too much time has elapsed, it may be possible to do a careful root flare excavation. Remove soil just wide enough to expose the root flare and create a slope that will keep soil from falling back into the excavation. Air excavation tools are fast and minimize damage to roots. The depression left by the excavation may need to be filled with material such as pea gravel to avoid creating a hazard.
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