(114) Effects of Planting Depth on Landscape Tree Survival and Girdling Root Formation

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  • 1 1Clemson University, Horticulture, Clemson, SC, 29634
  • 2 2Clemson University, Forestry and Natural Resources, Clemson, SC, 29634
  • 3 3Bartlett Tree Research Lab, Charlotte, NC

Landscape trees are frequently planted with their root collars below grade, and it has been suggested that such deep planting predisposes trees to transplant failure and girdling root formation. The objective of the present research was to examine the effect of planting depth on the health, survival, and root development of two popular landscape trees, red maple (Acer rubrum) and `Yoshino' cherry (Prunus ×yedoensis). Trees were transplanted with their root flares at grade, 15 cm below grade or 31 cm below grade. Deep planting had a strong negative effect on the short-term survival of `Yoshino' cherries. Two years posttransplant, 50% of the 15-cm- and 31-cm-deep planted cherries had died, whereas all the control cherries had survived (P< 0.001; 2). Short-term survival of maples was not affected by planting depth. Deep-planted trees of both species exhibited little fine root regrowth into the upper soil layers during the first year after transplant. Four years posttransplant, control maples had 14% ± 19% of their trunk circumference encircled by girdling or potentially-girdling roots; this number rose to 48% ± 29% and 71% ± 21% for 15-cm- and 31-cm-deep planted maples, respectively (P< 0.01; ANOVA main effect). There were no treatment-related differences in girdling root development in the cherries.

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