Correcting Girdling Root Problems In Nursery-Grown Trees

8 September 2022
 Categories: Home & Garden, Blog


If you want to add some tall, stately trees to your property, you can always plant some seeds and wait a few decades. For those who don't have that much time to spare, purchasing trees from a tree nursery is an excellent solution. 

Unfortunately, nursery-grown trees may be susceptible to a serious problem known as girdling roots. Girdling roots can kill the hardiest trees and must be corrected by a professional tree care service as soon as possible.

How Can Girdling Roots Affect Nursery-Grown Trees?

In most tree nurseries, trees are grown in pots or planters. This allows nurseries to fine-tune soil composition and nutrient content, helping trees grow taller, healthier, and most importantly, faster.

However, trees that would ordinarily grow large, expansive root systems can start to suffer if they are grown in pots or planters for too long. Because there is not enough room in the pot or planter for the roots to spread, the roots can start to grow in a circular pattern around the base of the tree's trunk. These spiral-shaped roots are referred to as girdling roots.

When a tree with girdling roots is transferred from a pot or planter into the ground, the roots may continue to grow in a circular shape, instead of spreading out. As the girdling roots grow longer and thicker, they can start to strangle the tree, preventing water, sap, and nutrients from rising through the tree towards its branches. 

How Can You Tell If A Tree Has Girdling Roots?

If part of your tree's root system grows above ground, you may be able to see the roots growing in a distinctive circular pattern around the base of the trunk. However, in most cases, the first sign of girdling roots is the damage they can do to a tree's health.

If girdling roots are leaving your tree malnourished, you may notice thin leaf growth or entire branches that do not grow leaves at all. The leaves that do grow may be smaller and paler than usual. They may also yellow and wilt weeks or months before the fall season. 

You can also detect girdling roots by inspecting the base of the tree's trunk. The trunk of a healthy tree should flare out and become wider close to ground level. If girdling roots are restricting the trunk's growth, the base of the trunk may grow straight into the ground with little or no visible widening.

What Should You Do If Your Tree Has Girdling Roots?

If you have planted a nursery-grown tree in the past few years, and the tree is showing any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should call in a professional residential tree care service to inspect your ailing tree's root system.

The only way to treat girdling roots is to remove any roots that are tightly wrapped around the base of the tree. Removing these roots will allow the sap to rise through the tree normally and allow new roots to grow and spread. However, removing too much root material can severely damage or kill the tree, so this should only be performed by experienced professionals.