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ARBORICULTURE: PURCHASING PLANTS
  MG Manual Reference
Ch. 13, pp. 5 - 7

The first consideration in selecting a plant is size. The tree size should be in proportion to the container or root system. Do not select the largest or smallest plant in a row.
The plant should be vigorous and healthy with no evidence of insects, disease, cultural problems, or wounds. The tree's natural form should be maintained with well_spaced and arranged branches. The trunk should be wider at the bottom than at the top. Foliage, if present, should be evenly distributed in the upper two-thirds of the tree, not concentrated at the top.
Select trees that were grown locally. In general, plants grown in a climate similar to yours will adjust quicker and perform better. Also, if you are starting a new landscape, plant several different sizes of trees to lend immediate variety and interest.
Transplants can be classified into three classes according to the way they are dug and/or shipped: bare rooted, balled and burlapped or boxed, and container grown plants.
Bare Root
Bare-Rooted

Bare-rooted plants have had the soil washed or shaken from their roots after digging. Nearly all are dormant, deciduous trees. Most mail-order plants are of this class because plants in soil are too heavy to ship economically. A good many tap-rooted plants, such as nut trees and some fruit and shade trees, are handled this way because they are not amenable to ball and burlap or boxing. Bare-rooted plants are also those available in nurseries in early spring with their roots wrapped in damp sphagnum and packaged in cardboard or plastic containers. These need special attention because their roots are tightly bunched up in unnatural positions in order to force them into the package. Discard the sphagnum packing, and be sure to spread the roots out to a natural position before they are planted.
B&B
Plant bare-rooted trees while they are dormant. Fall planting is well suited for these plants. Never let the roots dry out. This is perhaps the single most important source of failure in planting bare-rooted plants. Keep roots in water or wrapped in plastic or wet paper until you are ready to place the plant in the hole. Remove damaged roots or stems before planting.
Balled and Burlapped or Boxed & Balled and Burlapped

B&B and boxed plants are likely to have been grown in nursery rows for some time and to have been root pruned to keep the root system compact and fibrous. Such plants reestablish themselves rapidly. This method is primarily used for plants that never lose their foliage and thus are not amenable to bare-root treatment (e.g., broadleaf evergreens and conifers of all types). A number of deciduous trees and shrubs have branching root systems that are easily contained in a soil ball; these are also sold as B&B or boxed plants.
Root Ball
B&B or boxed plants may be planted almost any time the ground can be worked. If planted in summer, plants will need special attention to keep them adequately watered. When selecting a B&B or boxed plant, be sure the ball is sound and hasn't been broken. Avoid plants that feel loose in the soil balls. Be sure the soil ball does not dry out. These plants usually need very little, if any, pruning at planting.
Container-Grown

Plants are often grown in the container in which they are sold. Their appearance often misleads gardeners into thinking that all they have to do is set the plants into the ground and forget about them. However, these plants need the same careful planting and maintenance; proper watering is critical. Keep rootball moist until planted.
Their roots have been enclosed in a limited space and may be coiled around one another in the container. Avoid container grown plants that have roots emerging from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot or with roots that have coiled around the trunk.
Prior to buying a container grown plant, remove it from the pot and examine the root structure to ensure that it is appropriate for the size of the pot and plant. Avoid plants with roots that have outgrown the container and thus have been forced to circle the perimeter of the pot. This could lead to girdling and the eventual death of the plant.
Generally, younger/smaller plants will cost less and establish more quickly. Container-grown plants can be planted any time the ground can be worked.


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