Horticulturist Charlie Nardozzi of the National Gardening Association explains what to look for – and what to avoid – when buying trees and shrubs from the nursery.
Don’t select a tree that has broken branches, weak growth, multiple branches coming from the main trunk or a trunk that moves independently from the root ball.
Instead, select trees with symmetrical growth, healthy foliage, signs of new growth, no damage to the limbs and no indication of injury or disease.
Sometimes it’s better to select a less expensive, smaller tree. Large balled-and-burlapped trees may have suffered damage to the roots when they were dug up. Smaller trees are easier to dig from the soil because their roots aren’t as well established. Once planted in the garden, young trees with healthy roots grow rapidly.
Shrubs in containers should be symmetrical, with healthy foliage and signs of new growth. The roots should be healthy and should not have outgrown the container. The foliage should not be stunted or yellow, and the soil should not be tightly compacted.
If you have your heart set on a plant that’s root bound, cut through the roots at planting time, and separate them with your hands.