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Rhonda J. Ferree


Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture



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Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Planting black tupelo tree

Purchasing Trees and Shrubs


It's that time of year when trees and shrubs begin popping up at retail sales areas throughout Illinois. Here are some tips to consider as you plan your new woody plant purchases.

The most important choice is what type of plant to buy. Consider many factors when making this choice, as it is critical. Consider shade versus sun, soil conditions, insect and disease resistance, seasonal features, and more. Be sure its mature size will fit the space. These websites will help in selecting the right plant for the right place: http://extension.illinois.edu/ShrubSelector and http://extension.illinois.edu/treeselector.

Beyond this, consumers must also decide which market form or plant package to purchase. Trees and shrubs are available as bareroot, balled and burlapped, container-grown, packaged, and mechanically transplanted plants.

The most commonly sold plants are container-grown in a pot or some other type of container. Retailers like these plants because they facilitate cash and carry sales and are cleaner to transport. They are also easier to plant and care for. Because they were grown in the container, these plants have their entire root system present. Beware of root-bound container plants, especially those with roots that circle around the inside of the container. Roots that circle could cause major damage to plants later in life.

Bareroot plants do not have soil around their root system but are usually wrapped in moist sawdust or peatmoss. Packaged plants, such as roses, are often bareroot too. These plants are sold in dormant form, without leaves, in early spring. Before purchasing bareroot plants, inspect them to make sure that their stems and roots have normal color and texture. Beware of plants that have either soft, mushy roots or roots that have a gray mold growing on them.

Balled and burlapped plants are the traditional market form of woody plants. This method of plant packaging involves the digging of a plant with a ball of soil around the plant's root system. The soil is held in place by a piece of burlap and sometimes a wire cage. It is important to remove any twine around the tree trunk before planting these plants! This is a good way to move large plants.

Mechanically transplanted trees allow movement of very large trees directly into the homeowner's yard using a tree spade. Although more expensive, this method provides consumers with the opportunity for larger trees and thus "instant" landscapes.

Buy and plant a tree this year. It will provide you and future generations with years of enjoyment!



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