What Home Shoppers Need to Know About Trees

By: albertaarb - November 11, 2015

Many new homeowners dream of filling their gardens with lush trees and dense foliage. However, there are many pitfalls to buying your first tree and you need to properly research what tree works best for you, your garden and your home. When you are shopping for a tree or winter-hardy shrub you should look for the following things before you hand over your cash.

By following these steps, you’ll be securing a healthy future for your tree and garden.


When you're buying a tree, you need to check and ensure that the pot is not packed with roots. If the roots are wound tightly inside the pot, the tree could face serious problems putting down new roots and unwinding the pre-existing knotted roots, no matter how soft the soil you set it in is. Ideally, the soil to root ratio should be about 50/50, so aim for that. If the roots are too dense or too tightly knotted, move on.


You should also check for any potential issues that may arise in the future. An easy way to check is to look for a "Y" or fork in the branches. If there’s a fork in the main stem, the branch might split in the future, and you don't want that. Practice checking with any trees you may already have at home. If you already have a tree at home that has a Y in the trunk, you should remove it as soon as possible. Otherwise, the branch could split and fall, causing damage or injury to anything or anyone unfortunate to be beneath it.


The bark is often the best indicator of health in the tree. The bark on a new, healthy, tree should be clear, clean, and unblemished. For a tree to be classified as a #1 tree, it must be clear and blemish free, without any knots or other visible damage that might allow insects like termites in. Check the tree for any scrapes or damage on the bark that might allow bugs in to damage the insides of the tree. If there are any knots or marks on the bark, it doesn’t immediately mean the tree is a write-off, but there may be something you should be aware of before you buy.

A Leader

So, having done all that, you now need to look up. The top, or crown, of the tree should have a leader, which is a single stem that sticks up (almost) straight, out of the top of the tree. This stem is very important, since it provides the shape of the tree, and without it the tree may grow haphazardly as it matures in your yard. If it grows in a crooked shape, you may be risking property damage on top of an aesthetically unappealing tree.


Now that you have selected your tree, you'll need to plant it. Generally speaking, when you plant a tree, it should be in a hole 3 times the diameter of the container it came in, that is dug no deeper than what the tree originally came in. If you're dealing with a bare root tree, the hole should be 3 times the size of the spread of the roots, but most beginner gardeners will be dealing with potted or bagged trees, for ease of transport if nothing else.

By giving the tree this much space, you're giving the tree enough worked earth for its root structure to establish itself. This is why you should avoid knotted or excess roots, since they'll need to be able to move through the soil. There are some exceptions to this rule, but unless you're a very experienced gardener or arborist, you probably won't be dealing with one of these exceptions.

Once your tree is planted, you'll need to look after it. Newly planted trees should be watered when they're first planted, and watered at least once a week in the absence of rain, with more attention paid during summer or other dry periods. A common mistake that many beginners make is trying to protect the roots by covering the area around the base of the tree with plastic sheeting. Rather than protecting the roots, this actually blocks air and water movement, which could damage the tree and soil. If you need to protect the roots, you should use porous landscape fabric instead, which will allow air and water safely through.

Have questions about the trees in your yard?

If you have any questions or are in need of tree care services such as pruning or tree removal, we at Alberta Arborists can help you. We provide affordable solutions for your entire tree and shrub care needs. Our reputation is built on customer satisfaction & the quality of our workmanship. 

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation estimate of your job.

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