A Gardening Expert’s Guide to Root Flares

root flares

A Gardening Expert’s Guide to Root Flares

Planting a tree isn’t as simple as digging a hole and placing it into the ground. In addition to planning out your placementand considering the conditions of your soil, you’ll also need to be mindful of how deep you’re planting your tree.

After all of your careful plant planning, the last thing you want is to preemptively damage a tree by neglecting to expose its root flare. As the adage goes in the landscaping industry, “better high than die.”

What is Root Flare?

If you’ve ever seen a tree sticking straight out of the ground, almost resembling a telephone pole or even a large pencil stuck into the ground, you’ve likely noticed that it looks a bit unnatural. This is because one of the tree’s crucial elements is hidden under the soil: its root flare.

Despite their name, root flares are actually part of the trunk rather than the roots. A root flare, also called a tree flare, indicates where a tree’s trunk ends and its root system begins—it’s where the tree trunk meets the roots and flares out (think of flare-legged pants).

Root flares are crucial to a tree’s overall health; if you are unable to identify the root flare and end up covering it by planting your tree too low, you can’t expect the tree to thrive.

The Importance of Exposed Root Flares

The root flair doesn’t just add some flair to your tree—it’s a critical component of your tree’s health and longevity. If you don’t see a root flare at the base of your tree’s trunk, you’ve got a problem. The root flare needs to be exposed in order to allow the roots to access much-needed oxygen.

When the root flares are covered, you put the health of your tree at risk. If your tree is planted too deep, you tree may experience any of the following:

  • Suffocated roots, leading to overall stress on the tree
  • Softened tree bark as a result of soil moisture (which can lead to trunk rot)
  • Girdling roots that go unnoticed and unaddressed
  • Premature loss of leaves in the fall, or delayed leaf growth in the spring

Even when a tree is initially planted properly, it’s possible that excessive amounts of mulch around the base can lead to similar issues. In other words: never bury the root flares.

Tree Depth and Placement

If you’re planting a balled and burlapped (or B&B) tree, you’ll want to make sure the top of the root ball—the mass of roots at the base of the tree—is higher than the surrounding grade.

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” formula when it comes to determining the appropriate planting measurements. The root flare could be found right at the top of the root ball; it could also be found several inches below the balled and burlapped soil line. Either way, it’s important that you identify the root flare before planting the tree into the ground.

So, how do you find the root flare? For B&B trees, we recommend cutting away some of the burlap (but not the twine) and doing some digging until the flare is found. Once you know where the root flare is, you can dig a hole to the proper depth, making sure it’s shallow enough that the flare is visible above the soil.

Correct planting is absolutely crucial if you want healthy trees as long-lasting softscape design elements. If you would rather hire a professional for the job, look no further: our creative landscaping experts can help you build the backyard of your dreams. Visit http://garrettchurchill.local/planting to learn more about our comprehensive planting services.