The lone voice of horticultural reason

“Plant trees a little deeper than grade because roots deeper in the soil find more water”

An old, old, old myth, and an equally old argument (English gardener William Lawson is on record in 1618 as being dead set against the practice) that has been debated literally for centuries.

I thought everyone was hip to the dangers of “planting deep,” but an e-mailer from this summer had just watched her landscaper plant seven deciduous and evergreen trees several inches below grade, questioned him on it, and was told by this “professional” that planting deep was the best way to go. So I guess the myth lives on.

The argument, however, ends here. As plant roots develop underground, they seek out the perfect mixture of air and water. Force too much water on the roots and a tree will die. Just ask anyone who planted a tree at grade, or even a few inches high, then mistakenly watered it every day.

When trees are planted deep, the roots tend to grow up, seeking some air to go with all that moisture. In doing so, they lose their orientation and run the risk of crossing over other roots and/or circling back around the root ball. As these roots grow larger, they strangle other roots, resulting in slow growing, unhealthy trees, and even death.

Trees should be planted level to grade or even a few inches high. Test after test has shown that this ensures the highest percentage of success.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener