Many shrubs and trees are sold as balled and burlapped, aka “B&B” plants. Here are some things you should know about buying these plants and putting them in the ground.
- Look for a tree that doesn’t have large nicks and scrapes on the trunk. Sometimes in the digging and wrapping a plant can get damaged; avoid shrubs and trees with large wounds.
- Although you can leave burlap on the plant while you maneuver it into the hole, remove the wire basket and all cords before doing so. These can kill trees and larger shrubs down the line so don’t neglect this step.
- Loosen the burlap before planting and check to make sure you see the “root flare” where the trunk flares out slightly into the tops of the roots. Sometimes in the B&B process this gets covered with soil giving the person who’s planting the tree a false idea of how deeply to plant it. Use your hand to gently push the soil down and expose the root flare so that you’re able to plant with that area showing above the surface of the soil. This is critical to the growth and health of most plants.
- Once your plant is in the hole at the right depth, cut away all the burlap. It will not rot quickly in the ground, so remove it. I’ve seen many plants that have been killed by leaving the burlap on.
- Fill the hole around the root ball with native soil. If your soil is poor you can amend with a layer of compost or composted manure on the soil’s surface after planting.
- Most of the roots on a B&B plant have been chopped off, so these shrubs and trees will probably take a bit longer to recover and start growing than smaller, container grown plants. Since they need to reestablish their root systems be sure to water them well once a week for the first two to three years after planting. Don’t just water near the trunk: water the entire area under and just beyond the canopy to make sure the regrowth of root systems is supported.
- The standard rule of thumb is to water a B&B tree weekly for a year for every inch of caliper of that tree. In other words, if your tree has a trunk that’s 3 inches across you should water the ground around that tree once a week for the next 3 years.