How to raise a tree planted too deep

In Too Deep? | Davey Tree

Take a close look at your trees.

Do they look happy? The trunk probably looks relatively strong and free of obvious damage. Leaves might even look fairly full and lush.

Now, take a really good look and ask yourself: "If something was wrong with my trees deep down, would I be able to tell minus the obvious signs?"

You might have to conduct a "deeper" investigation into their condition if you will. Are your trees screaming for a little "air?" Can you guess the "root" of their problem?

If you haven't figured it out yet, these puns refer to one of the biggest problems of tree installation: planting trees too deeply. About 80 percent of all tree problems can be attributed to their soil environment.

Problems with Trees Planted Too Deep and Solutions to Fix

Planting a tree is a relatively quick and simple process. But how much effort you put into it can have a lifelong effect. Mistakes can cause a tree to fail very quickly, limiting its lifespan. Shortcutting the planting process can cause the tree to struggle for many years, never achieving its full potential benefits in the landscape. And all the while, you are unaware that your tree is crying out for help. 

Planting a tree right in the first place is the goal. Paying attention to the details in this process can mean a healthier, more vigorous, and successful tree that will add multiple and growing benefits to your landscape for years to come.

The mistake of planting a tree too deeply isn't always readily apparent at the time of installation, but the long-term effects of it are substantial. When buried too deeply, tree stems and roots decline in health and condition. And poor tree stems and roots mean reduced tree growth and leaf size and color, decreased cold hardiness, and increased disease and insect susceptibility. Sometimes trees show these problems right away in the first year after planting, but usually, the problem emerges after a few years when it becomes more challenging to fix.

How deep should trees be planted?

To understand how to plant trees right, one has to understand their roots. For tree roots to grow vigorously, they require water and oxygen. As a result, most roots grow shallowly in the soil. When roots are buried too deeply, less oxygen is available. 

Ideally, plant trees so their root flare (where the trunk starts to bulge out at the bottom) is slightly above the soil surface.

To dig a hole that is the right depth for your tree, measure from the bottom of the root ball to the beginning of the tree’s root flare. Now, dig a hole that deep and situate the root flare at the right level. Want to see step-by-step what this process looks like?

Watch the video below on how to dig a deep enough hole

Symptoms of Trees Planted Too Deep – And How to Fix a Tree Planted Too Deep or Too Low

To spot a poorly planted tree, look for a trunk that is going straight into the ground like a pole. Signs of trees suffering as a result of deep planting include girdling roots, few or no buttress roots showing; yellowing, undersized or fewer leaves; and stunted height. 

You may be able to remedy buried trees by replanting them at the proper height or removing excess soil from the tree's root flare. Replanting is more successful on trees planted in the past two to three months, while removal of excess soil via a process called root collar excavation that uses compressed air to prevent tree injury is better for established plants.

Have questions or need help fixing your tree? Contact your local Davey arborist!



  • Planting
  • Tree Planting Issues

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A Common Reason for Tree Decline: Planting Trees Too Deep

When a tree is in decline, the culprit is often assumed to be either disease, insect or nutrition-related. And while many times this is the reason, poor horticultural practices often allow these other problems to occur. It is comparable to Eastern vs. Western medicine. While Western medicine will often treat “symptoms” like a cough or rash, Eastern medicine tries to find the cause of that cough or rash. In other words, Eastern medicine focuses on the stress that compromised your immune system and allowed an infection to take hold.

Trees and other plants react similarly to stress. A tree that has been previously impacted by poor nutrition, compacted soils, drought or other factors is much more susceptible to disease and insects than healthy, well-maintained trees.  Of the cultural stresses that impact a tree’s health, deep planting and over-mulching are two of the most common and most injurious.

A study in 2000 by Smiley and Booth found that 93% of professionally planted trees are planted too deep. Other than simply planting too deep, there are other ways that the root collar can be buried. This includes over-mulching (also known as “volcano mulching”) and changing the grade of mature trees (to level a lawn or accommodate construction).

Symptoms of trees planted to deep in the landscape include:

  • Reduced growth rate
  • Dwarfed leaf size and/or defoliation
  • Yellowing (often mistaken for poor soil nutrition)
  • Late spring leaf emergence
  • Early fall coloration
  • Bark splitting
  • Increased susceptibility to borers
  • Girdling roots
  • Branch dieback
  • Eventual tree death

The symptoms of decline can take several years to appear, particularly if the deep planting is a result of backfill or over-mulching a mature, established tree.  The earlier the root collar is exposed, the better the chance of tree survival.

Trees that are planted too deep do not show a flare at the soil line. In other words, it grows straight like a telephone pole into the ground. The buried root collar, which is designed to be dry, stays moist and becomes susceptible to insect and disease. The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide drops and the root system begins to essentially suffocate. This is the primary problem that leads to the aforementioned symptoms. The symptoms can be treated with fertilizer and pesticides, but unless the root collar is exposed the tree will never thrive.

If it is a young, recently planted tree, replant at the proper depth. When transplanting, remove the excess soil and any surface roots growing above the root flare. To prevent the soil from settling later, never dig the hole any deeper than the height of the root ball. Plant trees higher than the surrounding grade (1-2″) to avoid covering the root flares.

For older, established trees, the soil around the root flare should be removed to expose the collar. Excavate the soil as far away from the base of the tree as possible (8-12 feet around the tree) and remove associated surface roots. Girdling or circling roots should be removed at this time to prevent later problems. Care must be taken to prevent injury to the bark or infection may occur. Certified Arborists can properly expose the root flare on mature trees to ensure survival and growth.

Remove mulch from around the base of the tree, never allowing mulch to touch the trunk. Maintain a mulch-free barrier 6″ around each tree.

Spread a thin layer of mulch about 1.5-2″ thick each year, allowing the previous mulch to break down before applying more. Never apply more than a couple of inches of mulch or it will cause tree decline. A thick application of mulch has the same effect as planting too deep.

Trees with well-defined root collars. These trees were planted at the correct depth and are healthy and thriving.

Mature tree with buried root flare. The grade was changed to accommodate a new lawn. Dieback of the branches and general decline will occur in the years to come.

“Volcano mulching”: Mulch covering the trunk of the tree. This has the same negative impacts as planting too deep.

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Tree care articles by Rawson Services’ partner

Rules for growing ginkgo trees - GINKGO LABYRINTH

How to germinate ginkgo biloba from seeds, plant young seedlings in open ground, take care of them in the garden or at home? We looked for answers to these questions in various sources, gathered together the experience of our many years of activity in the labyrinth park we are creating of 10,000 ginkgo biloba trees and our like-minded people, and now we want to help you grow your own dinosaur tree.

For the happy owners of ginkgo seeds.

The best time to harvest or purchase a fresh crop is from November to December. Ginkgo fruits are similar to small apricots with a stone inside, resembling a small nut. If you decide to collect the seeds yourself, do not forget to wear gloves to protect your hands from the unpleasant smell of the pulp, we also recommend cleaning the bones in them, as this must be done carefully. Then the seeds should be washed under cool water and dried well. Store them in the refrigerator, checking for mold from time to time. Having found one, it should be washed off under clean water or in a weak solution of potassium permanganate and, after drying the seeds, return them to the refrigerator.

In early February, soak ginkgo nuts for a day or two in ordinary water (no bleach). After that, you can rinse them in a weak solution of potassium permanganate or, for example, in some kind of antifungal drug, although this is not necessary. In order for young trees to be resistant to frost, it is necessary at this stage to carry out standard stratification. To do this, place the seeds in a small container with a mixture of peat and sand or in a damp gauze (napkin). Then we leave the bones in the refrigerator / cellar at a temperature of 0 +5, periodically checking for mold (if in gauze), regularly moistening them without overflowing.

What to do with germinated seeds?

After a month and a half, the container with seeds is removed from the refrigerator. Seeds must be rinsed again in potassium permanganate, after which they can be sown. If young shoots appear earlier, they are ready for planting. For germinating seedlings, we recommend taking plastic containers with a volume of 1 liter, always with a drainage hole. It is also necessary to pour 2-4 cm of expanded clay or any other drainage at the bottom of the container. The soil should be light and rich in minerals.

Despite the size of the seeds, they should not be buried deep - 2 cm maximum depth. Watering is standard: the earth ball should be moist, but not waterlogged and not dry. Good results were also shown by the method when the seed remains practically on the surface of the soil, immersed by a third of its thickness. However, this method, although it gives fast seed germination, requires more care. It is necessary to spray the soil frequently and regularly, keeping it moist.

Seed germination period from one week to one month. But there were cases when ginkgo slept in the ground for up to six months, after which they germinated quite safely.

If you have planted many ginkgo seeds in one container, then about 20 days after germination, they can be planted so as not to subsequently injure the roots of young trees.

You are the owner of a “newborn” ginkgo seedling.

(*) if not, please contact us... we will advise you where to buy it and what is important to pay attention to when buying!

A young tree needs maximum light - put it on the windowsill, but so that the sun's rays are scattered as much as possible, for example by a curtain or shade from other plants.

Water regularly, but make sure the soil ball is not too wet. After about 3 months, the ginkgo stem begins to lignify, it is after this that the plant can be planted in the ground or transplanted into a larger pot and left for another year at home. Check out the two options.

If you decide to plant a 5-6 month old ginkgo in the ground.

(*) At the same time, take part in our eco-challenge #trees3000challenge

A few days before planting, start watering the selected area - the ground should be well moistened, as if it had been moderate rain every day. Do not plant the plant in a bare flower bed without grass and other plants. For successful survival, young ginkgo requires partial shade and protection from the wind. Remember that after transplanting, the soil level for the sprout should remain unchanged. You should not deepen or raise the root neck of the plant above the soil. Water the plant well in the container, then carefully remove the ginkgo, place it in the prepared hole, dig in and lightly tamp the soil around the plant. Re-water and mulch the near-trunk circle with grass - this will help retain moisture. Be sure to shade the newly planted ginkgo. This can be done with the help of branches (stick them at a distance of 20-30 cm from the trunk from all sides), cardboard, other plants (for example, ferns). During the first week after transplanting, it is advisable to water the ginkgo every day, especially if there is no rain.

If you decide to keep ginkgo in your apartment for the winter.

Determine the "place of residence" of the plant - it is advisable not to rearrange it, however, periodically turn it so that the tree grows symmetrically. If (which happens most often) there are heaters near the tree, periodically spray its crown with water. Ginkgo normally sheds its leaves during the winter. When you see that the leaves of the tree have acquired a yellow-golden hue, try to provide it with a dormant period: reduce watering and, if possible, put it on the balcony, covering the pot with the tree with a cardboard box. It happens that the leaves of ginkgo do not turn yellow, but immediately wither. Do not worry, this is also possible, but in order not to confuse this dormant option with a disease or a violation of the irrigation regime, it is imperative to monitor the health of the apical bud - it must remain convex, healthy, without rot and brittleness. It happens that in a heated apartment, ginkgo does not drop leaves at all. This is also normal, but such trees may be weaker than those that rested. Ginkgo dormant times can vary from November to February. The timing of the exit from this state is from April to June. The plant itself will decide when to fall asleep and wake up.

As a rule, during the winter the trunk of the seedling becomes completely woody and turns brown. If the ginkgo hibernated on the balcony, then in mid-March you need to bring the container into the apartment and increase watering. You can understand that the tree has woken up by the state of the apical bud. It will begin to swell, become larger and gradually turn green. There will also be buds in the axils of the leaves. New ginkgo leaves grow very quickly, in just a week the plant will take on the form from which it left during the dormant period. If you decide to plant a one-year-old ginkgo after wintering, it is advisable to do this before the leaves bloom - usually this is May - June. However, make sure that the threat of a return frost has passed. The recommendations for planting one-year-old ginkgoes are similar to those for planting 5-6 month olds.

Outdoor care of ginkgo in winter .

In late October - early November, when negative night temperatures are already set, water the seedlings well. Four to five buckets of water per plant. Mulch the near-trunk circle with grass, bark, sawdust, or simply add earth.

Cover each tree with spruce legs, building a hut out of them (2 layers are possible). The plant should completely hide under this structure. Do not cover the ginkgo with foil, spunbond, plastic bottles - the plant will dry out and die! Shelter is removed in March-April, when night temperatures stop dropping below -5. However, we recommend only spreading the spruce legs, exposing the top of the plant to the sun, as if they are completely removed, the ginkgo can harm the mice.

We made a beautiful video about how Ginkgo winters in our nursery:

We wish you success in growing the most ancient trees on Earth. We invite you to contact us with questions, we will be happy to answer them in our ginkgo lovers telegram chat. Leave your feedback on the successful activities of ginkgo cultivation with photo reports there. And let these wonderful trees return to their former territories with our joint help. Let's grow ginkgo forests - save the planet!

You can get ginkgo sprouts from us in return for volunteering or sponsoring the project. Our volunteers can deliver young seedlings directly to your home, details...

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planting and caring for a tree, preparing seedlings, choosing the timing and stages of work

Growing a tree is not so simple occupation. In order not to make mistakes, you need to familiarize yourself with the rules of planting and the features of further plant care. Experts say that the procedure is best done in the spring, since in the process of digging a seedling out of the ground, a larger number of small roots break off, through which it receives the nutrients it needs.

And since the growth of new roots requires not only a long time, but also heat, it is best to cultivate a tree in the spring.

  • Preparing seedlings
    • Selecting planting dates - autumn planting
    • Spring planting
  • Stages of work
    • Filling the hole and caring for the seedling after planting

In autumn, seedlings can be planted that have a closed root system. It occurs only in plants grown in pots. If the seedlings were bought in the autumn, it is best to dig them up and leave them until spring. Proper planting is a guarantee that the tree will not only take root well in a new place, but will also grow and develop.

Preparation of seedlings

In order for the tree to grow well and bear fruit in the future, it is necessary to buy seedlings only in specialized stores. When choosing, you should pay attention to the following factors:

  1. The presence of subsoil type water in the areas - for trees with a strong root system, the depth of underground water should not exceed three meters. It is permissible to plant dwarf-type seedlings in areas where the water depth does not exceed 1.5 meters.
  2. Soil quality - when choosing the necessary seedling, it is imperative to take into account the nature of the soil, this will allow you to get not only a stronger and more developed tree, but also increase its fruiting.
  3. Light level - the more sun the plant can get, the better it will develop.
  4. The size of the area where the planting will take place - the distance between the trunks should be selected depending on the characteristics of the variety of the planted tree, for example, densely planted seedlings will grow up, not in breadth, and at the same time intertwine and obscure each other.

Selection of planting dates - autumn planting

Autumn period. If, nevertheless, there is a need for planting in the fall, it is worth observing the deadlines that directly depend on such factors: It is from him that the degree of development of the tree and its growth will directly depend.

  • Peculiarities of the species and breed - in stone fruits (plum, peach, cherry) the development of new roots is much slower than, for example, in pome trees (pears, apple trees and quince).
  • Planting can only be carried out when the tree is completely out of the growing season . In autumn, the optimal time is from the end of September to the first week of November. However, this framework may vary depending on the climatic features of the region.

    Spring planting

    Spring planting is considered more favorable for any type of tree.

    Benefits of planting in the spring :

    1. In the spring time, you can fully observe the development of the plant. In addition, the likelihood that the tree may freeze is minimized.
    2. During planting in the spring, there is quite a lot of free time in order to complete the preparation of both the soil and the seedling itself.

    Disadvantages of planting in spring include the following:

    • small selection of seedlings at this time;
    • If there is little rain in summer, seedlings should be watered daily.

    Stages of work

    Regardless of whether the tree is planted with bare roots or with a clod of earth, it is important to remember that in the process the root system will be reduced by almost 95% of its original size.

    As a result, her injuries and the so-called root shock will occur, which in the future may make itself felt by the slow growth of the tree.

    Proper preparation will not only reduce the shock during transplantation, but also shorten its period.

    1. The first step is to properly dig a hole for planting - it is recommended to make it wide, it should be at least three times larger than the total volume of the root system. When digging, you should also not forget that the depth of the pit should not exceed the length of the seedlings. Digging up the soil around the trunk allows young roots to grow faster into the loosened soil, which in turn leads to better growth.
    2. The next step is to determine where the root collar is located, in other words, the basal thickening of the stem - basically the root collar is located at the point where the thickening of the trunk occurs, and the first lateral roots begin to branch out. If before planting it was not possible to determine the location of the root collar, it is necessary to remove part of the soil from above after planting.
    3. Pit Placement at Proper Height - Be sure to check that the pit is lined up correctly before placing. Most of the roots in a planted tree will develop in the top-type layer. If the plant is planted too deep, the roots that appear will have some difficulties in development, which will undoubtedly be reflected in the development of the tree as a whole. It is best to plant a tree no higher than 6-9centimeters from baseline.
    4. Pit Leveling - Before backfilling, be sure to review the tree from several directions to ensure that the tree is correctly positioned. This should be done before starting to fall asleep in the pit, since then such manipulation can cause some difficulties.

    Filling the hole and caring for the seedling after planting

    This procedure must be carried out in several stages: