Root Ball – Remove Burlap

Q: A landscaper just installed for me a seven foot Kousa dogwood and did not remove the burlap from the root ball. All he did was to peel it back on top. Am I correct that it should be removed?

A: Landscape experts agree that it is a Best Management Practice (BMP) to remove as much burlap as practical. Usually I can cut off the upper half of the cloth around the rootball of trees I install. Most landscape burlap is treated with copper sulphate to inhibit its breakdown while the tree is at the nursery. The copper sulphate leaches out eventually and allows the burlap to decompose. Even so, while the burlap is in place it inhibits the growth of roots through it.

Plastic burlap was common a decade ago but has been replaced by treated burlap because it caused so many tree establishment problems. In your case I recommend that someone dig around the root ball and slice the burlap in several spots belowground.