Q: Is there new thinking about how to properly plant a balled and burlapped tree? I’ve noticed lately that landscapers plant with one-third of the root ball above ground level.
A: There is no new thinking about planting, there’s only tinkering. You’re seeing attempts by the landscapers to get the “flare” of the lower trunk and roots level with the soil around the tree. Most have found that the process of digging and “balling” a tree results in earth being pushed up around the trunk, hiding the original soil line. Since trees should be planted at the same height at which they grew in the nursery, setting the ball initially a bit high accomplishes this. It is a good idea for homeowners to dig into the top of a root ball before planting a tree to uncover the flare. It should be just a little higher than surrounding soil.