It’s heartbreaking to have an attractive young tree in your landscape begin to decline. When you examine the trunk, you may see bark at the base peeling off, splitting, or generally looking unhealthy.
In my observation, these are symptoms of the tree having been planted too deeply. Many trees are sensitive to having their root system buried more than an inch underground. However, it’s common in balled and burlapped trees to find the uppermost root close to the center of the soil ball. If the soil ball is planted so its top is at the soil surface, the “flare root” will be planted too deep…and the tree may show damage after a few years.
The photos below show the flare root on a B&B tree, the position of the root mass in a typical B&B soil ball and then examples of the damage deep planting causes.
Moral? When planting B&B trees, always find the first major root and plant it within an inch of the soil surface.