Q. Should I remove the burlap covering around a tree's root ball before planting?
The consensus these days is that if you can remove the root wrapping from a "balled and burlapped" tree, you should. Burlap is often treated (for longevity) or synthetic; it's particularly important to remove these wrappings, or at least make large cuts in them if you can't remove them. If the root ball is not firm and would be damaged by removing the wrapping, you'll have to leave some material at the bottom of the ball.
To plant a "balled and burlapped" tree, place the ball in the hole that you have dug and then cut off the twine that is wrapped around the trunk. Cut the top of the burlap and roll it down the side of the root ball, laying the burlap on the ground around the hole.
While single layers of untreated burlap are unlikely to have much negative effect on root growth, folded layers below ground form a thick wad that takes additional time to decay, possibly hindering root growth in the first few months. So cut away the loose burlap around the ball--don't bury it.
See our LibGuide for detailed instructions on selecting, siting and planting trees and shrubs.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service