Tree Tips: Choosing A Healthy Tree


In the previous article we considered reasons for removing and replacing your tree. This week we are going to discuss, how to choose a healthy tree. When choosing a tree, one should remember, “all trees are not created equal”. When purchasing a tree, there are three basic options, containerized trees, ball and burlap trees, and Bare root trees. Though any of these options are fine, the bare root tree, is the simplest and normally the cheapest.

When considering which tree to buy it is important to look at the roots. If one half of the root ball is missing, it will most likely die. The roots should have an equal radius around the tree. It is also necessary to have feeder roots, these roots have a hairy, messy look and are very important to the tree. When examining the larger roots, it is vital that none of the larger roots wrap around the root ball. When this occurs it is call a girdling root, sooner or later this will kill the tree.

Once you have determined that the roots are healthy, it is important to look at the trunk, to see if there are wounds, or seriously damaged cambium bark. When there is damage on the tree the chances of survival are much lower. Wounds also make the tree more susceptible to insects, disease, and rot.

It is also very important to inspect the overall shape of the tree. A well shaped tree has one central leader or stem. This means that the highest point of the tree is the vertical branch in the center. Often trees have co-dominant stems, this often causes problems since each leader is constantly competing. Also co-dominant stems normally grow wrong, causing weak attachment points, and included bark. Though, young trees with these defects can be structurally pruned. However it is best to avoid them. When done properly purchasing and planting a tree is a very rewarding experience.

If you have a question, you can email me at, and I will respond either by email or in a future article. If you would like me to come and assess one of your trees, you can call me at 519-272-5742.

Joel Hackett is a Certified Arborist Residing in the St Mary’s Area. Spending most of the year running Joel’s Tree Service, he also teaches Arboriculture during the winter at Lambton College. Joel Hackett does not assume any Liability for any information in this article.

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