Purchasing High-Quality Trees

Shopping for Trees

So much goes into selecting the right tree for a site and planning out the best time to plant. If care is not taken to pick out a high-quality specimen that meets your needs, why go through all of the trouble to prepare for planting a new tree?

Purchasing a tree with pre-existing problems can place the tree in impending doom before it even goes in the ground. By knowing what to look for in a tree specimen at the nursery, you can take home a tree that has the advantage of great condition from the start and set the scene for your own long term enjoyment of tree benefits.

Purchasing from a Nursery

View the Nursery Stock bulletin, which contains information you need to know when purchasing trees from a nursery.

Root Ball Type

Before you pick out a specific tree, know what types of plant material you can buy. There are three different types of root stock:
  • Balled and burlapped
  • Bare root
  • Container grown

Tree Size

Older, larger trees provide more instant gratification. However younger, smaller trees become established much more easily. If you think you can wait for your tree to become larger, a younger, smaller tree could be worthwhile. If older, larger trees are necessary, they can thrive with care and attention.

Keep in mind that smaller trees are less visible. Some visual clues, such as a wide mulch ring or a stake can preserve your tree from the plight of the lawn mower.

Undesirable Tree Defects

Take a close look at the trees you are thinking of buying and try not to buy one that is doomed from the start. Tree establishment in the urban environment is tough enough without having pre-existing problems to cause stress for your tree. When selecting a tree at the nursery, look for problems such as:
  • Buried root flare
  • Circling or kinked roots
  • Codominant stems
  • Damage to the trunk, roots, or branches
  • Disease or insect damage
  • Improper pruning cuts
Look for the following qualities in a tree:
  • Enough healthy roots to support the tree’s growth
  • Free of mechanical wounds from improper pruning or handling
  • Strong structure of well-spaced, firmly-attached branches

More Information

For more in-depth information about purchasing quality trees, view The International Society of Arboriculture website.