Purchasing Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs are popping up at retail sales areas throughout Illinois.

"Retailers sell a variety of plants in a variety of packages or market forms," says Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension. "The purchasing of woody plants requires consumers to make choices."

"The most important choice is what type of plant to buy." Consider many factors when making this choice, as it is critical. Consider shade versus sun, soil conditions, insect and disease resistance, seasonal features, and more. These websites will help in selecting the right plant for the right place: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/ShrubSelector/ and http://urbanext.illinois.edu/treeselector/

Beyond this, consumers must also decide which market form or plant package to purchase. Trees and shrubs are available as bareroot, balled and burlapped, container-grown, packaged, and mechanically transplanted plants.

The most commonly sold plants are container-grown in a pot or some other type of container. Retailers like these plants because they facilitate cash and carry sales and are cleaner to transport. They are also easy to plant and care for. Because they were grown in the container, these plants have their entire root system present. Beware of root-bound container plants, especially those with roots that circle around the inside of the container. Roots that circle could cause major damage to plants later in life.

Bareroot plants do not have soil around their root system, but are usually wrapped in moist sawdust or peatmoss. Packaged plants (such as roses) are actually bareroot too. These plants are sold in dormant (without leaves) form in the early spring. Before purchasing bareroot plants, inspect them to make sure that their stems and roots have normal color and texture. Beware of plants that have either soft, mushy roots or roots that have a gray mold growing on them.

Balled and burlapped plants are the traditional market form of woody plants. This method of plant packaging involves the digging of a plant with a ball of soil around the plant's root system. The soil is held in place by a piece of burlap and sometimes a wire cage. Important: remove any twine around the tree trunk before planting these plants! This is a good way to move large plants.

Mechanically transplanted trees allow movement of very large trees directly into the homeowner's yard using a tree spade. Although more expensive, this method provides consumers with the opportunity for larger trees and thus "instant" landscapes.

Buy and plant a tree this year. It will provide you and future generations with years of enjoyment!