This is a bit dated but fascinating reading for tree huggers with some useful info for tree growers of all stripes. I was searching for info about research on delaying bud-break with mulch and brought this up. Didn’t help on that front.


I think this is an extremely useful article. Glad you shared it.

A little anecdote for the day. I planted an ornamental crab apple in my front yard two years ago that was root-bound in a 7 gallon pot. I did not obey the “dig the hole 2x the width of the root ball” suggestion, but just dug a hole big enough to comfortable get the root ball in the hole.

I recently did what I would call the “professional” mulch treatment, where I dug out the grass and placed mulch out to about the drip line of the young tree. Despite the rootbound nature of the tree and my laziness in digging the hole, I was surprised to find several 3/8" and larger woody roots growing out in the first inch of the soil in the area about 4x the diameter of the original root ball.

So at least in my somewhat compacted silt-loam Iowa suburban development soil, the roots of an apple don’t stay confined to the original hole and root ball from a root-bound tree.