What Is Root Pruning and When Is It Necessary?

What is root pruning? Every gardening enthusiast, amateur or professional, may have wondered about this practice at some point. 

As the go-to source of professional tree trimming in Knoxville, we at Pro Tree of Knoxville know a thing or two about this horticultural practice. So, keep reading as we peel back the layers surrounding root pruning to reveal its main purpose.

Do You Need to Prune Your Tree or Shrub?

Rapid, unchecked growth isn’t ideal for your garden. In some cases, it can harm nearby structures and affect the health of other plants. And that’s where root pruning comes in.

Root pruning trees involves selectively cutting back the root systems to limit a plant’s spread. Many people also do this for their potted plants to prevent them from becoming root-bound (where the roots fill the container and slowly suffocate).

Understanding the Basics

So, what is root pruning meant to look like in the hands of a professional arborist? Let’s discuss the nitty-gritty of how to do it:

Pick the Appropriate Moment

Like a master chef knows the exact moment to take a brisket out of the smoker, a seasoned gardener understands that timing is critical with root pruning. Never do it during winter or the dormant season, as it can shock the plant and even kill it. Wait until spring, when the plant begins to grow again, so the roots can easily recover.

Arm Yourself With the Right Equipment

The last thing you want is to stop in the middle of your pruning session to hunt for tools. Gather everything you might need beforehand so that you can work quickly. You’ll need:

  • Sharp pruning shears
  • A sturdy, reliable saw for thicker, more stubborn sections
  • A spade or shovel to help you reach deep spots
  • Potting soil
  • Gardening gloves
  • A hand trowel

Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to gardening apparatus. Sanitize the implements before and after using them to minimize the spread of tree or plant diseases.

Follow the Recommended Guidelines

What are the arborist-approved tips for root pruning?

  • For mature trees, never cut roots closer to the trunk than six to eight inches for every inch in trunk diameter. For example, stay about ten feet away from a 20-inch specimen.
  • For young saplings, you can completely prune the roots of one side at a distance equal to five times its trunk diameter.
  • Don’t forget to mulch—it retains soil moisture and provides beneficial nutrients as it decomposes to help the tree recover after the pruning.

Seek an Expert Opinion Before Hacking a Tree’s Roots

Root pruning is not a decision to take lightly. Arborists often treat the method as a last resort for problematic specimens that threaten their surroundings. If you think your plant requires this level of intervention, it’s best to reach out to an expert like Pro Tree of Knoxville for the task. 

What is root pruning going to do to the tree in time? Learn all this from our Tennessee crew, including how fixing pruning mistakes works when things go wrong. Give Pro Tree of Knoxville a call at (865)-294-0062 today!

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