Selecting Quality Trees from the Nursery

By Edward F. Gilman and Laura Sadowski
Gainesville, FL (January 1, 2007)- Tree selection does not end with choosing the appropriate species or cultivar for the planting site. Suitable nursery stock must be chosen based on planting site conditions and intended after-care, which should dictate maximum tree size at planting, root ball characteristics, appropriate tree production method, and tree structure.


Nursery stock must be inspected carefully to pick high quality trees. Pay particular attention to roots. Trees of poor quality may be inexpensive, but might perform poorly in the landscape. Quality factors to evaluate include root ball defects, size, shape, and structure of the canopy, nursery planting depth, presence of included bark, trunk form and branch arrangement, pruning cuts, presence of pests and disease, leaf color, top die-back, clear trunk length, and canopy uniformity.
There are advantages to selecting good quality nursery trees. Good quality trees are more likely to survive post-planting, establish more quickly, and live longer in the landscape. Choosing a good quality tree also can reduce the likelihood of failure from structural defects during a hurricane. Defects in the trunk and branch structure are easier to correct than defects in the root system. This makes it very important to choose trees from a grower with a demonstrated capacity to produce good root systems. Smart buyers evaluate root systems thoroughly.
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Selecting Quality Trees from the Nursery