How to Buy Trees from a Nursery

Winter and early spring are a great time to plant trees. Trees are dormant so they can expend their energy growing roots instead of leaves, helping them establish strong root systems before the late spring and summer growing seasons.

Shop local and shop small. We recommend purchasing trees from local nurseries. Because nurseries are usually small businesses, they treat their inventory better than a big-box chain store.

Trees come in 3 ways:

1. Containers – usually plastic pots that vary in size from 3 gallons to 15+ gallons.

Gainesville Georgia
Japanese Maple in a container.

2. Ball & Burlap (B&B) – wire and burlap holding in the root ball.

Dahlonega Georgia
B&B tree ready to be planted. We really like planting these trees, especially if the nursery has just dug them up.

3. Bare Root – no soil, just the roots.

What to look for:

Container plants are the easiest – easy to pick up, usually smaller root balls, and lighter in weight. Just make sure that the tree has not been in the container too long and that it looks healthy.

  1. Check pruning cuts- trunks should be smooth, without cuts or open wounds.
  2. Single trunk – unless it is supposed to be a multi-trunked tree such as a Crape Myrtle.
  3. Root ball is appropriately sized – If you find a huge tree with a tiny root ball, the tree has probably been in the container too long.
  4. Lots of upper branches – full and all the way around the trunk.
  5. Avoid trees with lots of roots growing out of the bottom, as this could be a sign of circling roots.
Parts of a good tree.

What not to buy:

Rotted burlap.

This is a picture of a tree that one of us picked up at the nursery. The burlap is rotted and dirt is coming away from the roots. Obviously, this tree was returned.

Return tree to nursery.

Please contact us at Art of Stone Gardening if you have any questions, or need any help buying trees for your next landscape project. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.

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