How to Fix Girdling Tree Roots

how to fix girdling tree roots

If you’ve noticed a portion of your trees looking odd, where large bulges and crooks cover their lower trunk, then you likely have a case of girdling roots. While this problem can prove fatal for the plant when left untreated, there’s still hope!

As Palm Bay’s professional tree removal crew, we know a thing or two about landscape care. Keep reading and learn how to fix girdling tree roots and prevent them from happening again in the future.

What Are Girdling Roots?

Girdling roots are tree roots that wrap around the surface of the trunk and strangle it over time, but why does this happen? This type of growth forms naturally, usually because of improper planting or poor soil conditions. They can even stem from urban development, where trees planted too close together lack the room for roots to spread downward.

Over time, the restrictive growth takes its toll on the plant, inhibiting the flow of water and nutrient uptake and ultimately leading to death.

Conduct a Visual Inspection

You can identify girdling roots by their unique shape, which looks like a rope wrapped around the tree trunks or other roots. Unfortunately, some of them can manifest below the soil surface, making them more challenging to spot. That’s why you should also pay attention to the health of your trees.

Look for common warning signs, such as:

  • Discolored leaves or wilting during the growth season
  • Stunted shoot and branch growth
  • One side of the trunk looking straight with no natural flare can indicate a hidden girdling root
  • Alarming dieback
  • Tree leans to one side

Treatment Strategies

The sooner you tackle the problem, the higher the chance of saving your tree. Let’s go over the basic steps on how to fix girdling tree roots:

Address the Culprit

A leading cause of an unhealthy root ball is improper mulching practices. You should generally leave a 4” to 6” un-mulched space around the trunk. With sufficient aeration, you can discourage girdling root formation and other issues, such as:

  • Fungal infections
  • Root suffocation
  • Pest infestations
  • Inhibited grow

Expose the Root Flare

Carefully remove the soil and mulch around the trunk to expose the root flare. This will help you determine how far the girdling roots extend and even reveal hidden ones. Specialists often employ compressed air to carefully blow away the dirt or a hand shovel for more precision.

Cut Away the Offending Sections

You should employ several strategies to eliminate the issue without affecting the tree’s general health: 

  • Remove smaller girdling roots using pruners or loppers.
  • For those that have already grafted themselves to the trunk, we generally recommend sawing a V-shaped notch in their top portion.
  • Large pieces (anything over two inches in diameter) might require professional assistance.

Apply a New Layer of Mulch

Mulch should never cover the main roots. Instead, shape it in a donut form around the tree and slope the sides to direct water towards the plant. Don’t worry about the newly exposed roots; they should heal and form a bark quickly!

Why Should Enlist the Expertise of an Arborist

Roots deliver and process necessary nutrition for your tree, and inflicting unnecessary trauma can prove disastrous. Don’t risk it! By working with East Coast Arbor Pro, you can:

  • Save time and effort on your part
  • Receive valuable aftercare advice so that similar issues don’t arise in the future
  • Enjoy a higher success rate, as we provide the best tools and treatments for your tree’s specific needs
  • Maintain healthy trees and a beautiful landscape for years to come

Call (321) 917-9342 if you need more information on how to fix girdling tree roots or want to learn what an arborist does. We’ll happily discuss the nitty-gritty details, so you can make informed decisions.

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