View Full Version : Wire Tree Baskets?

10-01-2000, 09:40 PM
When planting a tree , do you leave the wire basket on or take it off? I've asked many landscapers this question and about 1/2 leave it on and the other 1/2 take it off. Personally, I'd remove it.

10-01-2000, 10:12 PM
Definitely remove it. THere was a post about this earlier.

10-01-2000, 11:24 PM
I leave thenm on you will do more damage to the root ball taking them off than if you just leave them on.

10-01-2000, 11:31 PM
The wire basket was made to hold the root ball tightly, leave it on, the roots will grow through the openings.

10-02-2000, 01:23 AM
When this question was posed to the foremost horticulture extension research person in Virginia, the answer was to take off the top of the basket only, remove the twine from trunk of tree and spread the top of the burlap out from the root ball.

10-02-2000, 09:30 AM
The September issue of Landscape Management had an article on installations & these comments were made:
Remove wire & burlap (or at least some of it). Burlap that extends above the planting hole can act like a wick, drawing water away from the root system. Just snip it off and discard it after the plant is in the ground.
Likewise, the wire basket can also be a bit of a problem, possibly inhibiting lateral root growth. Snip off most of the basket after planting and discard it.

I'm sure we could find another article in one of the trade mags that says leave the basket on. Since 50% of people say to take it off & 50% leave it, I'm going to take the middle road & take some off like this article & Lanelle's source mentioned :).

Eric E.
10-02-2000, 06:46 PM
In the last year or two I read a scientific research paper on this topic. The outcome of the research was that the roots will grow around the wires with little effort and little damage to the vascular system. I still remove the top half of the basket, and as much of the burlap as possible unless the ball is falling apart. Eric

John Deere
10-04-2000, 09:54 PM
I want to thank you all for this post. I had this exact question, but once I logged on I saw that this topic was already being discussed and was again, Lanelle you are dead on. You always seem to have a very acurate & helpful answer. So thanks to every one on this topic.

John Deere
10-04-2000, 09:57 PM
of course that should be "once" again. I hate that when I make a spelling error. "was again" - I'm an idiot.

10-04-2000, 11:11 PM
John Deere, You can use the "edit" function on the bottom of your post to correct errors. Believe me, I've used it!

10-05-2000, 08:50 PM
I've read and heard pretty much the same thing as what Lanelle said, but, from what i've seen alot of trees do not develop a good root system through the burlap or the wire basket. I found a picture that i took a few years ago of a pine tree that never grew out of it's burlap. It was about 20" diameter at the base before it fell over was about 12 years old, just recently i dug up some cedars that were in the ground about 15 years and never developed supprting roots, just fine feeder roots.Burlap was still there on both!This is pretty common from what i've seen. I always take the basket and burlap off If possible. Supposedly the burlap and wire will deteriate, not in the soil around here.

10-07-2000, 01:14 AM
When you find 'burlap' that hasn't decomposed, check the fiber. Is it that synthetic poly stuff or the natural fiber? The poly fiber doesn't rot. I don't think the synthetic type is used now. You should find the old-fashioned, natural burlap on root balls. I agree that the wire is slow to decompose in our oxygen-poor soil, but the burlap should weaken more quickly. And just to speed up the process, a few shallow knife-slits in the fabric won't hurt.

10-07-2000, 03:45 PM

On the question of whether or not to remove the basket/burlap I always look at it as do you want to make money or do you want to be horticulturally correct?

For a horticulturalist to say the basket and wire need to be removed, it is a 'no-brainer'. Of course a layer of burlap and a metal cage are going to impede the growth of roots on any planting, and therefore need to be removed.

However, a horticulturalist is not in the business of making money installing plants. They are in the business of determineing the 'correct', horticulturally right way to plant a tree and make there money by performing all of these snazzy little studies and producing nice page after page reports of the effect of burlap/metal cages on the growth of trees.

If they were in the business of installing 100's, 1000's, even 10's of thousands of trees a year, I'm sure there opinions would change.

Lets face it. The shear work involved in removing the burlap and cage is quite timely, and can be very difficult in a lot of situations.

This is why I leave the burlap/wire cage on. Though they say it can 'harm' the tree later on, I've always felt the risk of a tree ball 'falling' apart during installation runs a much greater risk of killing a tree than does the fact the roots may not grow as well later on.

Also, in a business sense, what would you rather have happen? A tree die in the first year (during your warranty period) and needing to be replaced at YOUR COST because the root ball fell apart or a tree that MAY die 10-25 yrs down the road because the wire basket is choking out its roots.

Being we are in this field to make money, along with enjoying it, I feel the choice is obvious that the burlap and cage should be left on.

If you are into 'true' horticulturally correct practices, then I say knock yourself out and remove. If you want to make more money, then I say leave them on (but do cut, and tuck the top third under, removing any twine around the trunk, etc)


Eric E.
10-07-2000, 06:44 PM
Are you saying that the only way you can make money is by planting incorrectly? I charge more for my services because I use current standards and not those from 15-20 years ago. I prefer making more profit per tree by doing it properly than less profit per tree by doing it incorrectly.

The day will be soon that the lawyers start applying malpractice to the green industry. They will use our industry standards to judge us and many will be out of business. Eric

10-07-2000, 08:51 PM
Well said.

I don't install thousands of plants, I have removed thousands though!

10-09-2000, 09:03 PM
With the new basket wire they are using now there is little need for removing the wire baskets, in fact it would do more harm than good. Breaking the root ball of the tree while tring to remove it causes more damage to the tree, hair roots are breaking or tearing away from the main root system. I have moved trees planted the year before and the burlap has rotted away hair roots growing thru what was left of the burlap and wire baskets all ready starting to dissolve and rust away. As a case study we worked for a village that did tree plantings in sidewalk planters, three years after they where planted the wire baskets where just about gone(trees where replaces because of drivers who couldn't seem to avoid them) :)

10-09-2000, 09:52 PM

I'm sorry for sounding like a 'hack' who is throwing trees in the ground, collecting my money, and then changing my phone number the next day. That is not the case.

My point is this. I've sat though entirely TOO many classes/lectures, have read too many articles, and have had too many discussions on the matter of cage/burlap to even remember anymore. The only thing that I do remember is this. No one seems to have a definite answer on the subject, and when it comes down to it, it seems like there still is no 'absolute' way of doing it.

As to the question of the only way of making money is by doing things incorrectly, I don't see it that way. I do believe we should do our job in a responsible manor, and that we should try to do what is best for the tree when it comes to planting. For me, I believe leaving the cage/burlap is the correct way, for the reasons mentioned before, and the best way to plant a tree. If you pride your business on staying on the cutting edge of technology and doing everything by the book, that is also fine. That is a very legitimate plan that will work also.

It's kind of like people argueing over whether chevy or ford is better. It's all a matter of opinion in most cases, and for every ford lover out there, you will also find one chevy lover.


[Edited by steveair on 10-10-2000 at 01:08 AM]

03-15-2010, 07:52 PM
Remove the top ring down to 8" or so. Leave the rest. In 4-5 years it rusts away anyway. I've redug trees that were planted with wire baskets and 9 times out of 10 it's mostly rusted away. Baskets are zinc coated and only last a couple of years sitting on top of the ground. Visit any Nursery with old stock that's been in mulch. The baskets are falling apart! ANLA procedure is totally removal and that's overkill, and can damage the fine feeder roots as you wrestle the ball around trying to wiggle the basket off. I grow trees and replant ones that don't sell in my ballyard and rusty baskets are less of a problem than old plastic tie string/straps which do last forever. Leave them on the tree and it will choke it! :nono:

03-15-2010, 07:56 PM
I disagree! ALL trees should be barerooted and planted at the correct depth with the rootflare slightly above grade.

There have been huge advancements in planting science in the past 10 years since this thread was created.

Do some research, you will be amazed at what mis information the landscape industry spews.

Simply the best..............

03-16-2010, 08:54 AM
Boston Bull I agree. I've been adapting/following Dr. Bonnie Appleton's work at Hampton Roads as she developed this bareroot method. However many landscapers are not ready to make this jump to barerooting big stuff (need training, washing equipment, lot's of water on site etc..). If you go to our Website laketreefarm.com and look at our Oganic baskets we bareroot trees up to 10" in calipher but we do add a steel basket to enable us to manage/move the trees after we sell them. We've found that they plant best by then powerwashing the outer 8-10" and leave the rest including the basket that's now buried in the middle of a 6' ball. Ren

03-16-2010, 09:27 AM
I leave the basket on and remove the top burlap and strings.

03-16-2010, 09:50 PM
I do agree that this method isnt for everyone.

I hate seeing people plant a tree, or other woody plant, basket, burlap, the whole lot left on. How do you find the root crown? How do you look for girdling and adventitious roots? Damage? etc

be well!

Dreams To Designs
03-17-2010, 10:51 AM
I had a wise landscaper explain to me why he left the baskets in place, it made it easier to remove the plant when it died!!!

Remove all that you can, and if the root ball is damaged, clean off the roots and plant it bare root. you have a better chance of survival by planting bare root than by planting a damaged or iffy rootball.