Planting for Better Survival

Shallow planting is a major cause of seedling mortality. Bareroot seedlings should be planted at least 2 inches above the root collar, i.e., 2 inches deeper than grown in the nursery. For container Loblolly and/or Slash Pine, our recommendation is to plant the root ball at or slightly below ground level to get the roots down to moist soil and for stability. The recommended planting depth for container Longleaf in open agriculture fields, scalped fields, and wet sites is where the root ball is slightly above ground level to ensure the bud does not get covered. Cut over hand-planted areas should have the root ball at ground level or slightly above.

Here Dr. Paul Jeffreys shows you what a well-planted seedling looks like – the right way.

Unless the bud is covered with soil, it is virtually impossible to plant a bareroot seedling too deep. Be sure to properly align the seedling in the hole as close to vertical as possible. An angle of 20 degrees or less is preferred. The planting hole must be closed both at the top and the bottom to ensure the optimal contact of the soil and roots. You can check the planting by pulling on the top of the seedling. It should feel tight in the ground. When seedlings are planted deeply, “J” and “L” rooted seedlings are not a problem. Never allow root pruning.

 Don’t Cut the Roots!

A few weeks back, I accompanied a former student of mine, now a professional forester, to a planting site on his company land to inspect seedling and planting quality. As we arrived on the tract that had been site prepared for its new forest, I noticed something that deeply concerned me.  One of the planters had separated himself from the rest of the crew and filled his planting bag for another run. He was down on both knees with his hoedad planting tool firmly secured between them.

He was taking the seedlings from the box and then holding them on both ends. I could see him making an up and down motion with his arms and I instantly knew what was going on.  I got out of my truck and headed in his direction. The tree planter immediately started trying to hide his actions, but the pile of cut roots next to him was too much to cover. I caught him prepping his bag of work for easy planting and it was obvious that he did not understand, or care, about the consequences of his actions. Upon further investigation of the tract, several piles of roots were discovered by the forester and me. It is an age-old problem as old as artificial regeneration itself. To make planting easy, tree planters will cut, chop, bite or chew off roots to make for easy insertion into the planting slit, thereby producing a damaged seedling with disproportionate shoot/root ratio and a significant loss of absorbent root tips.

Remember, your seedlings arrive from our nurseries with the perfect shoot/root ratio – don’t cut the roots!

 Planting Season is Here!

When possible, be on-site while seedlings are being planted to avoid these
common, devastating mistakes.

Too Shallow Seedling

Too Shallow

Root collar and roots exposed, drying out roots.
Planted a Seed Too Deep

Too Deep

Pine bud within 2″ of the ground line.

"J" or "U" Roots

Roots form a “J” or “U” shape resulting in poor or weak root development.

Too Shallow

Seedlings that were planted too shallow with root system too close to surface.

Too Deep Example

Seedlings that were planted too deeply into soil.

"J" Root Example

Two year old J rooted seedling.

Seedling Availability

MCP and OP bareroot and container seedlings still available. Contact your Reforestation Advisor
now to secure yours.

Loblolly MCP®

Loblolly BR OP

Need a trusted partner to guide the way?
Get in touch with a Reforestation Advisor to explore your options!
Paul Jeffreys, Ph.D.

Paul Jeffreys, Ph.D.

Western Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi

205-712-9582

Geoffrey Lee Hill

Geoffrey Lee Hill

Georgia, Virginia, Eastern Tennessee, Northern North Carolina

912-655-1725

Shannon Stewart

Shannon Stewart

Eastern Texas, Southern Louisiana

936-239-6189

Lux Davis

Lux Davis

Senior Business Specialist, Texas

877-600-8015

Kylie Burdette

Kylie Burdette

Southern North Carolina, South Carolina

864-650-4454

Jason Cromer

Jason Cromer

Florida Gulf Coast, South Alabama, Southwest Georgia

229-310-0648

Greg Hay

Greg Hay

Arkansas, Northern Louisiana, and Oklahoma

501-350-4217

Jason Watson

Jason Watson

Manager, Reforestation Advisors

404-840-7489