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How to Choose Good Quality Tree Stock

Selecting healthy tree stock is crucial for ensuring the long-term growth and survival of your trees. Choosing trees that are strong and healthy from the start will save you time, money, and effort in the long run. Healthy trees are more resistant to pests and diseases, and they require less maintenance and care. By taking the time to select healthy tree stock, you can ensure that your trees will thrive and provide you with beauty, shade, and other benefits for years to come.

Flowering nursery trees


What to look for when selecting healthy, good-quality tree stock, and things you should look out for.

Tree foliage should be well-formed with good coverage across the entire canopy, and whole in size. Free of pests, diseases, physical damage, discolouration, or deformation. Look for healthy growth on the outmost shoots.

Apical shoot growth

Avoid stunted growth and undersized leaves

Trees with stunted growth and undersized leaves often struggle to survive because they are not able to produce enough food and energy to sustain their growth and development. When a tree is not growing properly, it becomes more susceptible to pests and diseases and may not be able to withstand extreme weather conditions which may lead to tree death.

An unhealthy tree canopy


Trunk Size and Growing Containers

Avoid trees that appear to be large for their pot. A tall tree with a thick trunk caliper can be a good indication that the tree may have been in the growing container for too long and may have become potbound.

Potbound trees occur when the root system of a tree becomes too large for the container or pot that it is growing in. When the roots reach the edge of the container, they may begin to circle around the inside of the pot, becoming tightly compacted and unable to grow normally. This can cause a range of problems for the tree, including reduced growth, poor health, and even death.

An oversized trunk on a potted tree
Oversized trunk caliper for pot size

Look for trees grown in air pruning pots, commonly referred to as "rocket pots".

Rocket pots direct roots to openings within the pot that expose them to air, causing the roots to dry out and die. This prevents tree roots from circling and becoming established, stopping potbound root systems.

A rocket pot for nursery trees

When pulled from the container, the rootball should not show signs of large woody roots circling the edges.

Healthy root stock of a nursery tree
Example of a healthy nursery tree root system



The trunk should have a good taper, starting thicker from the base and tapering upwards. A leading, single dominant stem is preferred but can depend on the species and its characteristics. The tree should have no codominant stems and be free of defects in woody branches and stems. Most minor defects can be pruned out, however, the common occurrence of defective limbs is a good indication of genetic inferiority and the tree should be avoided.

Structurallyl defective juvenile tree
Codominant stems rubbing. An unacceptable feature for trees in landscapes.

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