Girdling Root Repair

Root girdling is when a tree’s roots grow around itself instead of away from its trunk, a process that results in a slow strangulation death that can take decades. By wrapping around the trunk, these roots severely limit the flow of water and other nutrients throughout the tree. They develop in trees that live their first years in containers, which inhibits outward root growth, forcing them to go back inwards.

Preventing girdling roots in the first place is the best option. When planting a new tree, make sure to inspect for any girdling roots in their infancy. Girdling roots that are identified before they’ve had a chance to become too embedded can be removed by using pruners, saws or gougers. Removing a girdling root carries the risk of killing the tree; however, if the root is allowed to grow unchecked, it will certainly result in death.

Fortunately, much like the pruning of branches, a tree can usually tolerate the pruning of roots. The season in which girdling roots are cut off can also affect the successful outcome of the operation, with summer removal leading to better results than those performed in the fall.

Make sure to keep the affected tree in optimum health after removal to allow for the best recovery conditions. Like any patient, your tree needs to regain its strength after going through an operation. Apply mulch to the rooting area, while making sure not to obscure the roots completely, and put an irrigation system into practice to ensure proper soil water levels.

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