By Phran Novelli

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Last week a friend asked me to look at a hole she was digging in which to plant a maple tree. The hole was fine, but the tree (from a reputable garden store) was planted way too deeply in its container – I dug down several inches and still couldn’t find the root flare.
What’s a root flare? A properly planted tree looks a lot like the trees we all drew as children – the trunk comes down on each side then flares out with the top roots above the ground.

Trees that look like telephone poles – growing straight out of the ground – are in for trouble. That’s because buried roots can wrap around underground to girdle and completely strangle the tree, first reducing growth and vigor, and eventually killing your tree way before its time.

So, when you go plant shopping, check carefully – if you can’t find a root flare – you don’t want that tree! Once you get it home, don’t plant it too deeply yourself – make sure the root flare is at ground level – and never cover it with mulch – which should be kept several inches away from both the trunk and root flare of your newly-planted tree.