Topiarius is ready to expose your flare! . . . Well, actually, we are ready to teach about the importance of exposing your flare.  #ExposeYourFlare

Plants are an investment. And, to safe-guard that investment, plants need to be planted correctly. While it is not rocket science to plant a tree or shrub, it can easily be done incorrectly. A tree that does not have its root/trunk flare showing will slowly decline in health and not survive.

So what are the proper horticultural steps that should be taken, either by you or the firm you’ve hired?

First, familiarize yourself with what you’re looking for.

A trunk flare (on a tree, shrub or woody perennial) is the point where the roots and the trunk meet. This juncture literally is flared, so it’s easy to spot. The flare’s most outer surface is bark, which protects the plant from disease and insects. Just underneath the bark are the “arteries” of the tree. It is through these channels that the leaves feed the trunk and how the roots send up water and minerals to the plant and leaves.

Secondly, know what happens when the flare is covered.

If the flare is covered by soil or mulch, the bark retains moisture and begins to get soft. (It’s not unlike what your finger looks like after you’ve had a Band-Aid on it for too long.) When the bark is soft it cannot do its job. Insects and disease can easily enter into the plant. And, if the flare is covered too long, the “arteries” stop working and no food or water can travel between the leaves and roots. Basically, the plant is slowly being strangled. As the tree declines the interior of the tree (the heartwood) will rot and become hollow not providing the stability it needs to stay upright. Awful, right? Yes!

Know the best horticultural practices for installation of a plant.

Prep the plant: Any time a tree, shrub, or woody perennial is planted, any burlap around the trunk should be untied and cut back. (Burlap can have the same affect to the trunk as soil or mulch can.) Remove all the soil covering the trunk. This may mean you have to remove a few inches. (Secret: Due to how nurseries grow plants, it’s inevitable that their plants will have too much soil around the trunk.)

Check the roots: Something that often gets over looked is how the roots have grown. If a plant has been in its container too long, the roots begin to grow around each other which is known as girdling. Just like branches, roots won’t thrive if they’re all tangled up in each other. The necessary step is to do root pruning to eliminate the circular growth. Roots need to grow outward from the trunk so they can provide the necessary stability for the plant. (Think about how much easier it is to stand on two feet than one foot.) If a tree continues to grow but doesn’t have the best root system possible, it will be susceptible to storm and ensuing damage.

Dig the hole: The hole for the plant should only be so deep that when planted the root flare will sit above the top of the soil line, as well as, the mulch.

Master mulch installation: This is the most common inappropriately done practice in the landscape industry, and yet, one of the easiest things to do. If the trunk/stem/root flare is NOT showing, the plant will eventually DIE. Mulch is great for topping off landscape beds. It keeps moisture in the ground and as it breaks down (well the good mulch) it adds nutrients to the soil. Aesthetically it also provides a tidier finish. But, mulch up around the flare of a plant keeps in moisture and sets in motion the slow death of the tree.

If you are installing mulch “volcanos” (or building up organic material around your tree) you are killing your tree. Please stop. It is not the proper way to care for your plants.

While it’s not like looking though the delicious photos on Pinterest or Houzz, Topiarius will be highlighting the need for these best practices and sharing pictures over the year using our hashtag #ExposeYourFlare. We will be posting on social media images of great installations, as well as, really bad ones.

Let’s get our flares showing!


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