Search articles from 1992 to the present.
Remember to Consider the Roots
This article was published originally on 5/4/2005
When a tree or shrub develops brown leaves, wilting leaves, poor growth, or dead branches, it's easy to focus on the above-ground portions of the plant to try to figure out what went wrong. In many cases, however, the root of the problem is exactly that - an unhealthy root system.
Diagnosing problems with underground plant structures can be difficult, especially with large plants such as trees. An accurate diagnosis requires assessing cultural practices, site factors, and environmental conditions, and possibly may require a careful excavation around the base of the plant.
Many factors can contribute to the poor health of a root system.
Healthy leaves and branches require a healthy root system to support vigorous growth. A poorly developed root system will not be able to absorb water and nutrients very well, causing stress symptoms above the ground. Keeping this in mind, remember to "look down" when diagnosing a plant problem. For more information on the proper planting of trees, refer to the Iowa State University bulletin, PM 1591 Community Tree Planting and Care Guide .
Poorly developed root system of a young pine tree planting in a compacted soil.
Formation of a girdling root around the base of a container-bound tree.
Year of Publication:
IC-493(9) -- May 4, 2005