The Q&A Archives: Japanese Maples

Question: I bought 8 Japanese Maples from my local HD this spring. When planting I took the top 20% of the burlap from the tree. I just read an article in our local paper saying that I should have removed most of the burlap. I didn't remove more because I was worried about losing dirt around the roots. What should I have done and what, if anything, should I do now?

Answer: Before the days of synthetic burlap, gardeners could safely leave the burlap around the roots of a ball and burlap wrapped plant. Eventually, the burlap would just rot away. Now, with synthetic burlap, it should be removed because it does not rot and will eventually constrict the roots with detrimental effect. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tell the difference between the two. I think you could check by digging down carefully to find some, then see if it melts (like plastic) or burns (like natural fiber) to see which one you have. If it is natural, then no worries. If it is synthetic you will have to remove it -- lift the tree, remove burlap, replant. If you need to do this, I would do it in early September. This should be after the worst of summer heat but allow as much time as possible for re-rooting before the ground freezes. From now on, routinely remove all wrappings whether fabric or metal basket or fiber pot before planting. Good luck with your trees!

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