Sunset maple w burlap on roots still!

Asked May 31, 2018, 2:18 PM EDT

I had a new maple tree planted 2 years ago. It's been dying since. this spring we did a scratch test and pruned all dead branches off, it rebounded a little. Today I thought I'd ck the rootball to make sure the burlap was removed. It was not removed and there is still a wire holding it question is is right now a safe carefully dig around this ball and try to cut the burlap out?? I'm devastated. This tree was gorgeous when it was planted.

Shiawassee County Michigan

2 Responses


It is too early in the life of the tree for wire to cause a problem. Arborists recommend removing the top section of the wire, or just clipping it so it is no longer tight on the rootball, at time of planting. If the burlap is coated or is plastic burlap, that is a problem. Arborists recommend removing the top half to third of the burlap at planting time. Maples are prone to girdling roots which, over time, can cause tree decline.

Red maples (Acer rubrum ‘Red Sunset’) do not grow well in soil pH above 7.0 Their leaves are constantly yellow-green with dark green veins, instead of deep green.

What you can do - have your soil tested to determine the pH and whether any nutrients, especially magnesium, is lacking. Consult a certified arborist. He/she can conduct he soil test for you, and has access to special tools, including an air-spade, which can expose the roots without injuring them. The arborist will determine how much wire and burlap to remove, and whether the tree needs root pruning to correct girdling roots, or needs the root flare exposed. The arborist will recommend how to correct the pH, if it is part of the problem.

If you don’t use an arborist, then remove whatever burlap and wire you can reach without digging down anymore than a couple inches. Don’t nick or damage the roots or trunk. Re-cover the root area you exposed but leave the root flare (a.k.a. root collar) uncovered. Mulch 2-3 inches deep around the tree and don’t let any mulch touch the trunk. Water the tree when we have drought conditions, including dry times this fall up to when the ground freezes in November. It is important the tree’s roots are fully hydrated , with being too wet, just before the ground freezes. Correct the soil pH according to the results of the soil test recommendations.

Soil test-

Certified arborists by zip code -search here -

Correct planting, and finding the root flare/collar -

Maples are very hardy and with some correction now the tree should return to health. Thanks for using our service.

I need to correct one thing I wrote- chorosis in red maples is due to their inability to absorb manganese in high pH soils, not magnesium as I wrote above. Sorry for the confusion!