Bark on a Redbud and Proper Mulching

Asked October 9, 2019, 1:11 PM EDT

Hello Cooperative Extension Expert, My neighbor has a redbud that is about 9 years old. Is the bark in the photos the way it should look? Are the roots girdled or not? If they are, what should be done about it? Also, can you please send a photo in your response of how a tree should be properly mulched? She doesn't want the tree to be volcano mulched--a mistake so many landscapers make. I would also like to know how to correct volcano mulching once it has been done. Thank you for your assistance with these questions. Best regards, Germaine Timmermans

Prince George's County Maryland

1 Response

Hi - The bark looks normal for this type of tree. Redbud bark does tend to peel and split as the trees get older.

Yes, it does look like the tree has girdling roots. In this situation, we think it would be best to leave it as it is. Cutting roots to try and remedy the situation might result in de-stabilizing one or more of the main support roots. If you are very concerned about it, you could have a certified arborist evaluate the tree and its support structure and determine if it would be appropriate to correctively prune one or more of the roots. You can find a certified arborist using this website,

Regarding mulch, use the "3-3-3 rule". Place a three-foot-wide (radius) ring of mulch under the tree, no more than 3 inches deep, and keep it 3 inches away from the trunk. Refer to the mulch page on our website for a photo that shows an example of correct mulching.

The following two videos demonstration a process for removing mulch volcanoes. Basically, you want to remove the mulch and soil around the base of the tree so that you can see the top of the root flare at the base of the trunk.
If roots are severely overgrown into a mulch volcano, you may need to work with an arborist to do a root excavation (with an air spade, as demonstrated in the second video).