Newly planted 8 foot tall arborvitae with small root ball, bending in wind. Stake or re-plant?

Asked April 29, 2020, 8:14 PM EDT

Hello, I have recently purchased and planted some 8 foot tall arborvitaes, planted them a few days ago. It is a windy day today and one of my trees (which had a noticeably small root ball) is leaning and I’ve noticed that the soil in which it’s planted tends to move up as if it’s slightly uprooted with the wind. It is planted at an appropriate depth and width, but due to the relatively small root ball to tree size, should I re-plant the tree deeper? Or should I attempt to stake the tree instead? Thank you

Macomb County Michigan

1 Response


The depth the shrub should be planted is at the point on the trunk where it widens out to join the top main roots. This is called the root collar or root flare. That flare should be at or slightly above the soil line. On young arborvitae it may not be very prominent. The nursery pot or burlap may have covered it with some soil.

Here is an explanation of correct planting techniques. All your shrubs and trees should be planted with this technique

This link has good pictures of the root flare- see “Find the top most root”-

So, if the shrub is planted too high or too low right now, yes, do re-plant it at the correct depth.

Firm the soil below the root ball, and as you back fill it only firm the soil lightly- too compacted and you will force all the air spaces out- oxygen in those spaces is required for plant roots to receive oxygen.

Follow the staking guidelines to stake the plant, taking care to cushion the rope, or use a strap. Do not draw the rope too tight. It should take no more than one to two growing seasons for the roots to establish and then, remove the stakes.

Note that mulch should not be piled against the trunk, keep mulch pulled back several inches from the trunk.

Most important- keep these shrubs watered, but not drowning, the first 2-3 years while new roots develop. Especially important is water during hot dry periods, and in October and November until the ground freezes.