A really big problem in landscaping is there is no license or permit required to get in the business. All you need is a truck, trailer, and some tools and you can start your own business. This leads to lots of guys getting into the business that really have no horticultural knowledge. To many landscapers it’s as simple as dig the hole, insert plant, backfill, get paid. This is not how things should be done but it tends to be the norm at many companies.
The roots of plants must be partially broken and loosened during the planting process or they continue to grow in circles and the plant never becomes established. This often leads to what is called “root girdling”. Root girdling is when the roots end up staying inside the rootball as though it were never removed from the container during planting. After planting the roots tend to continue circling the rootball as the plant grows and form this forms a barrier similar to a girdle. As the plant grows the roots end up running out of space inside the girdled rootball and the problem becomes terminal. At some point the roots displace most of the soil in the confined rootball and the plant can no longer uptake enough water and nutrients to sustain it’s self.
The picture you see here is of a Viburnum that had been planted by a landscape company in Lakeway. I pulled the plant out of the ground several months after it was planted and this is what I saw. The plant looked like it was planted yesterday. There are no signs of outward proper root growth. There is root growth occurring but it’s all inside the rootball where we don’t want it to be.