Root Scaling and Planing: An Overview of What it is and How to Deal With It

Trees are complex organisms with a wide variety of needs, complexities and characteristics. Because of this, it is important to understand the signs of tree stress so that you can take steps to help your tree thrive.Root Scaling and planing are two common issues that affect many trees.

Both conditions result from the accumulation of a layer of dense wood on the outside of a branch or twig, which reduces light and chlorophyll production. As a result, these damaged areas often appear as areas of lighter or darker green than the rest of the branch. Understanding what causes each condition and how you can prevent it is critical to keeping your trees healthy and thriving.

What is Root Scaling?

Root scaling occurs when a layer of bark grows over the surface of the roots and partially or completely blocks the flow of nutrients. This layer, which is most often black, does not allow water or nutrients to flow through it. This can cause the tips of branches to die, resulting in a lighter or completely different color on the tips of branches. Root scaling and planing is most often caused by overwatering, especially in the winter. During this time, the tree’s roots are dormant, which means they do not require as much water. However, many people mistakenly overwater their trees, particularly evergreens.

If you notice white or yellowing areas on the tips of your branches, you may have root scaling. This condition is often mistaken for other common tree injuries, such as insect infestation, nutrient deficiency or sunburn. However, scaling is typically less noticeable than these other issues, making it particularly hard to spot. Root scaling and planing is often accompanied by other signs of stress, such as wilting, yellow leaves and abnormal growth. If you notice several of these symptoms, it is important to schedule an inspection with a tree care professional as soon as possible.

What is Planing?

Like root scaling, planing occurs when a layer of bark grows over the surface of a branch. Unlike root scaling, planing occurs when the branch has a lot of pressure on it, like when it is growing towards a wall or fence. Over time, the bark pushes out, covering the branch and creating a “shelf” of bark. An example of this is if you have a tree that is growing towards your house. This tree could have a lot of pressure on it’s branches, causing them to grow faster than normal, causing them to be thinner and more susceptible to planing.

How to Spot Root Scaling

Root scaling is often mistaken for sunburn. Both conditions cause the tips of branches to have a lighter or different color than the rest of the branch. However, unlike sunburn, scaling does not cause leaves to be wilted or yellow. Additionally, sunburn typically affects the top of the branch, while scaling affects the roots. If you believe you may have root scaling, but aren’t sure, look for these signs:

● Branches are growing slower or are significantly thinner than the rest of the tree

● Branches are growing in a downward or outward pattern

● Branches are growing in a zig-zag pattern or are crooked

● Branches are growing towards the ground or another branch

● There are gaps in the tree canopy

● The leaves are smaller than the rest of the tree

● There is a layer of bark growing over the roots that partially or completely blocks the flow of nutrients.

How to Spot Planing

Like root scaling, planing is often mistaken for sunburn. However, unlike sunburn, planning does not cause any wilting or yellowing of leaves. Additionally, sunburn typically affects the top of the branch, while planing affects the bottom. If you believe you may have planning, but aren’t sure, look for these signs:

● Branches are growing slower or are significantly thinner than the rest of the tree

● Branches are growing in a downward or outward pattern

● Branches are growing in a zig-zag pattern or are crooked

● Branches are growing towards the ground or another branch

● There are gaps in the tree canopy

● The leaves are smaller than the rest of the tree

● There is a thick layer of bark growing over the branch, partially or completely blocking the flow of nutrients.

How to Fix Root Scaling

If you think you may have root scaling, the best way to fix it is to get a professional to identify the problem, then treat it. A professional arborist is trained to identify the scale and other common issues. They can use special tools like a probe to determine where the scale is and treat the problem appropriately. If you think you may have root scaling, the best thing you can do is schedule an inspection with a tree care professional as soon as possible. Once you have identified the problem, your arborist can use one of several methods to treat it, including:

● Dipping the root system in a chemical solution designed to kill root scale

● Using a chemical spray designed to kill root scale

● Treating the soil around the roots with a chemical designed to kill root scale

● Cutting the root system, which is the last resort method Once the root scaling and planning is gone, your arborist can help you develop a plan to prevent it from returning.

They will likely recommend a combination of the following:

● Watering your tree only during dry periods

● Giving your tree the right amount of water

● Removing nearby trees or structures that are pushing on your tree

● Fertilizing your tree according to its needs

● Pruning your tree correctly

● Maintaining a healthy environment around your trees, such as controlling pests and disease

How to Fix Planing

If you think you have planning, you are likely dealing with an overly aggressive branch. In this case, you will need to prune the branch to stop it from growing towards the structure. However, if the branch was simply growing faster than the rest of the tree, you can prune it to slow it down and help balance the growth of the entire tree. Once you have corrected the issue, your arborist can help you develop a plan to prevent it from returning. They will likely recommend a combination of the following:

● Pruning the branch that is growing too aggressively

● Cutting the branch that is growing too aggressively

● Removing nearby plants or structures that are pushing on your tree

● Fertilizing your tree according to its needs

● Pruning your tree correctly

● Maintaining a healthy environment around your trees, such as controlling pests and disease

Conclusion

Root scaling and planning are two common issues that affect many trees. Both conditions result from the accumulation of a layer of dense wood on the outside of a branch or twig, which reduces light and chlorophyll production. As a result, these damaged areas often appear as areas of lighter or darker green than the rest of the branch. Understanding what causes each condition and how you can prevent it is critical to keeping your trees healthy and thriving. Keep an eye out for white or yellowing areas on the tops of your branches, particularly during the winter months.

References:

1-Scaling and Root Planing Effectiveness: The Effect of Root Surface Access and Operator Experience

Publishing Date: 01 January 1989

doi.org/10.1902/jop.1989.60.1.67

2-The Impact of Research on Scaling and Root Planing

Publishing Date: 01 February 1986

doi.org/10.1902/jop.1986.57.2.69

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