Circling Roots are most commonly found in container grown stock. If these defective roots are left untreated, they will continue to circle and never properly anchor the tree, eventually restrict water and nutrient uptake, and will likely girdle the tree in time. Prior to planting, tree rootballs must be treated appropriately. The treatment administered will depend on the condition of the roots.
When root balls are extremely matted, research shows that shaving 1-2" off all sides is very effective in the future development of a strong scaffold root system.  A carpenter saw or machete (shown here) can be use d.
Circling Roots are most commonly found in container grown stock.  If these defective roots are left untreated, they will continue to circle and never properly anchor the tree, eventually restrict water and nutrient uptake, and will likely girdle the tree in time.  Prior to planting, tree rootballs must be treated appropriately.  The treatment administered will depend on the condition of the roots. 
 
When a tree has been growing in the container no longer than a year and the roots have just reached the sides of the container, scarification maybe sufficient.  Use your fingers to rough up the surface of the rootball on all sides.  Redirect the circling roots to grow outward.  If you encounter a root that cannot be redirected with your fingers, use sharp shears or a knife to cut.
 
When tree roots have become overgrown in the container, a more serious treatment is required.  When matted roots are evident, use a sharp saw or machete to shave off as much as two inches of the outer potion of the rootball on all sides. See a video of the procedure here.  Trees with large circling roots should not be selected.  However, in such a situation, these roots must be cut with sharp tools.  Planters must also check for circling roots within the rootball, which will be present if nurseries fail to properly treat rootballs when transferring trees to larger containers.
 
APPLY SUGAR TO FRESHLY CUT ROOTS.  Research has shown that application of a sugar solution to the root balls of newly planted trees encourages at much as twice the root regeneration.  Mix one ounce of sugar per liter of water and apply solution to one square meter of soil surface.  A sugar solution should also be used for other situations in which roots have to be severed.
 
Continue to:

Rootball Preparation