Since its founding in 1985, Cherrylake has strived to produce the highest quality root systems in containers. Over the years we have trialed and experimented with many different growing systems and techniques. We have partnered with leading research institutions and industry associations to develop best practices for root management in container nurseries.

Root management is a process that requires attention each time the tree is shifted into a larger container. Just as the horticultural practices in the greenhouse and liner stages are critical to producing a healthy root system, all the following shifts are equally important. Depending on the final container size of the tree, a tree can be shifted up to 5 different times before reaching its final container size.

Each shift is an opportunity to inspect the root ball and apply root enhancement techniques that will ensure a healthy and vigorous root system in the final container size.

Today, our root management process impacts every stage of production, from the greenhouse liner to the 670 gallon tree. Implementation of this process is monitored, documented and then audited by a third party. This allows us to certify our trees and provide the end-user assurance that Cherrylake trees will not only look beautiful in the landscape, but also perform after transplant and thrive for generations to come.



Step 1: Cherrylake uses Propagation systems (Pioneer Pot, Ellie Pot and Anderson Band 36) which are designed to reduce root defects and produce a large root system that can be effectively root pruned. Pictured here is a ‘Nativa’ Dahoon Holly grown in an Anderson Band 36 propagation system.


Step 2: Cherrylake uses 3 gallon Air-Pot® containers as starter kits. The Air-Pot® is designed with 3-dimensional egg-crate shaped walls that guide every root towards an air-hole where the increased air of the soil dehydrates the tip, pruning it and stimulating root branching right back to the stem. As each new root finds its way to an air-hole, the process is repeated and the plant rapidly develops a mass of outward pointing, fibrous roots. This reduces circling roots and enables the plant to absorb more nutrients and water which stimulates faster growth. 


Step 3: Before shifting liner into a 3 gallon container, the first lateral root initial is identified and all soil above it is removed.


Step 4: Next Cherrylake shaves each liner to ensure there are no circling or defective roots. The outer periphery of the root ball is removed with hand pruners so that any defective root is cut at a point before the root begins to circle, descend or ascend.


Step 5: The liner is planted at the proper depth so that the first lateral root is at or just below the soil surface.


Step 6: The planting hole should be no deeper or shallower than the shaved root ball of the liner, but twice as wide. The depth of the planting hole is important to prevent air pockets and maintain proper planting depth. The width of the hole is important so that when the liner is placed into the pot, roots are not diverted down, up or around. When backfilling, care is taken to not pack the soil in forcefully as this could push the liner roots down.



Step 1: The use of the root enhancing Air-Pot® container throughout our production cycle greatly eliminates the presence of circling or girdling roots, and produces a healthy, fibrous root ball. Nonetheless, at each shift into a larger size, we inspect the starter kits for defects and perform several root shaving techniques as preventive and corrective action.


Step 2: The Air-Pot® container bottom grid is removed. This grid allows the root ball to be elevated from the ground, providing air circulation at the base of the root ball.


Step 3: Once the Air-Pot® is removed and the root ball is fully exposed, the outer periphery is shaved with either a machete (as pictured) or a sharp shovel. Cutting these peripheral roots will remove any potential circling, ascending or descending roots, and will also stimulate new root growth.


Step 4: The bottom of the root ball is also shaved, ensuring that any matted roots are removed.


Step 5: The root ball is once again inspected and, if needed, any remaining root defects are removed with a hand clipper.


Step 6: After identifying the first lateral root, the tree is planted at the proper planting depth to ensure this first lateral root is at or near the soil surface. This will allow the root flare to become visible as the tree grows.


Step 7: Soil is compacted around the root ball, with care taken to avoid air pockets in the soil. A top dress of fertilizer is applied with emphasis on fertilizing where the periphery of the root ball and new soil join; this will encourage roots to grow outward into the new, nutritious soil.