How do I trim Red Maple before transplant from ground to pot?.

surfpirate(9)March 28, 2012

I have a young red maple growing in my yard (maybe 4-5 years). It is tall and thin, probably 8' tall 3" at base of trunk. I would like to trim the tree down to only 2'-3' this spring and then remove it from the ground and put it in a large pot this fall. Then over the next couple of years reduce the pot size and train the tree for bonsai.

I'm am looking for any advice, I've never pulled a tree from the ground and put it in a pot before. Is this tree to old/big? Any techniques for trimming it so I get good results for future bonsai would be helpful. Is 2'-3' to tall or should I trim it shorter?

I would like to include a picture of the tree but I don't see how to include one on this forum.

Thanks for the help.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You don't give your zone or where you live, and advice largely hinges on whether or not the tree is already in leaf.

Al

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 1:29PM
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surfpirate(9)

Zone 10, south Florida. The tree has only about three leaves showing right now. This is why I'm looking for advice soon so I can trim before any more leaves show up.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 2:10PM
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surfpirate(9)

Al,

Here is a picture of the tree now. Please copy it and draw suggested cuts. Remember my plan is to cut it down to a 2'-3' height.

Sean

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 3:09PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You can chop it any time - let it fatten in the ground for now. What I would do is root prune it while it's in the ground. First, I would sharpen a spade (straight blade). Imagine an octagon about 24" flat to flat. I would insert the spade straight into the ground about a foot from the trunk at N, S, E, and W flats of the octagon. In the fall, I would insert it on all 8 sides of the octagon, then lift the tree in the spring. Severing any long roots will cause a lot of fine rootage to grow near the trunk and make the tree easier to get into a small container w/o trauma.

IF you plan on keeping any of the lower branches after you chop them, I would make sure that all branch joints are bifurcations - no trifurcations. This means that only 2 branches can originate from the same point. The maples natural tendency is trifurcation, so correct that in any branches you plan to keep.

Al

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 10:12PM
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surfpirate(9)

Al,

I really appreciate the advice.

I have many potted plants, all kinds of cactus, aloe, some Jade that I am letting grow feral and some that I am shaping which has been very rewarding. I have what feels like an entire grove of potted pineapple that have produced fruit over the past couple of years, more orchids than I care to count, and some other odds and ends. Years ago I killed several bonsai including a dwarf juniper and a fire nandina. So I did a lot of reading and started up again with Jade and have had very good results. I planted this maple when it was less than a foot tall and allowed it to grow for the purpose of creating a bonsai. I'm a little pressed to pull it out of the ground sooner than I want because I anticipate moving to MD in the winter and I would like to take it with me.

I'm looking forward to shaping this tree and plan on keeping this forum updated with my progress over the next couple of years. So stay tuned.

Sean

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 5:36PM
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surfpirate(9)

Here is what it looks like immediately after cutting the tree.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 3:05PM
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surfpirate(9)

Here it is with some growth on it a couple of weeks later.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 3:10PM
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surfpirate(9)

Ok, in May of 2012 I root pruned the tree as Al suggested. In December of 2013 I pruned the roots again after letting it fatten up a little in the ground.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 1:00PM
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surfpirate(9)

In February of 2014 I pruned the branches. At this point I had no plan for the shape of the final tree so I was very conservative with how I pruned. The tree doesn't have a very interesting shape naturally so I will have to put some thought into how to shape it in the future.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 1:09PM
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surfpirate(9)

Another angle of the tree after pruning in February.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 1:11PM
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surfpirate(9)

I pulled the tree out of the ground yesterday, May 2014 and the root pruning I did in 2012 and 2013 paid off big time. I dug around the tree with a pick ax and it popped right out of the ground with a nice tight root ball consisting of many tiny roots.
IâÂÂve also made the decision to train this tree into a formal upright shape so the dual trunks had to go. I was very nervous about this step but it had to be done:

I cut the tree in halfâ¦

And I think it looks great! The remaining trunk has nice taper as a result of cutting off the second large branch (itâÂÂs about 6â diameter at the base and 30â tall from the top of the soil). There are no mature branches left so it will take a long time before it evens out but I think the trunk has a good start.
IâÂÂm looking for any advice on where to go from here. How do I shape it? When do I re-pot it? Should I cut the trunk shorter or is it a good height? Have I screwed up completely or is the right path?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 1:28PM
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surfpirate(9)

Here is the other side of the tree. You can see the portion that was cut off is almost as big as what remains! This picture brings up another question? Should I carve the trunk where I made the big cuts or just let it heal over top?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 1:40PM
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surfpirate(9)

Here is the other side of the tree. You can see the portion that was cut off is almost as big as what remains! This picture brings up another question? Should I carve the trunk where I made the big cuts or just let it heal over top?

This post was edited by surfpirate on Sun, May 11, 14 at 14:18

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 2:15PM
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