Can I grow a tree upside down??

trace00969April 11, 2007

This is really a weird question.....can I grow a tree upside down, what I mean by this, is....in theory, could I have a tree growing, and somehow, by either layering or cutting, by whatever means.....could I flip the tree upside down, and plant it like that, would it still grow upwards.......if I for instance had a root ball growing halfway up a small tree, could I cut below the root ball, flip the tree upside down, where the roots would now be, and would this tree grow new branches and foliage??

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kylezo

I am not sure what you are describing with the tree and rootball, but if you are asking if you can plant a cutting with the top in the soil and expect it to grow roots, the answer is probably no, or at least that it is very difficult.

I think I understand, after re-reading - you mean if you cut ABOVE the root ball, and plant in the ground? Like this:

::
:: /:\ ::
::
/:\

\:/
: :
: :
\:/

Incidentally, growing bonsai upside-down is a technique employed to achieve a 'weeping' effect in some trees like willows. heres a good thread on that:
http://forum.bonsaitalk.com/f15/shohin-weeping-willow-13304/index2.html

Here are some pictures.

Before/during:

After:

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 1:27AM
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trace00969

Nope, thats not what I mean...lol. I know this is weird....lol.

()
()
()
()
()
()
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(root ball)
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()
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cut here ( now this becomes the top)

flip it plant it upside down, will it grow?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 12:21PM
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lucy(6)

It'll grow roots, maybe, but you still haven't explained what you'd do about the other end... plant the foliage in the ground?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 3:22PM
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kylezo

The thing is, if I can get a little ameteur botanical for a moment, the direction of the sap flow is what defines where the roots grow, and where the foliage grows. if you grow a rootball halfway up the tree, it's because you cut off the sap flow and the tree is literally starting over again - the reason the roots are even growing is beacause the bottom of the tree is no longer connected in any meaninful way to the top half of the tree. It's like this (close up):

___:::::___
___:::::___
___//:\\______//:::\\__
___:::::______:::::___
___:::::___
And because of the section where you cut off the bark and stopped the sap/life flow of the tree, you are technically creating 2 trees.

Realistically, I don't think it would work, but it might be possible. but it's very strange because you are basically supposed to chop at the new air layer rootball to disconnect the very tip top of one tree from the lowest bottom of the other. when you cut above the root ball, you are cutting off the new tree you created and trying to connect the top to the bottom.

In any case, you may as well try it because I don't know for sure if it will work.

Good luck, let us know how it turns out!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 4:44PM
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trace00969

I dont really have a purpose to it.....it was a thought, an idea......as for the foliage at the top, well I would cut it off, and hope to grow new branches, again if thats possible. I am not sure what the purpose would ever be, but I am just curious as I read some plants can not grow upside down.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 7:21PM
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vampyrepyro420(6a)

im confused about your diagrams. if i ever tried to do this i would get a young tree, a bucket, potting soil, a light, and a closet.

if you can understand that, that would be my approach, in a closet, or dark room so that other light doesnt effect the growth.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 4:20PM
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trace00969

I dont want to hang the tree upsdie down....imagine a flower, you pick it, plant the flower in the ground, leave the stem upright now.....will the flower grow up, except I want to know if a tree can do this.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 9:59PM
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lucy(6)

The flower will rot away. The stem etc. probably will too.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 7:11AM
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trace00969

FORGET the FLOWER, assume its a tree, will it grow upside down like that???

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 12:10PM
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callygirl085

I believe thats what lucy is trying to tell you. It's like ripping out someone's heart and expecting them to live. The roots are a tree's life source, if you rip that up and plant it back so that the roots are pointed up (which is what I gather your trying to do) its going to shrivel up and die. Roots feed on the nutrients and H2O that is found in the soil, the foilage releases O2 and receives CO2 and sunlight. If you disrupt this cycle you will ultimately kill the tree. The foilage can't just change and start feeding on the nutrients and H2O and vice versa for the roots. If you want to try it by all means do, but I'm telling you the way you want to do it will kill the tree.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 3:17PM
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trace00969

Yes I understand foliage wont take in nutrients, thus the root ball, so if i flipped it, cut it, would new branches grow upside down....it will have roots to support it.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 4:12PM
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hooks

This may work if you find a way to contain the soil yet still give it an appropriate amount of air. Just an idea because im still not sure what exactly you are trying to do.good luck

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 9:44PM
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trace00969

This is kind of what I am thinking except the floilage under the root ball would be chooped, therefore becoming the trunk.....so yes, will the branches grow upwards, or at all??

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 12:44AM
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lucy(6)

If they grow at all, and if there's appropriate lighting (and everything else). However, whether roots will grow at the other end may be the question...

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 1:18AM
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trace00969

There would already be root balls from the air layering......except when it is ready to be cut, instead of planting it upright, I want to cut below the root ball, plant the roots, and hope to get branches from the other cut end, nearest the middle of the tree.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 1:39AM
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kylezo

I don't get it. In an airlayer, you cut below the root ball, and plant in the ground upright. You want to cut below the rootball, and plant upside down?

I could understand if you said cut above the rootball, and plant the rootball in the ground with the roots sticking up in the air - thats upside down. But if you are going to plant anything upside down with the roots in the ground, that means you have to be cutting above the rootball. Why don't you draw a picture to help us out?

This is the best I can guess.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 3:12AM
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tanyag

I am not a bonsai expert. I am not a tree expert. I do teach fifth graders. We just did the lesson on gravitropism and phototropism. If I understand what you are saying, the answer is yes, it will work. You set up your air layer. Once the roots have grown, you cut above the rootball instead of below. You also cut the limb off let's say 12 inches below the root ball. You flip it and plant the root ball in soil so that the 12 inches that was once below the rootball is now above it. Limbs can theoretically grow from any part of the limb. Because of gravitropism, the roots will grow down into the soil (or rather toward the center of the earth). Roots do not grow toward soil necessarily. If you have ever planted something upside down, when you replant you will see that the roots are all growing up towards the crown of the plant. This is because hanging upside down, they are growing to where gravity pulls them. Because of phototropism, the limbs will grow up towards the light. It could cause a peculiar bend in the limb as it will come out one way and then "turn" towards the light. As far as nutrients getting to all parts of the tree, the xylem and phloem work both ways in pulling water from the roots to the leaves and taking glucose from the leaves to the roots. I don't know that they will discriminate. It sounds like a fun experiment to do with my fifth graders when I teach the lesson next year!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 10:11AM
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trace00969

Thank you Tanyag. that answered my question........Thanks

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 1:05PM
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kylezo

cut above the rootball. that clarifies everything.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 3:43PM
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hooks

what i still dont understand is why you would even wish to do this in the first place. regardless of how the air layer is planted(that is if it takes) the end product should not be vastly different. what i mean is after years of growth and sculpting in the art of bonsai it does not matter which direction it was grown as a seedling or cutting. it seems to me you are going through a lot of trouble for something that is completly unessesary and is more likely to hinder the growth of your tree instead of help it. My two cents. good luck.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 1:24AM
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trace00969

I was wondering because I have a bonsai with a really cool trunk, and I think it would good it that part became the tree and started to grow foliage, but to do this I would need to flip the tree and chop the original root, and hope for new branches.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:42PM
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lucy(6)

If things don't work out, are you prepared to lose your really cool trunk (and tree)?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:49PM
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trace00969

You gotta live and learn, the best way to learn new things is to try them!!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 5:20PM
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lucy(6)

But why not try it first on a couple of things you don't care about?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 8:36PM
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hawkja

trace, what an interesting idea you have embarked upon. Though most readers would think your idea very weird, I am of the opinion that your query prompts me to look at the plant physiology from the point of physics.
I am quite certain your plant cannot sprout new buds and therefore will die when the cells cannot get nutrition. This reasoning has to do with transport of water & nutrients by the xylem vessels to the stomata in the leaves. The flow of water is only in one direction, upwards when your tree is upright. Thus when you invert the trunk (upside down), the direction of flow is downwards (i.e. in the wrong direction). This is not possible.
Your idea now brings into mind the reason for a one direction flow in xylem system. If a tree is, say, 50 feet high, then the water pressure at the base of the plant must measure a few hundred pounds per square inch, if the xylem tube is one single continuous tube. This pressure would collapse plant cellular wall and the stomata transpiration pull cannot overcome this great pressure. However if a close valve is used, say every 3 feet, then the cells only has to overcome perhaps a pound of pressure. Thus a one way valve opens upwards due to the pressure-vacuum principle. Likewise the movement of sugars in the pholem system from the leaves to the roots is also controlled by downward valve system.
I hope this explanation clarifies your initial question.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 8:02AM
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hooks

it is possible to grow a tree inverted so long as you provide the right light and still give the roots the nutrients they need. I have a friend who used their hydroponics kit to grow an inverted plant yet it was not a tree. what trace is doing does not seem practical to me however since you could just as easily air layer just below the "really cool trunk" and have that as your main trunk. once the roots are strong enough you can cut the tree down and start new branch growth. this would give you a higher sucess rate and more than likely provide you with a better looking tree. the reason i say the tree would probably look better is because your trunk would achieve a better taper through this manner. at any rate good luck with your endevour.

Tim

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 2:19AM
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trace00969

Thanks everyone for your answers.....the idea was more of a thought than anything, and I just wanted to know if it was possible.....I would really have to think about what I am doing if I did this.....I am new to the air layering and so far only have a rubber tree that I am testing it on......its been a couple months and I dont see roots yet.....I will let you know if I try it.....thanks everyone!!

Tracy

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 2:36PM
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donz(z9 CA)

Interesting ideas & drawings. This is something I tried some years ago & still have it in my collection.Enjoy the link.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 2:08PM
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trace00969

very cool, can you describe what you did, how did you do it upside down, the same as what I described?? Was it hard, did it work well??

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 2:51PM
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donz(z9 CA)

If I remember correctly,this juniper`s roots rotted & somehow one of the lower branches rooted.I actually set it out back in my "boneyard" & didn`t pay any attention to it till it came back to life.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 6:47PM
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hawkja

Hi donz,Your juniper specimen is not representative of an inverted trunk as spelled out by trace but rather a form of bonsai called 'cascading'. However the specimen does show that each branch is supported by a different root, The living branch is supplied with water and nutrients by the single remaining root whereas all other branches and their bark system have dies away after the other roots failed in their function. You have created a good example of partial 'shari' or dead trunk and this creates the impression of an aged bonsai specimen. You can improve its appeareance by removing the dead trunk which is above the living root and you have created an interesting yamadori specimen . Congratulations.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 10:26PM
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botanical_bill

From what donz showed and explained, it is possible for a trunk or branch to reverse its water flow. If Im not corrected, Im pretty sure water flow in a trunk and branches is based on osmosis and disfusion (there not opposite). Water from a higher concentration to the lower is disfusion. Osmosis is disfusion through a selective membrane. Both of these are reversable depending on where you have your higher concentration (water/roots). So with that and donz proof, Im sold that you can plant a tree upside down and reverse the flow of water/sap through the trunk.

However, I would practice on a junk specimen to see what the success rate is and how long it takes. You might be more successful in the different seasons.

Keep us posted on this, even years down the road, please.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 12:38AM
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lucy(6)

Donz, have you ever considered carving (or creatively breaking) the top part of the deadwood on that 'cascade' (getting rid of the stubs, etc.) so it looks less unfinished?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 5:43AM
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robwilson

Why all the complication folks,,,,take a bonsai tree,,,turn it upside down,,,cut the bottom of the pot out,,,hang it in the window by a crude macrame hanger tied to hang the pot,AND WATER THE THING,,,,TRIM 90% of the leaves,,,,soon the plant will have new shoots(leaves)and you will see that the leaves have now turned around and are now shiney side up,,,,,,
I WATER TWICE A DAY WITH A SPRAY BOTTLE KEEPING THE SOIL MOIST,,,,OBVIOUSLY THE WATER RUNS OUT THE BOTTOM SIDE DOWN THE TRUNK AND ONTO THE FLOOR,,,,I`VE CUT AN OLD TSHIRT AND PLACED IT AROUND THE TRUNK SO THE WATER DOESNT WASH AWAY THE SOIL
THE TREE IS IN ITS 3RD WEEK AND DOiNG FINE,,,THE TRUNK HANGS DOWN,,,,THE LEAVES FACE UP TOWARDS THE LIGHT,
AND I HAVE AN UPSIDE DOWN TREE
WHY GET COMPLICATED WITH ALL THIS OTHER STUFF,,,
IF ANY ONE WANTS PHOTIES,CONTACT ME,,,,
cut the bark,rootballs, sap going sideways,,,TURN THE THING UPSIDE DOWN AND WATER

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 4:09PM
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johnpeterknauth_hotmail_com

On West Main Street in Richfield Springs, New York,(Zone 5) at the foot of the hill as you enter the center of the village, there is a white house, formerly, or perhaps still, the office of the Jordan architectural firm. Immediately adjacent to it, on the adjoining property, there was, in 1974, and may still be, a Water Beech grown upside down, the gnarled, contorted and twisted root crown producing a very dense canopy of healthy leaves, with dense shade underneath. If that tree is still there, there is your answer. This is, or was, a healthy tree, surviving the often brutal winters characteristic of the Mohawk Valley uplands.
Consult Dave's Garden- they may have the answer.
zoom in on Google Earth's satellite image of Richfield Springs, NY; It's on the south side of W. Main St. US 20, where it veers west-northwest up a long hill towards its intersection with NYS Route 28 just outside the village line. There is a side street two doors away. The tree, situated in the side yard between the two old houses, would show up on the satellite image as a relatively small, round, dense crown.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 3:10PM
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Ghettominibar

My mom posted this holiday picture today. She asked what kind of tree this is. I am convinced someone planted stumps upside down, although the trees seem a bit old to grow a new pair of roots. Does anybody know anything about this technique?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 5:24PM
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moochinka

The picture is very dark, hard to see much at all or discern what parts are what... Where are they growing (what country, what climate, etc.)? And are the tops actually roots or just look like roots? Are they green, brown, what?

This post was edited by moochinka on Wed, Sep 3, 14 at 6:15

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 10:39PM
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