Buckeye re-potting - Trees in Containers (pics)

greenman28 NorCal 7b/8aFebruary 13, 2012

Hello and good afternoon, container gardeners!

California Buckeye, Aesculus californica, is the first tree to begin leafing out in my area

of northern California. Like clockwork, the buds begin to swell during the first two weeks of February.

This is also when I re-pot these container grown trees; and so, I took a few pics to share with you all.

For two years, this Buckeye has been growing in this .71 gallon container in a mix similar to the 5-1-1.

In this case, 5 parts fir bark, 1 part perlite, and 1 part pumice. This mix is quite durable, and could have

lasted even longer had I been using a larger container from the start. As you might guess, the roots

had filled this small container and I had some difficult root-work to do. Let that be a lesson! ;-)

To start, here is a shot of the tree in the old container:

Next up, I'm going to share a series of pics of various ingredients and supplies.

Here you see some screened Fir bark, along with some "recycled" soil mix that I partially sifted,

leaving only the viable bark, perlite, and pumice (and even a fraction of quartzite):

Fresh Fir bark, up close. I use uncomposted bark, and I screen the particles, which really

adds longevity to this variation of the 5-1-1 mix:

And some of that "recycled" soil, up close. By using this material, I'm increasing moisture retention

without adding new peat moss or potting soil. Truly, this material alone would be more than acceptable

as a container soil. Waste not, want not:

Then, of course, the "coarse" grade Perlite ;-)

When the materials are combined - 5 parts bark, 2 parts perlite, and 1 part recycled mix -

I get something that looks like this. Dolomitic Garden Lime added at 1 Tablespoon per gallon of mix.

I also added the appropriate amount of Osmocote slow release fertilizer in a 19-6-12 formula.

Unfortunately, bare-rooting and root-pruning are too messy to be handling the camera, so I don't have

pics of the process. Basically, it involves knocking the old mix out of the roots, and pruning off the

heavy, downward growing, and strangely angled woody roots. Once that was done, I made a mound of

the new mix in the pot, worked the mix into all the spaces between the roots, and filled carefully around

the sides of the root-ball. I work quickly so that the roots are exposed for as briefly as possible.

And last but not least, here is the fully re-potted tree that has been watered in and left to drain.

Although these pics are fairly "sunny," the sky clouded up in early afternoon and we had a nice rain all night.

One couldn't ask for better re-potting weather.

I'll post some updates as this Buckeye continues to leaf-out.


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penfold2(4b, MN)

I love these kinds of threads. Your soils always look fantastic, Josh. I'm going to have to experiment with something similar this spring. This seems like a great compromise between the gritty and 5-1-1 mixes.

Is this your go-to mix for most plants, or do you use a lot of other mixes as well?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 10:13PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I appreciate the flexibility shown in your mixes. Too often gardeners feel they need to follow an exact "recipe" to make a good potting mix. Your plastic square containers are unlike any I have seen before, can you provide a source? Al

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 8:45AM
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DaMonkey007(10b - Miami)

That's a nice looking tree Josh! And some all-pro root work too!

I'm glad that the "Buckeye" turned out to be a tree not a reference to Ohio State.....pfft, Luckeyes.....GO CANES!!


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Josh! I love threads you start like this! You make the planting process seem so easy while at the same time show us how to adjust mixes keeping them very coarse!

I have worked with many of the mixes you use and I love them. I particularly like the one that has the fresh fir bark, pumice, and perlite! It's light, airy and pleases almost every plant I have!

Thanks a million Josh. I hope this tree does wonders for you and please keep us updated.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 7:27PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Thanks, Penfold! You know, these are my favorite kind of Threads, too....I especially like the
fact that I can update the Thread as time goes by, sharing successes (and potential failures, as well).
I'm in it for the long haul. You're right about the compromise between Gritty and 5-1-1 -
at times I've called this a gritty 5-1-1. Not as durable as the actual Gritty Mix, but easier
for me to make and very practical for my growing area.

This is pretty close to a 'go-to' mix. I always use the same bark - uncomposted Fir bark.
If I'm making a seasonal mix for things like peppers, I don't bother screening (other than
to remove the largest particles and "matchsticks" or obvious sapwood). All other plants
get a screened bark. Other than that, I typically use Perlite and Pumice, Lava rock, or Turface.
So, while the ingredients do slightly vary, I always aim for a similar texture and moisture retention.
I prefer red Lava rock, but it's hard to come by in large quantities...so I save it for smaller volumes
and for succulents, hoyas, et cetera.

Al, it's great to see you. Having worked with these ingredients for a while now,
I feel pretty comfortable substituting and mixing ingredients. As Tapla says,
container mixes are more about the principles behind water movement and drainage than any
particular recipe - his recipes are incredibly effective, but he often mentions that they, too,
are starting points. All gardening is local - as you know in your hot climate - and individual
tailoring of mixes is essential for optimum mix performance and plant growth.

The containers I use for mixing and sifting ingredients are actually Pond Baskets that I bought
at a local nursery (that carries pond plants). I looked at one of the baskets just now, and I think
they're by the Tetra company. I did a search online and this seems to be the right company.

Tetra Pond Products Online

Howdy, PJ, thanks for stopping by...and thanks for the compliments, as well!
I've done root-work on Buckeye previously, so we'll see how well this tree takes to the treatment.
Maintaining the roots in a timely fashion makes for less work and less trauma, and faster recovery.
I wish I'd re-potted last year...but I was lazy. I have two of these trees that I grew from seed.
The other is in a larger container, so it won't need work until next year at the earliest.

Hello, Mike, I'm glad you found this Thread!
You know how much I love to work with bark...the smell, the feel, the look. With a little Perlite
and Pumice (lava rock or turface), you can please just about any plant, in my opinion. The only
adjustments to make would be watering and fertilizing intervals depending upon the particular plant.
I'll certainly provide updates over the next month as my Buckeyes unfold their awesome leaves.
I'm sure you'll be showing us some plants in similar mixes very soon ;-)

Again, thank you, gentlemen, for browsing this Thread and leaving comments. Great questions!


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 8:00PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Don't you hate it when you take the time to do a proper re-potting, and then make a dumb mistake?

In my case, my dumb mistake with the Buckeyes was leaving them in an area where deer could get to them....
I came out a morning after the re-potting, only to find that several swelling branch-tips had been trimmed
in the night. Anyhow, it's just frustrating to spend time developing a symmetrical tree, and then to blow it
with a careless oversight that is so obvious. But all is not lost - I brought the trees up onto the deck for
the Spring flush and they are budding out nicely.

Something else interesting to note. One of my Buckeyes has distinctly red buds, whereas the other has golden
yellow buds in the Spring. The foliage, too, tends to vary between them, one being more yellow than the other.

But I digress....here is a series of pics. First pic, the Buckeyes on the deck after the deer trimming.
Sorry for the blurry quality and lack of detail:

Two photos showing some of the nipped branch-tips:

Continuing growth...the re-potted Buckeye on the right was nipped on the right-hand side branches.
(Thankfully, the gangly tree on the left took the majority of the damage):

And the growth continues....rain, sun, rain, sun...just what the Buckeye like in Spring:

Last pic for now, an update from March 14th. I'll keep turning the trees to develop the
lost buds on all sides. I'm very happy that the lowest branches didn't take any damage:


    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 2:53PM
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peapod13(8 South Sound WA)

Wow! Great thread Josh. Sorry I didn't see it sooner. Also sorry the deer got to your Buckeyes, but I'm sure you'll be able to train some new shoots in to fix the shape.

Looking forward to following the progress.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 12:59PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Thanks, Blake!

Once the warm weather hits, the foliage should fill in and obscure the bare trunks.
Latent buds are activating near the sites of the deer-trimming already.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 4:08PM
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Your trees/plants sure love your mix, Josh...and I do, too :))

Thanks for the pictorial process.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 10:54PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Aw, thank you, Xuan, you are so kind! :-)
Not many people grow Buckeye in containers, and I am glad to share the process!


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:51AM
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Well, can we second that! I would love to grow a Buckeye in a container Josh!

I can understand why the deer would ate the buds, they look so scrumptious! Man, is there anywhere safe for your babies! I am just glad they don't eat your citrus too.

Where was I when you started this Josh! I love it and all you share. Thanks so much for the visual aid! I am sure those plants will be in tip top shape in no time:-0)

Hello Xuan! With many hugs from across the pond.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 2:45PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hello, Mike! Thank you!
Yeah, I understand how tempting these new leaf buds must be to the deer.....
Unfortunately I don't think there's much hope in restoring the original symmetry to these trees.

Oh, and the deer *DO* eat my citrus leaves...can't ever leave them out without protection.
The blacktail deer will browse just about anything.

More update pics soon....


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 4:07PM
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Nice, Josh... I'm sure you'll have no issues remaking symmetrical trees out of those. A snip here, a snip there... :-)

With this crazy weather we've been having, I just got two months of work dumped on me that needs doing now! Yikes!

I'll be re-potting and pruning until August at this rate! Some of the leaf cover will just have to stay in the garden beds... I don't have time to rake any of it! All I can do is remove the dead stem debris! I need like 3 more people who know what they're doing, that I don't need to stand over and babysit! That, or I need 6 more arms and 4 more legs! ;-)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 9:58PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I know what you mean about the deer. They don't come around often, but they just denuded a beech tree bonsai on me sometime late in the week - left only 1 bud on the tree. I looked at the tree Sat & thought what I believed were healthy buds had aborted, but the slightly ragged branch ends where the buds were nipped off spelled D E E R. Rabbits nip cleanly through the stem so it looks like they were cut with a pruners. I hope it backbuds because I got the tree as a start from a very old (100 in July) friend.

Great thread, Josh!


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 7:55AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have a few roses among my nursery pots. Deer given a choice will eat the food they prefer FIRST. We have many native buckeye in our woods, most are not what you would describe as "shapely". Good luck on your effort to shape them. Al

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:49AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Jodi, Al, and Al ;-)

Jodi, I'll do my best! I might just cut back to below the bald sections...we'll see.
Wait the leaf-cover out....it'll disappear into the garden beds before too long....

Al, that was the first thing that popped into my mind...oh, great, the buds aborted
after the re-potting! ;-) But then I saw that the majority of the damage was on the
plant that hadn't been re-potted (and I've never had a bud abort, regardless). Upon closer
inspection, the deer damage was clear.

Al, up here the Buckeye look very nice in the landscape. They don't handle the heat well, though.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Josh, the next time you post a picture of your trees, I am sure they will look so good!:-)

I wonder if I can grow buckeye here? By the way, that is the first on me with deer eating citrus! You poor thing. You know, it's almost would be a blessing in desguise if you found a dead deer under your porch every day...Sheesh!

Good luck pal. Please keep this thread going as it takes form, I would love that.

Hello Jodik, Al and Al!


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:58PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy, friends and fellow growers!

This season, the Buckeye leafed out in the safety of the fenced area on the northeast side of the house, which the Buckeye prefer. The tree on the left, in a gritty mix, is fuller and has more compact leaves that are visibly reduced in size. The tree on the right was more heavily browsed by the deer, is in a bark-based mix close to the 5-1-1, and wasn't root-pruned or re-potted last year. All in all, I'm happy.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 3:29PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Josh!

Those Buckeyes are looking wonderful!

Look at the growth and how green and healthy they are... Looks like they didn't have any issues.. Would never know the deer decided to have a snack... ;-).

Goes to show how well you take care of your trees and I'm impressed to see a Buckeye in a container. awesome!

They love that mix.. As well as my trees!

Only the best mix will do! It shows... Congratulations!


Hi Xuan!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 12:54PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Thank you, Laura :-)
I wrote "gritty mix" in the post above, but should really have termed the mix a gritty 5-1-1 (as compared to the mostly bark mix of the plant on the right). Regardless, the Buckeyes seem very happy so far...let us hope that it continues. The tree on the right, sort of hidden behind the other, has some bare spots on the trunk, but even that looks sculptural, so I guess I have to thank the deer, ha!


    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 1:35PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

The Buckeye are still going strong, and now is their leaf-out time...earliest tree in our area.

One of the trees - the one more damaged by the deer - has been growing very tall, so I decided to prune it down to activate some lower buds. If I'm not happy with how it responds, I'll prune harder next February.

Some poor quality pics from the shady side of the house....
This is the better of the two trees.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2015 at 2:52PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

And the taller of the two trees that was trimmed.


And after:

1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2015 at 2:55PM
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