Al or Josh, please help! My figs and maple are waking up.

meyermike_1micha(5)March 7, 2012

Hey guys.

IAs you know, I have these possible Bonsai specimens, especially my small maple, and they are about to come out of dormancy. The shed has been reading into the 50's, not cold enough to keep them asleep, nor anywhere for that matter because of our mild temps.

Should I repot what I want to do within the next few days or wait longer. I have one maple, actually Josh, the one you sent me starting to push leaves.

I would appreciate a hand here.

Thanks in advance!


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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Mike!
If the maple is pushing leaves, we're a little past the optimum time to be re-potting,
but it does need to be done. Post a pic so we can determine where to chop it, too.
I'll be back after work, or this evening.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 9:36AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

(Hey, I'm on my prep period...!)

Mike, I re-potted my Fig tree recently, as well, but it's not waking yet.
Definitely we're in the window to be undertaking these chores.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 1:03PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'll be into repotting soon, too. Time to get movin', Mike. ;-)


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:05PM
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Hey guys!

When I have a few moments tonight about 6, I will post some pics I took of the trees I am concerned about and the pots you could recommend.

I really appreciate this friends!


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:19PM
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Ok...Here are the pics and I am not quite sure of what pots to match with what plant.

Josh, this depicts your tree you sent me and I love it. I already like the pot it's in, but is now a good time to repot and to trim? Where would you guys make the cuts? Look at the leaves popping out.

OK, these are the tiny Maples I would love to repot. I am concerned about timing and not sure which pot to use. Could you guys give me a suggestion. I will post the little miniature maples first, then the pots. ok?

First one

Second one

Now the pots?

I also have a Fig in a one gallon pot and I was told it's too late to trim the roots due to possible lost fruit. The roots are very tight and there is no more soil left. When would it be appropriate to pot up into a bigger pot?

Thanks so much:-))))


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 8:12AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Are you thinking of putting any of those plants in bonsai pots? I think I'd leave them in large nursery cans with little or no pruning until they get to a point you can chop them back. They're very small trunks & will grow painfully slow in bonsai pots.

You have some time on the fig, because they're always late, but I'd definitely prune the roots. First, you'll get few fruits on such a young tree, and the fruits you get won't be the greatest (flavor) - that's just how young trees are. I always put the health of the tree first, and wouldn't jeopardize the viability of the tree for the sake of a few extra fruit.

What was your plan/thinking about the maples?


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 2:57PM
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I was thinking about putting those Maples in one of those pots, would you consider Bonsai style?

But based on what you said, I think I will pot in regular pots for now?
They are considered mini's but I am going ahead as suggested by you for regular pots:-)

I will do a follow up with you come summer so you can see their progress if that is ok?

Now, as for the fig. How would you prune the roots ?
Just tell me step by step and I will do as you say. I plan on putting this 1 gallon fig with very tight roots into a three gallon pot with the 5.1.1 mix. I am not worried about the fruit and thanks for that insight:-)

Thanks so much


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 3:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

From the 'Trees in Containers' thread.

Deciduous trees are some of the most forgiving of trees when it comes to root pruning. The process is quite simple and the long term benefits include best opportunities for plants to grow at or near their potential genetic vigor, and stronger plants that are able to resist the day to day perils that bring down weaker plants. Root-pruning is a procedure that might be considered borrowed from bonsai culture, but as noted above, bonsai culture is nothing more than highly refined container culture, and to restrict the practice of root-pruning to bonsai only, is an injustice to those of us who simply enjoy growing trees in containers.

Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other's company. Only a few love to be alone. ~Jens Jensen

Now that I have made the case for why it is important to regularly perform full repots (not to be confused with potting-up) and prune the roots of your containerized trees regularly, I will offer some direction. Root-pruning is the systematic removal of the largest roots in the container with emphasis on removal of rootage growing directly under the trunk and at the perimeter of the root mass.

Root pruning can start immediately with year-old seedlings by removing the taproot just below the basal flare of dormant material, repotting, and treating the plant as a cutting. This will produce a plant with flat rootage that radiates outward from the base and that will be easy to care for in the future.

Young trees (under 10 yrs old) are nearly all dynamic mass and will tolerate root-pruning well. Most deciduous trees are extremely tolerant of root work. Acer buergerianum (trident maple) is routinely reduced to a main trunk with roots pruned all the way back to the basal flare and responds to the treatment with a fresh growth of fine, fibrous roots and a fresh flush of foliage each spring. The point here is, you don't need to be concerned about the pruning if you follow a few simple guidelines.

First, some generalities: undertake repotting of most deciduous material while the plant is quiescent (this is the period after the tree has met its chill requirement and has been released from dormancy, but has not begun to grow yet because of low soil temps). Most conifers are best repotted soon after the onset of spring growth. Most tropical and subtropical trees are best repotted in the month prior to their most robust growth period (summer). Citrus are probably best repotted in spring, but they can also be repotted successfully immediately after a push of top growth.

For most plants that have not been root-pruned before: With a pruning saw, saw off the bottom 1/3 of the root ball. With a hand-rake (like you use for scratching in the garden soil) and/or a wooden chopstick and/or the aid of water under high pressure from a garden hose, remove all the loose soil. Using a jet of water from the hose and the chopstick, remove the remaining soil - ALL of it. The exception here would be those plants that form dense mats of fine roots (citrus, bougainvillea, rhododendron ...). This should be done out of sun and wind to prevent the fine roots from drying. 5 minutes in the sun or wind can kill fine roots & set the tree back a week or more, so keep roots moist by misting very frequently or dipping the roots in a tub of water as you work. After the soil is removed, remove up to another 1/3 of the remaining mass of roots with a sharp pruning tool, taking the largest roots, and those roots growing directly under the trunk. Stop your pruning cuts just beyond where a smaller root branches toward the outside of the root you are pruning. Be sure to remove any J-hooked roots, encircling/girdling roots or others exhibiting abnormal growth.

Before you begin the pruning operation, be sure you have the soil & new container ready to go (drain screens in place, etc). The tree should fit loosely inside the walls of the container. Fill the container with soil to the desired ht, mounded in the center, & place tree on the mound. Add soil to cover roots & with a chopstick/skewer, or sharpened wood dowel, work soil into all voids in the roots, eliminating the air pockets and adding soil to the bottom of the basal root-flare. Temporarily securing the tree to the container with twine or small rope, even staking, against movement from wind or being jostled will fractionalize recovery time by helping to prevent breakage of newly-formed fine rootage. Place the tree in shade & out of wind until it leafs out and re-establishes in the container.

The first time you root-prune a tree will be the most difficult & will likely take up to an hour from start to finish, unless the tree is in larger than a 5 gallon container. When you're satisfied with the work, repot into a soil that you are certain will retain its structure until the next root-pruning/repot. Tree (genetic) vigor will dictate the length of time between repots. The slow growing, less vigorous species, and older trees will likely go 5 years between repots. For these slow growing trees, it is extremely important that soils retain aeration. For these trees, a soil of 2/3 inorganic parts and 1/3 organic (I prefer pine or fir bark) is a good choice. The more vigorous plants that will only go 2 years between repots can be planted in a soil with a higher organic component if you wish, but would still benefit from the 2/3 inorganic mix.

Most trees treated this way will fully recover within about 4 weeks after the repot By the end of 8 weeks, they will normally have caught & passed, in both development and in vitality, a similar root-bound plant that was only potted up

When root-pruning a quiescent plant, you needn't worry much about "balancing" top growth with rootage removed. The plant will tend to only "activate" the buds it can supply with water. It is, however, the optimum time to undertake any pruning you may wish to attend to.

This is how I treat most of my trees. Though I have many growing in bonsai pots, more of my plants are in nursery containers or terra-cotta and look very much like your trees, as they await the beginning of intensive training. With a little effort at developing a soil from what's available to you and some knowledge and application of root-pruning and repotting techniques, I'm absolutely sure that a good % of those nurturing trees in containers could look forward to results they can be very pleased with. This is the repotting technique described that allows bonsai trees to live for hundreds of years & be passed from generation to generation while other containerized trees that have not had their roots tended to, and have only been potted-up, are likely to be in severe decline, or compost, well before they're old enough to vote. ;o)

If you have more questions, Josh or I can prolly answer them.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 7:41PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Mike and Al!

Al's got you squared away nicely. I'd grow those trees on in their larger containers, too.
Although some of those terracotta pots look fairly large. How large are we talkin'?

Mike, has that Trident Maple been leafing out in a lightless area?
The new growth should be a rusty sort of red color, not pale yellow.

If you want to prune, chop off the top fork completely. The tree is apically dominant,
so it will keep producing leader after leader after leader. This type of Trident Maple
is very vigorous. I have a hard time keeping mine under control...but now I'm going to let
mine just bush out for a while.

Re-pot that Trident as soon as possible!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 10:31PM
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peapod13(8 South Sound WA)

Hi Mike,

I'm not Al or Josh, but based on my own experience with Maples, some the size of the one's you've shown above, I'd suggest a bare root, root prune (per Al's post above), repot into gritty mix (into those terracotta pots you show if you wish) and pruning the upper branches to approximately equal the amount of roots you remove.

Basic pruning guidelines (1) remove extra branches so that no more than 2 originate at the same node, (2) cut remaining branches to two nodes as necessary to balance the amount removed from the top with the amount remove from the bottom.

Reason I suggest the above is two fold. (1) I had 2 trees that I thought were beginning to be shaped beautifully. The Shishio hime's roots were still in pretty good shape (ie not root bound, not alot of "J" roots or circling roots, still alot of small roots that weren't badly entangled, etc). I was able to complete the bareroot with minimal root loss and therefore minimum top loss. That tree is beginning to leaf and still has a very pleasing shape. The second tree, a Red Crusader, (even better shape than the Shishio hime by the way) was completely opposite. It had been left in the 1 gallon nursery pot for too long and had pretty much all of the root defects mentioned above. I had to remove approximately 50% of the root mass to straighten it out. Accordingly, I had to remove about 50% of the top of the tree (basically starting over with the shape on that tree). Agreed that if your intention is to make bonsai, once the trunk is the desired thickness, you'll probably remove alot of the top anyway, but no reason not to have a happy and healthy tree instead of trying to untangle a mess in a few years (just my humble opinion). (2) Everything I've read about starting bonsai suggests (a) more area for the roots to grow the quicker the trunk with thicken up (some even plant their starter bonsai in the ground until the trunk is the desired thickness) and (b) getting the roots straightened out when the tree is young not only makes it easier to deal with when older, but makes the tree happier and healthier.

Al and/or Josh, please correct me if my understanding is wrong. Always happy to get a better understanding of our woody stemmed friends.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 12:32AM
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Well, thank you for that!

I would rather have a hands on training and you all by my side, but this is the next best thing and I really appreciate it!

Once I have really gotten this info under my belt, I am going to repot my fig and these few trees this weekend.

Josh, I am going to cut the forked section off tomorrow so that only the one leader trunk is left behind.
Yes, this tree was in the coldest darkest spot I could find, and started to bud out now that temps in there are just too warm.

Now they are talking 60's and 70's for the next ten days. Quite strange. That is our April to May weather.

Looks like I will be using a couple of them pots because they really arn't Bonsai pots anyway. Shallow, but not as small as most Bonsai enthusiests would use.

Thanks again Al, Blake and Josh!


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:17AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Make sure to post update pics! ;-)
The only reason I recommend a bark-based mix for the Trident is because you'll be re-potting
so frequently....

Some of the new growth on my Trident maple was frozen the other night, but most growth is unaffected.
Just the nature of the beast, re: Spring-time temps.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 1:37PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I just got done checking everything in the garage. It looks like repotting starts next weekend. Sigh. ;-)


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 1:54PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

...and will continue for many months! ;-)
A labor of love!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 2:12PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes - I hope to be done by Independence Day. :o\


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 4:19PM
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What's going to be a few of your first repots Al? Kind of earlier than last year, right? 60's and 70's by next week buddy!

By the way, I did my first repot after talking to Josh. I also cut the head off my 'Trident Maple'...Ouch!

Pics to come:-0)

Josh, good to hear your maple wasn't destroyed by the frost! Thanks for the recommendation. I used a mostly a bark based mix as you suggested:-)

You know, I am hoping to get to the local nursery this next week to see if they have any last years stock. Laura is in want of one of these type possible Bonsai maples.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 6:15PM
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Well, here it is Josh!

I took the 'Trident Maple' you sent me last year out of its pot, wlel actually, the pot fell apart around it and did some root pruning. I untagled the mess, snipped the lead root out and raked out the others.

I them transplanted into a nice terracotta pot and cut it's head off, ouch. Tell me what you guys think, please.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:42PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

There we go, Mike!

The roots love that mix! I'm glad that thin plastic container crumbled easily ;-)
Makes it much easier to remove from the roots that grew through the drainage holes.
Now, all you've got to do is wait for the explosion of new leaves and branches!

I fertilize my maples and conifers on a two-week schedule.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:59PM
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peapod13(8 South Sound WA)

I'm assuming based on the one picture, you must have repotted in a similar mix to the one Josh had planted the seeding in originally. Or perhaps you just didn't get a picture of the roots after they were all cleaned up. Either way the tree should be happier for a couple more years now.

Good job.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 12:27AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Burning bush is going to be first. It's been really WARM here - in the 60s and everything is going to go at once. I've got next week scheduled off to repot, hoping I'll get the deciduous stuff done, or at least close to it.

For your tree, Mike. Wait for a branch to pop out really low on the trunk. After it gets a little length to it 2-3", wire or tie it up so it's almost vertical and let it grow. Next year, you'll REALLY chop off the tree's head, right above that low branch you trained up to vertical. Then, you'll have a fat trunk below that tapers into the new branch - like I did with this hornbeam in the ground.

By the end of the summer, the wound will be nearly healed and the transition taper from the fat trunk to the skinny part will be believable. There are actually 2 chops going on at the same time. You want to build taper into your trees to make them look old, and chopping back is the main way we do it.

Here's a mulberry you can see has been chopped

It'll be a first rate tree by next summer after some more ramification (twiggyness).


    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 5:57PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Nice pics, Al!
They give a great visual of how a "chop" works!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 7:02PM
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peapod13(8 South Sound WA)

Ramification!!! That's the word I was looking for the other night when responding to a post.

Josh is right, great visual aid, Al.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Oh Josh! Would you believe I was scared to death to cut off that much? Lolololol.
Now I have Al suggesting that I go even further down the road? Now that's chopped!lol

Ok, first off I am happy to report that the TWO, yes, two plants are doing well thus far! They are responding very well. In fact, the mix fell right away from the roots of yours Josh.
You sent that plant to me in a great mix and which in turn I used the very same mix to repot!
It's a good thing we all use the same mixes. I never have a problem repotting a plant from you pal.

Blake, I think I answered your question in there somewhere:-)

Al, now, that is quite the picture and would you believe it still took me a couple of days to completely understand this? lol.
Yes, I knew you would.
Anyhow, I must say if I can get just ONE plant to look as good as your Bonsai, I would be thrilled. I really appreciate your guidence along with Josh and others.

I can't really envision what that 'hornbeam' is going to look like, but I trust you. I never even heard of a 'hornbeam'! Guess I'll have to google that one.

Now that mullberry bush is to die for. GREAT work! Have you ever posted it with leaves? It must be beautiful.

Would you beleive I saw the workers at the Bonsai shop hacking their trees way back in the fall, and I just about died? It was very traumatic for me to see what they were doing to what I thought were beautiful trees as was, but then they laughed at me when I expressed this. lol

I do have what would be a beautiful huge sweet maple tree that turns brillaint colors come the fall that I have been growing in a 3 gallon container for about 3 years now. Let's just say that if I planted inground, it would be a giant. Right now it's only about 6 feet high.
What to do?

I will snap a pic of it this weekend, ok?


    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 12:38PM
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