Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) care

Mentha(9 CA)March 24, 2007

Cena advised that I come here and ask PG Karen about this so here is my question from the other forum.

I just got a Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) yesterday when I was hunting for asparagus fern, I really liked the leaves. Could someone please tell me how to care for this beauty. It is a 4 in pot, I've seen them in bonsai pots, but would like to know how large they get and soil etc. It's in a moist peat now, so I'd like to repot it as soon as possible.

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Hi Mentha,

Ming aralias are among my favorites. They are somewhat slow growers and require patience. They can grow to over 7-feet in height, but you will have to wait very long time for yours to grow that tall!

Avoid repotting it at this time as larger pots do not encourage growth. In fact, a pot that is to large will lead to root rot. When your Ming is so rootbound that it dries out and needs water within 3 days or less, then you can move it up to a 5 or 6 inch pot, but no larger.

Mings do best in very bright indirect light with a few hours of early or late day direct sun. An east or north windowsill is best.

Allow the top half-inch of soil to dry in between thorough waterings.

Fertilize sparingly and use it only at half-strength.

Let me know if this is unclear or if you have further questions.

Will Creed

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 8:27PM
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Thanks for posting about Ming care, Will. I usually have success with most plants but Mings are still a challenge for me. All of my five Mings (3 aralias, 2 balfors)cycle through shedding and regrowing leaves but never make a full recovery before starting the shedding process again and most are looking quite sad. I don't think I have their watering requirements down pat yet. Pity because Ming aralias are my favorite foliage plant. However, the challenge they pose will make success taste much the sweeter when I finally get it right!


    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 9:54PM
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Hi Kricket,

Mings can be quite sensitive to improper watering, especially until they are well-established. They are a bit less forgiving than many other house plants. They tend to shed leaves quickly in response to even minor over or under watering. It is best to err on the side of dryness however, because that is not fatal whereas overwatering and the resulting root rot is.

Be patient and observant and diligent with your Mings and I think you will develop a feel for just when they need water.

Will Creed
Ming Man

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 9:59PM
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Mentha(9 CA)

Hi Will,
Thanks for your reply, I have one question. If it's prone to root rot, should I at least give it some lighter soil than the soild peat? The peat seems to be a bit soggy, has been since I got it. it is starting to droop a bit, so I wonder if it's too moist. I can keep it in the 4 in size no problem, but should I plant it in a clay pot as opposed to plastic?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 10:16PM
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Will & I have had different experiences with these beautiful plants, so just consider my comments an alternative point of view.

I've tried multiple times to grow P. fruticosa 'Elegans' and P. balfouriana. Personally, I think they're virtually impossible to maintain indoors unless one can provide almost greenhouse-like conditions. They are truly tropical in origin (Polynesia, Malaysia) & require bright, indirect light, HIGH humidity and (esp for fruticosa) good air circulation. It's the humidity factor that's always been the most problematic for me.

Also, Polyscias can be magnets for spider mites -- esp in dry air situations. If your Polyscias begins to drop leaves (usually the first sign of stress for these plants), a low relative humidity is most likely the problem. At that point, you can be assured that the plant will not recover & really thrive unless you take immediate steps to correct the problem. As for watering, the conventional wisdom seems to indicate that Polyscias should be kept constantly moist, but never wet.

Your plant is quite small, so increasing humidity could be as simple as placing it on a tray of pebbles filled with water, spray-misting it frequently, and/or growing it in your bathroom if the light is adequate. Good luck with it.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 11:06PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

My experience with mings has been caring for them professionally in office settings. I do find they are rather finicky, especially about watering. My ideal is to get them almost totally dry before watering again. I would not use a soil heavy in peat - use something that drains well.

As far as light goes, they will tolerate a wide range. They can survive in low light but will be thin and never get much taller. In bright light, they get fuller and bushier and taller, and are also much easier to water correctly.

None of the office locations have humidity that I can control, and I would expect the air to be pretty dry. I have come to believe that light and watering are much more crucial for most types of houseplants than high humidity, although higher humidity is probably a good thing for most and essential for a select few.

It seems that minor leaf drop, especially of the lowest branches, occurs naturally a couple of times a year, and if the plant is pushing out healthy new growth at the top at the same time, it is not a cause for serious concern. Just fine tune your watering and don't fret.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 11:50PM
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Ming update: Since watering more frequently - letting only the soil surface dry out between waterings - my Polyscias fruitocosas have improved. Leaves no longer shed and lots of healthy new growth.

My balfours on the other hand still develop what appears to be rust spots on the leaves, then several weeks or months later they turn yellow and drop. However, the balfours, too, are putting out new growth and leaf drop stopped after increasing watering

All five plants receive mostly bright indirect light with a couple hours direct late afternoon sun.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 6:27AM
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I just got a new ming plant for my birthday a couple weeks ago. It's actually 3 potted together. It seems to be doing alright, except I'm afraid of the whole "shocking" thing. I noticed the leaves up top are kind of drooping. I think this is normal, but if not please advise me on what to do. Also, what I'm more concerned about is some leaves (even new tiny ones) have either brown spotting on them or white spots. I don't see any spider mites. What does this mean? And how do I stop it from turning brown? I also read about the bottom leaves dropping as it grows. Does this happen when they're a new plant as well? It's growing up top a bit, but some bottom leaves are dropping, and new ones are coming in at the bottom. Shouldn't there be none coming in at the bottom if it's at that stage? I have it in what I think is a six inch pot. It looks to be a good size seeing as there's 3 together, and there's not that much more room around them. I also keep it in my office at work on my desk. There's a huge window on the other side of the room, so I'm hoping it'll do ok here seeing as if I were to bring it home my cats would have a great old time eating it down to nothing! Is there anyone who can help me make sure my plant stays healthy? I really like this plant and I would hate to see it die on me all of a sudden. Thanks.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:49AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


FYI: Customarily one posts a new thread for a new question, rather than a new question on an old thread.

Have you read the above care info? It's pretty thorough, one could also do a search on Polyscia Fruticosa for more info. It's customary for them to drop their lower leaves as they age, rather like we lose hair ordinarily even if we are not sick or subect to chemo, it's just part of hair's natural cycle, same w/ the lower leaves, they drop first.

The plant is still likely adjusting to change of environment, I have no idea abt the dark or light spots, you haven't given much info. abt how you're growing it.

You didn't say what exposure that wi ndow is, or what kind of light (bright, direct, hot sun), etc.

These plants do not want direct light or hot sun & benefit from a pebble tray (a saucer of rocks or pebbles below the pot w/ water in it, such that the pot sits ON TOP OF, NOT IN some water).

It's fine that the plant shows new growth at both top & bottom, thats a good sign. Pls. try to read up a bit on the plant & give it some time; also pls. do not pot it up larger, doesn't want it & can cause it harm.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 7:28PM
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I just got a new Polyscias frutcosa at the home depot. It was stuck in the back and looked very bad.. I got such a good deal on it I had to take it home.. I immediately re-potted it and gave it a good watering. Now the leaves are dropping and have no idea what to do. I love the look of this plant and don't want to see it go. Please help...

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 4:39PM
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Mine tends to like being on the dry side and reacts badly to getting overly moist (I still have to leave some water in the drip trap around the pot, because the potting soil its in is stupid and gets hydrophobic really easily and I need to repot it but I've heard they don't like being messed with).

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 5:41PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

People DO say they don't like being messed w/ or moved. Personally, I found that to be nonsense.

That said, they can famously drop leaves when adjusting to a new home. William, you may have to just be patient, & give it time to adjust to new home & new mix. Do nothing for a wk, just observe, then water it again if it's dry most of the way down. I'd also recommend a humidity tray for it.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 6:23PM
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I'm not a gardening expert but I have had a Ming Aralia for 13 years now. Such a beauty! It was only about 8" when I got it and it's about 6' now. I have it in a 12" pot. Only in the last couple of years has anyone been able to identify what the heck it is as the foliage is so variable. I have in a large eastern window and sometimes in the summer put it on the balcony under an overhang. It gets fatter in summer but drops a lot when brought in for the winter, mostly the super tiny leaves less than 4" that decorate the main trunk by the hundreds. Big leaves are 20" now. Even if I did not put it out for the summer it drops some in fall. I will say they get pretty huge in what seems to me like a tiny pot and I have probably only re-potted the thing 3 times. Never seems to bother it nor does it seem to limit the plant much. Likes moist soil, I water when top drys out and I have the soil covered in pebbles to help water retention.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 2:41AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Are you sure what you have is a Ming Aralia?

They don't really have leaves, more like thin, serrated frond-type of leaves (reminiscent of threadleaf maple, if you know what that is). Am miffed at the description of 20" leaves, which other Aralias might have, but not the Ming.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 12:56PM
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I have bought a Ming Aralia Polyscias about a week ago. It is doing fine just droping a few leaves. I understand that is normal. I bought it from a good nursery and was told it would do fine with low filtered light. The Ming is about seven foot tall. After reading a few articles I am afraid it may be a sun grown plant. Is there anyone that can give me help on getting it to ajust to less light. Thank you Wayne

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 6:43PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Wayne,

I think you got bad advice, I don't think it's a lower light plant, but rather needs bright, indirect light.

Don't really know what advice you think might be out there to help 'getting it to adjust to less light'.

I'm guessing a 7 ft. tall Ming must have cost a bit of money. I'd go back to the nursery & ask abt their return policy, just in case.

Also, (I don't mean to be a bummer) but in future, I'd try as an example a 1 ft. Ming, see if it likes the conditions you can offer & if so, then after a time get a bigger one.

Folks don't really explain this much, but in over 10 yrs. of plants, having had 150+ plants in my studio aptmt, I've learned it's for me to learn which plants would be best suited for my particular environment, rather than trying to force them into adapting to circumstances which might not be to their liking. (I'm not saying you're doing that necessarily, but some folks do.)

As example: I have unobstructed western exposure, bright strong light, am on the top of 6 stories, in NYC where it gets quite hot & humid in summer & I have no A/C.

Given these conditions, I grow Hoyas which are semi-epiphitic & sort of tropical, and succulents, which excel in bright light & strong sun, but need minimal care & often little water.

In contrast, I don't grow Orchids which not only like cooler temps, but they often need a situation where the temp varies at least 20 degrees in one day, say from 70-50 which I simply can't offer. So instead of struggling w/ Orchids, I chose succulents, (Snake plants, Aloes, Crassulacae), 'cause I know they'll be comfortable in the hot circusmtances I have.

Hope this helps & I MAY be wrong about your plant. I would suggest once you've picked a spot for it, don't move it around the house, so it can just settle -- time & patience are the best you can offer right now. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 8:36PM
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Thank You. How about grow lights? I have been reading online some say they work and some say i would be wasting my money. Yes your right it cost a bit of money $180.00.Can you tell me how long i should leave it where is befor moving it to a sunny place.I relly want it to work where it is.It gets about 2 hours of good light from about 2pm -4pm in a west facing window.And filtered light the rest of the day. I hope this extra info helps. Thanks again. Wayne

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 8:50AM
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Mentha(9 CA)

I was hoping this thread had finally died, since my plant has been dead for quite a while, not from lack of trying though.

I once found a houseplant book which showed shop lights hooked up horizontal on a tri-panel wooden screen painted white behind a very large Monstera, this may be something to keep in mind. The whole setup would probably be cheaper than a good grow light and give more light also if built correctly.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 12:53PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

wayne, mings do surprising well in low light. The secret is to keep them very much on the dry side. They will not be as full and lush as ones with more light, but they will survive for a long time as long as you don't keep them too wet.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:48AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Well Watergal & I may have to disagree here, but Wayne, it doesn't want a "sunny" spot. I take lower light that these want to mean bright indirect light; if you say a couple of hrs. of good light 2-4 pm, after that filtered light, I'd say that'd be fine.

I have no experience whatsoever what supplementary lights: again I emphasize it's preferable to learn basic, good growing w/ most natural conditions BEFORE going to additional stuff like that. IMO one can always supplement good basics w/ other stuff like lights, etc. But the reverse is not true, special lights or other fancy set-ups cannot substitute for the basics of good care & culture.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 11:51AM
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Hi to all. Thank you so much. My ming has adjusted to the low light and is sending out new branches. It has almost stoped droping leaves. A little extra water did the trick. So thanks again. Wayne

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 8:18PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Wayne,

Well that's great to hear & good of you to report back to us about it. See, sometimes one just has to give it time to adjust & have faith that it will.

Maybe you could favor us w/ a picture sometime.

Interesting timing you posting back here. I just found a great buy on a closely related plant, Polyscias guilfoylei, far larger than any I've ever had. 14" from the soil line, but larger & comprised of 4 thick trunks. Very well grown & for an excellent price.

My only problem is I forgot to consider where to grow it, as it's a bit big for the space of my last one (which was perfect for the light conditions).

But it's a beauty!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 12:54AM
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I know this thread has been going on for way too long, but I thought some of you guys may be able to help me save my Ming aralia from apparent agony.

I've had this tree, now about 4 feet high, for over three years, and about three weeks ago, an accident happened. I had set my tree outside on a sunny day in southern Indiana when a windburst tilted it suddenly. I immediately brought it back inside, set it back straight in its pot and watered it. Ever since, the leaves have been wilting gradually, one parsley-like bunch after the other. Now, every single one is looking down, and there is no new growth. I'm hoping there's something I can do to bring my aralia back to life.

Could the tree be dead? Might there still be a chance for a come back?

Thanks for any advice you experts might have.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 7:39PM
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Generally this is the one plant that really, really shouldn't go outside because they don't take wind much at all apparently. Anyway, that would seemingly cause breakage and not... wilting. I guess it's possible that tipping may have damaged the root structure or something. How often are you watering it?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 1:35AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I think maybe you should check the roots, as it would seem something may have changed in the drainage.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 9:41AM
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Root damage is definitely what happened when the it got tilted, most certainly in the smallest ends of the roots anyway. I've tried to not water it too much since (once a week) knowing that this plant is sensitive to overwatering. Do you guys think there is anything I could do now to "repair" the root damage, or is this the end for my lovely tree?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 11:30AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Sorry Anne,

But you've got to unpot it to see what's happening in order to decide what future treatment should be.

Trying to diagnose it w/out unpotting it to check the roots is like trying to see through a thick black blindfold -- not going to happen.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 4:05PM
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Took the tree to a nursery this morning, they took a quick look at it, scratched the bark to see if there was green underneath and said there's still hope for it. I gave it a good pruning and fertilization when I got home, and I actually saw really tiny new growth in a few areas. I will leave it alone for awhile until it's happy again (except minimal watering, of course), and will keep you guys posted. Thanks for the help, you guys.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 11:46AM
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Mentha(9 CA)

You could try giving it a B1 treatment, this helps with transplant shock, I'd assume it it would also help recover damaged roots.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 1:08PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I thought you meant THEY pruned it (the nursery). Also I might have withheld fertilizer, for a while, but you'll have to see what happens. Good luck w/ it.

So does this mean you never turned it out to see the status of the roots? Is it still tipped?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 2:38PM
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I do not think this link is going on too long! It is the only place I have found which discusses a species of plants I have long cherished. Before I ask my question, let me add my two bits worth of experience; I have grown many species and varieties of polyscias for over 40 years; most of them lived to be 20-30 years of age and reached between five and six feet; I pruned to keep them in bounds and they never sulked. The all had regular care, never drying out or being too wet but bright light. My question: where can one purchase polyscia these days? The one nursery in TX which sold so many wonderful plants has gone out of the polyscias business and I have found no other. Does anyone have a source?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 9:28PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

To MontanaMichael,

I currently have 2, 1 a Balfour Aralia, the other a Polyscias Ming or P. guilfoylei (the one w/ the finely cut leaves). That one has an label on it indicating:

Costa Farms,
Goulds, FL 33170

I cite it as I got it in early March, at the Greenhouse of the Rusk Rehabilitative Center in NYC. I didn't realize they were tough to find.

There is an article about Aralias by the late George (& Ginnie) Elbert where he talks about how these plants cycle in & out of favor every few years, I don't know why.

I got the Balfour Aralia at the Gift Shop of the NY Botanic Garden (I usually don't buy plants there, but sometimes this plant disappears to I try to buy it when/ wherever I see it). The Balfour A is one of my all-time favorite plants, sometimes I've looked for it for a decade & then poof, 3 of them pop up out of nowhere!

Have you tried regular nurseries in your part of the country? Sorry, the only ones I'd could suggest you try are here in the NY tristate area where I live.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:18PM
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nanw_4wi(4/SW WI)

montanamichael....I was just at a Home Depot yesterday, and they had 10" pots (some with nice gnarly mature trunks, beautiful!) of P. fruticosa and P. b. 'Fabian'.

As to where to get the more unusual cultivars, they do show up occasionally (single specimens) on ebay.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 11:38AM
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what's up i posted a new message today about ming aralia and don't even see it , i had one answer before posting and now it seems like it is all gone ???????

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 5:27PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

It's still there, you seem to have missed it -- right now it's 4 posts DOWN from here. I believe I'm the one who answered you.

Will try to get back there to answer you as I DID see your question there earlier today.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 6:09PM
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I, too, love Polyscias! The last ones I bought were just the other night, in fact. I was browsing around Wal-Mart and went into the garden section (outside) as I always do just to look. Its now November and it was about 60 degrees but has been getting down into the 40's at night recently. Anyway, outside there were an assortment of tropical plants, the usuals. Then I look down and see 3 beautiful little variegated Balfour Aralias. I couldnt believe that I would find these at Wal-Mart, but they were outside and I couldnt stand to think they would spend another night in the cold so I bought them all at a whopping $5.88 a piece. They are about 5-6 inches tall and in nice little autumn tin containers. I found that to be a very pleasant score! Back on the topic of Aralias or Polyscias, I have several others, all of which are in a set of 3 large north facing windows. They get bright afternoon sun and they love it. I have 2 small fountains set up beside them for humidity and have all of them on wet pebble trays. I also mist them in the morning a few times a week. I allow all of them to dry out considerably before watering again. When I water, I drench and let all excess drain out. I keep all of mine in lightweight plastic greenhouse pots so that I can pull the rootball out and examine it every so often. I'm giving all of this advice because I have never had one complaint from any of my aralias, so I guess they are loving their environment. I keep the heat on 67 in the fall and winter and a/c on 76 in summer. I prune them usually late winter-early spring. As for the ones I currently have, I have 2 Mings (one scraggly looking one I purchased at Home Depot recently, now 4 variegated balfours, 1 4 foot parsley, and 2 small variegated parsleys. Can you tell I like Aralias? Hope some of this information helps. -Chris
South Carolina

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 10:30PM
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    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 4:34AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


Kindly do as asked directly ABOVE your question. Pls. post a new & separate thread to get this information. That's usually how it's done & it's being SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED ABOVE YOUR QUESTION.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:51AM
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I think I have my Ming it too large of a pot. I repotted it about a year ago and it was growing so fast!! Never even dropped a leaf for at least a month after the repotting. Also the leaves are not dead when the drop, just nice green leaves.
I need to get the trunk to grow thicker as they are not strong enough to support the tops. I have 6 main stems with at least three shoots of each one. They are 32" tall. The pot I have them in is 14 diameter and 12 deep narrower in diameter at the bottom. Too heavy to lift and measure the bottom. Any advice will be appreciated

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 5:35PM
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