Is it safe to plant potted trees now?

butterflywings09(Zone 6 Cassadaga, NY)March 28, 2010

The leaves haven't returned yet on the trees around here, but it's really gotten warmer and this week it's going to be in the 50's to the mid 70's almost all week so I know the leaves are coming. I also know though that the snow will probably make at least one more appearance before it's all over. I will have 4 potted trees arrive on Wednesday from Sooner Plant Farm; last year I planted their trees in May and didn't need to worry about the frost or anything.

So when I plant these trees this week, and we get frost or it snows, will the leaves just fall off and look like all the other trees around here, and then come back as the temps return?

Or will that hurt them at all? They are hardy for my zone easily. I ordered 2 Red Sunset Maple and 2 Golden Raintrees. Thanks in advance.

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butterflywings09(Zone 6 Cassadaga, NY)

I wanted to add that our ground is not frozen at all and my husband was easily able shovel and remove our dead trees planted last year that were killed over the winter by voles.

I read that potted trees can be planted anytime as long as the ground isn't frozen, which it's not, but I'm just wondering what is going to happen to the leaves though.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 10:39AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Only you can determine if you can plant trees now. If the soil cannot be worked because it is not at the proper moisture levels, you cannot plant.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 10:48AM
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butterflywings09(Zone 6 Cassadaga, NY)

Good morning Dan. The soil is not frozen at all and it's easy to work with. My husband says he thinks the trees will be dormant anyway and not have their leaves.

Anybody tend to agree with him?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 11:02AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

This is the time of the year when many folks need to be instructed on proper soil moisture and tilling-planting. Here is one such effort here locally that details soil suitability and how to determine it (universal application).

If the plant is dormant now planting it won't break dormancy. If the plant has broken dormancy, planting it won't put it back into dormancy.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 11:09AM
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butterflywings09(Zone 6 Cassadaga, NY)

"If the plant is dormant now planting it won't break dormancy. If the plant has broken dormancy, planting it won't put it back into dormancy."

I didn't know that. I have so much to learn..... Thanks again for your help this morning, I read the article and Im going to go outside and do the soil test they suggested by grabbing some and squeezing it and see what happens. We have such sandy, gravelly soil that if anything I wish we could hang on to the water more, but our soil just drains so fast.

Anyway, than you again for everything.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 11:21AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if the trees are dormant.. no leaves.. and the soil workable.. go for it ...

if the trees are leafed out.. coming from a warmer zone ... then those leaves must be protected from frost and more importantly.. freeze ... or they will all be lost ... but even that might not be permanent.. as it MIGHT re-leaf.. depending on how stressed they are from transplant and shipping and planting ....

if they are leafed out.. in my z5 [for this example.. my 5.. your 6.. no difference]... i would keep them in the garage for a few more weeks.. for the temps to equalize to the state of the tree ...

presuming the new plant is zone appropriate.. and if it is dormant.. then it is dormant .... and should not be affected by cold temps ...

its the soft leaves that can not take the big temp swings ...

one last thing.. if there is any question.. call the seller.. and ask what zone they are in.. and whether the plants were forced in a greenhouse ... i suspect NOT.. and therefore they should be dormant and ready to plant ...


    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 1:51PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

No need to comment, this thread has all the correct information.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 3:13PM
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butterflywings09(Zone 6 Cassadaga, NY)

Ken Adrian,

Hi, I just emailed Brian from Sooner Plant Farm and asked him if the trees are dormant and this was his response:

"The tree are dormant, but close to waking up. We are expecting 70s-80s this week and they will most likely
be emerging by late in the week."

He is shipping these trees tomorrow (Monday) UPS 2nd Day Air which means I am getting them here in NY on Wednesday. All the trees in our area are completely dormant so if I plant this tree and it is close to waking up, which I guess means starting to bud, what do I do then? Do I leave the trees in the garage or is it okay to plant?

I just don't want to lose these trees. :( Ann

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 3:21PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey butter anne ...

first... are they not guaranteed?? ... if so.. cut 90% of the worry ... i dont know raintree.. but it will be hard to kill a maple .....

second.. its really hard to tell without seeing what you get.. do you have pix ability???

right now.. in my z5 .. the maples are budding out the flowers.. the god-hated pollen sacks ... they are not close to leafing out .... i would not be all that concerned if the flowers were frozen off ....

best i can tell.. the seller is zone 6 or 7 .... these trees cant be all that far ahead ....

what did he tell you to do with them????

i GUESS.. not seeing them.. would be to pot them up in some damp.. but not soggy potting media .. in a large black pot.. check the recycle bin at the local nursery .... and just hold them for a bit ... hardening them off to the colder weather up here .... hopefully they will suspend animation a bit.. and slow down.. to meet up with your zone ...

damp media is all you need ... trees do not like wet roots... we are just protecting the roots from drying out.. not really watering a dormant tree ...

i dont recall any facts that these are potted.. if so ... i would just leave them in the garage ... on the cold side ....

whatever you do.. do not leave them sitting in the package for a week .... just protect the roots somehow ... at worst.. wrap them in a damp towel .... they ought to hold over for a week with night temps in the 30's and 40's .... and most trees will NOT appreciate sitting in a bucket of water for more than a few hours ..... they like drainage or air on the roots.. not a swamp or lake ....

if you get antsy.. go predig your holes ....

again.. without seeing what comes out of the package... its really hard to get real specific for you ...

good luck.... they are guaranteed... ken

ps: if they fail .... ask for a new shipment .. as soon as his trees loose their leaves .... in october some time ...

pps: frankly.. if they are guaranteed .... why not just slam them in the ground... and see what happens .... eh???? ... again.. what did he recommend???? .. they are trees.. not foo foo baby plants that need to be coddled ...

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 12:21PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

leaves have cell walls .... as does everything i suppose ...

frost or freeze can cause the cell walls to explode.. and the tissue dies .... the plant can not repair damaged cells ...

so the leaves will fall off.. and in most circs.. new ones will be generated in a few weeks ... though recent planting or transplanting can interfere ...

your trees will either be leafed out.. or not ...

if not .... and presuming the buds are not huge and soft.. they can probably take the cold temps ....

if they are leafed out.. or look like they nearly are... then into the garage they go ...

i can go no further without a pic of what comes in the mail ....

if there is ever a next time.. ask for mailing about 2 weeks ago .. the trees would still be dormant.. and you can hold fully dormant trees in the garage until the ground thaws ... [but then that year.. the soil will still be frozen .. welcome to my world.. lol ...]

its a game we all play in the spring in our zones .. and it really isnt all that hard.. if you just do it.. and not worry about it ...

i have killed more trees/plants than you probably have... and i have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams ...

you have not been a bother.. glad to help ...


    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 3:23PM
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butterflywings09(Zone 6 Cassadaga, NY)

Hi Ken. Please forgive me for not getting back to you sooner. Your information (as well as everyone else's) was invaluable. I just wanted to give you and update on everything. The 2 GoldenRain Trees arrived and were leafed out on several branches. I do believe the leafing out could've occurred during the 2 day shipping as Brian told me they were close to coming out of dormancy when they shipped.

The 2 Red Sunset Maples arrived with very soft buds that were close to flowering out. We decided to go ahead and plant all of them, and just protect the trees if we get any frost or snow. The trees are not guaranteed beyond the 48 hours after they arrive. I trust Sooner Plant Farm though. The products they ship out are gorgeous and well packed. I have no complaints at all... As it has turned out in the last week all the trees have exploded with spring growth. The Raintrees have leaves everywhere and the 2 Sunset Maples have flowers popping out everywhere and one has a very long stem on one of the branches. No transplant shock of any kind. I credit that to taking your advice you mentioned in another post, Ken, where you said your best luck was planting between April 1 and April 15.

After we planted, for one week we had 70-80 temps and everything was great, until the weather report for this weekend that is. They've called for lows in the low 30's. possibly high 20's with snow mixing in. So dh spent about 4 hours yesterday morning putting up wood stakes around each tree and took gigantic, thick, black contractor trash bags and placed them over the stakes so they didnt come into contact with the trees. The bags go all the way down to the ground. He stapled the bags to the stakes. They look great! It's snowing outside now and the trees are oblivious to it. I also wrapped the trunks lightly too, to keep them warm. We'll take everything off tomorrow sometime.

I am so sorry I didnt get back to you sooner. We were busy this past week building fencing, down 6 inches deep, around the trees and mulching with Permatil and working on trapping for voles. We've caught 6 so far and one frog too. lol Anyway, thank you so much for your time.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 12:00PM
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