subject to future root girdling?

SibeliusJames(6a)August 17, 2014

This is a Japanese Tree Lilac. It was planted from a very root-bound pot 6 weeks ago. The pot was filled with a lot of roots swirling but as you can see in picture the root flare seems to be appropriately " exposed and visible...or is it high enough out of the ground. Should I be concernded about the large roots that are broadly encircling the tree on the ground surface? Does this look like a problem down the road when the tree is larger? I could easily snip these elbow roots sticking out around the ground when it gets cooler. Good idea? Or should I pull it out of the ground this autumn and really look closer at the entire root situation. Is the large pot-sized swirl of roots a potential problem? Do you agree that the root flare is appropriately above ground? Look for 2 more pictures to posted on this subject.

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Other side of the trunk at ground level.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 4:52PM
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The entire lovely tree.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 4:53PM
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I would wait for the dormant season to straighten out the roots. If the roots are circling, which I would guess is a "yes", they DO need straightened. If not, you will have a problem in the near future. I must admit i don't have much experience with large potbound plants, I buy the small ones, with small roots. But if someone digs it up and prunes those roots to proper form and follows with frequent irrigation the next growing season, and MAYBE even the next growing season, you may have success helping the potbound shrub be able to adapt and do well in the original planting place. This is my best guess at the right advice. If the roots are circling, cut them (Prune) them to make them straight or in other words, the way they should be growing into the soil.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:32PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

it would depend .. on how big the pot was ... and what those roots do at the end of the pot ...

if they immediately circle back around toward the trunk .. then you might have possible problems ... poaky is pretty spot on.. but for making declarations such as "you will have a problem in the near future." .... i used to do that ... but forecasting mother nature would include hedging your statement a bit ... you may or may not have a future problem ... but knowing.. is not an option.. w/o knowing what is going on underground ...

but if they continue on.. straight away ... no problem ..

the only real way.. to get answers... would be to dig it up and find out ... when it drops its leaves... you would want to do root surgery.. when the plant is dormant ... the current situation would be akin to holding it over until proper surgery time ... [too lazy to look it up.. is this tree deciduous???]

i have simply snipped them... but that still leaves you with no info.. so you spend years worrying.. and wondering ... it would be better to do it.. learn.. and find some satisfaction in knowing ...


    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:35AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

They look perfectly normal/fine to me. I would leave it alone.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:28AM
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The pot was pretty large and was completely filled with a mass of roots going round and round. I had been actually concerned about the larger roots on the surface as they might constrict the main trunk as it gets larger, but now that I think about your discussing the root ball itself, it really is is dense swirl and I think it would be worth it to take it out and open up the ball and get the swirling under control. I can then also probe a little around the root flare and see if there are any looming problems with larger roots. This tree was sitting in a pot for a number of years and it really still thinks it's in its pot at only five weeks in the ground. I'm planning on taking it out when it gets cold and leafless and helping the root situation and suspect it will do fine in the spring. Thanks for all the feed back and please leave more comments if they come to mind!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:27PM
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Planting height looks good. Jap. tree lilac is notoriously slow-growing, so for that reason alone, you may not see girdling root problems for quite some time. But if the roots were anything like you describe, it does seem likely that a problem will develop at some point. Now here's where it gets tricky: Amongst maples, for example, studies have shown that sugar maple and silver maple can develop girdling roots quite readily (among transplanted stock-the only situation where these types of roots form) yet very rarely, if ever, do these roots end up harming the tree. Meanwhile, Norway maples that have been transplanted are notorious for developing girdling roots which can and do limit the tree's life. So not all species act the same with regard to A) Developing girdling roots from transplant, and B) Having those girdling roots go on to make trouble.

Finally, there's this: Wherever one would attempt to "straighten" roots by means of uncovering them and making cuts, new rootlets are going to form wherever these cuts have been made. These new rootlets will in turn grow and gain girth, and are oriented such that they will be in exactly the right position to once again girdle the main stem. I just don't know if it's worth all the trouble. Finally, is that the typical foliage color for this tree? Sure looks chlorotic. Is there perchance a bunch of old stump chips from a prior tree in that area, causing "nitrogen drag", or what other factor could account for the poor foliage condition?


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:35AM
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Yes, it definitely has turned to a yellowing chlorotic look. I was assuming this was because the tree has never been in the ground, but living in this bound pot and was figuring that this was it's normal cycle and look by the late summer by dint of it having always been in a pot, that is, until I put it in the ground five or six weeks ago. When I bought the tree the color was very nice and looked healthy. But I was thinking that it would do fine after it got established properly in the earth. Before this Lilac tree in same location were two six feet tall Deutizia. They did not leave any wood chips behind and there has never been a tree in that area, at least not for many years I'm sure. Would it's life living in a pot and all root bound tend to put it into a weaker chlorotic state by the season's end?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 4:55PM
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+oM, one thing that IS in the soil is a dose of pea gravel that got left behind when I took out some of the patio stones to widen the bed after removing the Deutzia. There was a notable amount sprinkled through the soil around the tree and you can see the pebbles in the photos of the roots. Would that be bad for the tree? I can remedy that also when I look at the roots this autumn. Another stressor on the tree is that it was prior to this though living in the open sun (which this tree should like) it was also completely surrounded closely by other nursery trees so it did not get the full sun like it is now, another reason I thought the yellowing just had to do with it's never having been properly established in the earth and without proper earth and pot bound it was adjusted better to the shadier setting from whence it came. Comments on any or all of this babble appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 5:32PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

New lilac tree transplants are almost guaranteed to yellow this time of year. Do nothing but water appropriately.

Pic two, upper left root cut to the trunk next late winter/early spring right before bud break. If its above the soil line it will not re-root if it originated from the trunk above the soil as it appears to be

Pic two, bottom left, can you determine where it originates? Is it on top of a root that is flaring off the main trunk?

I always remove girdling roots that I can cut back to the trunk that are above brainer.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:10PM
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Thanks for all the feedback.

whass, thanks for your details. I'm thinking you meant upper right for root to cut to trunk? Or, let me label the roots this way: left, center, and right. With that labeling system, the left one I see as which you precisely discern to question regarding whether it's from the trunk directly or is coming up and going over a root flaring off of the main trunk. It's dark out now so I don't know the answer....what if it IS coming up from under and wrapping over the trunk flare? Shouldn't I still go down a little a clip it off?

I REALLY like the advice to do it soon before budding because I've gotten no strong voice on the question ever of whether such things are better done in the beginning of the cold season or the end of it.

I still wonder whether I should lift the tree out and address the tight mass of swirling roots below that resulted from being root bound and which I didn't break up when I planted; and if so, would that also be best achieved right before bud break?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:58PM
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