Root pruning at planting help needed

j0nd03October 21, 2012

Today I planted a Legacy sugar maple. There were several roots at the top of the potting soil coming directly off the trunk but they seemed comparatively small. I washed most of the potting soil off to bareroot as much of the root mass as possible and found the original flare several inches below the secondary roots that must have come about from being buried too deep in the pot. I proceeded to plant the original root flare just below ground level leaving the secondary roots way up in the air. I then pulled them out and covered as much as I could with dirt and the rest with mulch to prevent drying.

My first instinct is to prune them but this is probably at least 1/2 - 3/4 of the root system including feeder roots. Should I leave them for a year or two or clip them now?

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

What a mess! If you think there will be a large enough rootball left, if you remove the upper roots, go ahead and prune them off. Since you've decided to plant based on the original rootflare, I'd recommend at least removing some of the adventitious roots (probably starting with the largest one).

I'm not saying that you necessarily should have, but you could have planted this tree deeper and treated the new roots as the root flare. The tree has already done a significant amount of adaptation to that planting-depth level and would have probably done just fine in the long run. Most maples can adapt to being planted a little deeper much better than many other species.

I hope your tree doesn't suffer from having it's former buried trunk areas newly exposed to sunlight and the elements.

You didn't pay anything for that tree did ya????

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 8:36PM
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Actually, I left the roots intact despite my urge to remove them for the feedback in this topic. I sure don't mind replanting the tree myself if the consensus is 'bury the flare' =) I also have the tree temporarily mulched up to the secondary flare to avoid drying and sunlight exposure. The tree looked good in the pot with the new flare visible. I never would have known the original was down there if I hadn't washed the potting soil off.

I do think I exaggerated the amount of potential root loss. Is probably closer to 30-40% at most. I have done similar removal of secondary "high" roots on red maple cultivars with pretty good success. Just not sure how sugar maples would respond to this treatment.

No one wishes trees were free more than my wife! But I have found no such source for free cultivar trees. I will be sure to keep it to myself if I ever do discover such a heavenly treasure, though lol

Thanks, as always, for responding. I sure do appreciate it.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 8:57PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Most stock I see is badly rootbound so this one looks great to me - except you planted it too high. I would simply re-plant it at the correct depth and of course mulch it afterward.

Having the graft union get buried over time could actually be a good thing as the scion might make its own roots and become independent of the stock. No need to retain the stock in this case as it only served to enable the grower to produce a finished specimen quickly. Not the same as when dwarfing or pest-resistant rootstocks are employed.

And many combinations that appear to be compatible may not actually be, failures sometimes taking decades to become evident.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 9:13PM
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Alright, I trust both of you. I'll replant it tomorrow if I don't get rained out. I planted at that flair initially then thought about washing all the soil off and discovered the original flare. I did expose and loosen quite a lot of roots in the process so at least the washing was not in vain.

Bboy, since the graft is still quite a bit higher than the adventitious roots, how would you suggest I bury them over time? (After replanting it to the new flare of course) Would you keep mulch up to the graft line or just bury the whole thing in the ground? I am vaguely familiar with stories of a researcher that buried trees to the graft line way back when.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 9:32PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

If it were me, I wouldn't bury the graft; I'd probably just replant at the depth it had been planted before. But, if you do want to bury the graft, go ahead and do it now.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 9:50PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you didnt answer the question ..

did you really pay money for that????

i would return it.. period ... what a freakin nightmare ...

well.. if you paid under 50 bucks.. whatever.. play with it ... if you paid

$250.. get your money back.. and buy a quality tree ...

this would be the first and only time.. a mulch volcano would be appropriate.. lol ...

why do you imagine.. the trunk is thinner at ground level ... as compared to where the high roots come out.. does that tell any of the tree experts anything??? .. i dont know.. i am asking???


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:01AM
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"you didnt answer the question ..

did you really pay money for that???? "


"No one wishes trees were free more than my wife! But I have found no such source for free cultivar trees."

It was a $65 7-gallon with very nice shape (even the wife likes it!). It appears that growth this year was about 4". I think this is due to recent potting up. When that took place, the roots in question developed in response to being buried too deep hence the limited growth.

I certainly won't return it as the drive to get it is about 3 hours round trip and this does not seem to be a terminal ailment.

Ken, I would wager the trunk has swelled due to the tree now considering that area the true flare after the previous discussion in this topic. Just my guess =)


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:52AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

WOW John,
I am sorry about that. I enver would have expected that. At least I have a possible solution for you. Make about a 4' wide mound to plant the tree in. Make the old root flare about even with the original ground level, awhile the new developing root flare will be at the top of the mound. The ideal is that the mound will allow gas exchange to all roots while the tree sorts out it's root issues. By the time the caliper is 8-10" the mound won't be noticeable anymore. Our clay has necessitated that I plant almost everything we have in this manner, and ti has worked extremely well. Also now that I am expanding the mulch rings around them, the mound is not at all noticeable.

Lastly, the nursery needs to know about this. I have talked to them before about root bound plants etc, and they have been the most forthcoming of anyone I've talked to about it.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:19AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

The thinner below the new roots IMHO is due to the tree putting it's efforts into the new flare, and not the old one. Result being an increase in caliper at the point instead of lower down.

Also, the tree is most likely containerized. Meaning it was field grown, harvested bare-root and potted for fall/spring sale. IF that is correct, then I think the new developing flared started in the field probable due to the old flare being buried to control weeds. Well, that's my hypothesis anyway. Truth may vary.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:29AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

so ark.. are you suggesting it is turning the thinning trunk into a root???

did i offend you jon ..??.. i didnt mean to !!!!

thats a tree worth 65 bucks .... like i said.. if you had paid 250 for a PRIME SPECIMEN ... then i would question its value ..


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Not offended at all. I find it funny when you ask a question (usually in haste to respond) and the answer is provided in a previous post ;)

I do it all the time, too. Recently, I missed an OP's location for tree recommendation and complained about it when it was BOLDED in the topic title lol


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:37PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

You know, I hadn't thought about it like that, but I guess I could see that. I was just thinking of it in terms that the tree was spending it's root development energy at the new root flare at the top, so that anything below would not be growing as much or not at all depending upon circumstances. But with that said, functionally, the trunk below the upper flare, would basically act like a root with the new root flare in place. Also, I want to emphasize, that I don't "KNOW" that this is what's happening. It just seems to fit the evidence at hand.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 1:15PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

who needs to be confused with the facts.. what others said.. lol ...

i tell you what i think.. whether it agrees with others or not.. so i usually skim those posts ...

you know i dont do the 'science' definitions.. and frankly.. i usually just get confused with all those fancy words ..

i try to break it down.. to language.. i MIGHT actually remember .. somewhere down the line ...

anyway.. crimminey.. i missed the obvious .. its a weed maple.. leave it exposed for a week.. plant it.. probably couldnt kill it if you wanted to ... lol ..

one more time on that meme?? [sp???]


ps: i still dont see where it was prior .. but i am in a very early morning coffee buzz.. the screen is kinda vibrating ... prime typing time.. rather than focusing.. with the eyeballs.. lol ...

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:47AM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

'Legacy' is actually a really nice sugar maple cultivar! It doesn't get as big as species sugar maple (from what I've read), and it has really nice fall color. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:04AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I agree with bboy.


    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:42AM
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