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Trees in Containers

Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
Sat, Apr 12, 08 at 1:20

It's not much of a secret to many, that most of what I've learned about plants and plant-related science has come about as an outgrowth of my pursuit of at least some degree of proficiency at bonsai. Before the plants I grow become bonsai, I often grow them in the ground for a period before transitioning them to containers and then finally to bonsai pots. Often too, I simply grow them for a few years in containers before deciding to work on them or give them away.

I grow and manage a wide variety of temperate trees and shrubs, both deciduous and conifers, and 75 or more tropical/subtropical woody plants. I'd like to invite you to a discussion about your containerized trees and/or your tree problems. I will try to answer your questions whenever I can.

Energy management & root work are often neglected, so we can discuss those topics if there is interest.

Since I haven't grown more than a couple of Citrus, I'm probably weakest there, in the area of specific advice, but trees are trees and much of what I can share will also apply to your Citrus - just don't expect the same level of knowledge as I might have about other woody material, please.

Al

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. ~Martin Luther


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Trees in Containers

Will definitely watch with interest as growing trees in containers is not something I have experience with. Given my emerging interest in bonsai I had best learn a thing or twelve ;-)

Actually, I can think of a question I would like an answer to, if I may. Suppose I have a fruiting tree that would naturally grow to 30' in height. Suppose I want to grow it in a container and limit it's height to 7'. Not exactly a bonsai, but an intentional dwarf to maintain reasonable size in a container.

It is my understanding that the fruit the tree produces will still be the same size as a full sized tree, but the amount I allow it to produce should be limited to not overextend the tree's energy. Is this accurate?

It is my understanding that I will need to prune away the thicker roots which primarily serve to anchor the tree and focus on development of feeder roots. Is this accurate and if so, how do I go about this without damaging the tree?

Thanks Al, looks like you will have yet another very informative thread.


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RE: Trees in Containers

I live in Athens and I well grow and fruition :olive-lemon-apricot-peach-almond--cherry-plum trees-pistachio/nut trees and some others, cycads, all in pots in my veranda (normal size not bonsai.
Of course the size of fruits are smaller than those in the ground, also ferilization needed in half of recomended dozen and more times, watering only when they needed.
Now I started with plumerias and mgnolias (from seeds)
John


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi
This is my favorite subject as I'm far too lazy for Bonsai so I'm more into dwarfing lol Mainly because i want to use the dwarfed trees for epiphyte supports rather than for the tree. They are mostly overgrown "dishgardens " as I can't just grow one plant in a pot lol.
Justa guy . If your main interest is the fruit.go with dwarf cultivars of whatever type you want to grow. You can
stunt normal trees but the fruit is far inferior.
Al Ever work with dwafing palm trees?? I'm working with Queen palms grown from seed . They are still under 6 feet an dshould be approaching fruiting age. So I'll get to see if they are truly dwarfed or just stunted lol.
Anyone ever use compacted sphagnum as a media ?? gary


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RE: Trees in Containers

Years ago I worked for a propagating nursery who kept all their mother trees in 15 gallon containers. They propagated a wide variety of landscape trees from cuttings taken from their mother trees. All the trees had to be root pruned and re potted regularly as the pots would become root bound. Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 12, 08 at 12:16

JaG offers: Suppose I have a fruiting tree that would naturally grow to 30' in height. Suppose I want to grow it in a container and limit it's height to 7'. Not exactly a bonsai, but an intentional dwarf to maintain reasonable size in a container.

Trees are dynamic and an ongoing work. If you want to maintain a tree at a certain ht, you need to have a plan. For example: If you wanted to maintain a Chinese elm at 7 feet, you would let it grow to any height you wanted & the trunk thickness was as thick as you want. You could either then chop it off at about 4 feet and begin training the new branches that form at the pruning cut into the canopy; or, while it was growing fat, you might have selected a near vertical branch low on the tree to train upward as your new leader for after you cut the tree back. How you treat the tree depends on whether or not you wish a straight trunk, or one with movement, and also on how you envision the stile of the tree once it's into the branch ramification stage.

You could skip this stage if you wish, but the tree will look more interesting with some taper in the trunk, which will be provided by the method I described.

After that, or if you skip it, judicious pruning above and below the soil is how you keep the tree in bounds. Bonsai trees are just as vigorous as their larger counter-parts, so learning how to manage the energy in the tree and how to keep the foliage growing near the trunk instead of at the tips of branches is how they are kept compact. Added to what I just said is the dwarfing effect that a tight container has on both leaf size and internode length.

It is my understanding that the fruit the tree produces will still be the same size as a full sized tree, but the amount I allow it to produce should be limited to not overextend the tree's energy. Is this accurate?

That is true. I've seen full sized pomegranates and apples on tiny little bonsai trees - it's quite comical & I always think, "Boy, I bet he/she wishes they'd have chosen a tree with smaller fruit to work on."

Yes, those trees that don't bear alternately need to be guarded against being allowed to fruit so heavily that they dangerously deplete their energy reserves, because they will. I know some might say that they allow their trees to produce as much fruit as possible, but it does take a toll, even if you can't readily see it. A weakened tree is much more susceptible to attack by myriad diseases and insects. Assuming (the collective) you have learned to keep trees alive and healthy in containers, it's still a good thing to limit the number of fruit allowed to mature, or force the tree to bear alternately. Of course this may vary. For instance, if you were growing mulberry, I wouldn't worry about it too much, but with the pomes, and many of the trees with larger fruits, it is a sound management practice.

It is my understanding that I will need to prune away the thicker roots which primarily serve to anchor the tree and focus on development of feeder roots. Is this accurate and if so, how do I go about this without damaging the tree?

I have spent literally thousands of hours digging around in root-balls of tropical/sub-tropical trees (let's allow that trees means any woody plant material with tree-like roots), temperate trees collected from the wild, temperate nursery stock bonsai candidates, and trees that have already had some root work in preparation for bonsai training. The collected trees are a challenge, usually for their lack of roots, and have stories of their own. The nursery stock is probably the closest examples to what most of your trees are like below the soil line, so I'll offer my thoughts for you to consider or discard as you find fitting.
I've purchased many trees from nurseries that have been containerized for long periods. Our bonsai club, just this summer, invited a visiting artist to conduct a workshop on Mugo pines. The nursery (a huge operation) where we have our meetings happened to have purchased several thousand of the Mugos somewhere around 10 - 12 years ago and they had been potted-up into continually larger containers ever since. Why relate these uninteresting snippets? In the cases of material that has been progressively potted-up only, large perennial roots occupied nearly the entire volume of the container, plant vitality was in severe decline, and soil in the original root-ball had become so hard that in some cases a chisel was required to remove it.

In plants that are potted-up, rootage becomes entangled. As root diameters increase, portions of roots constrict flow of water and nutrients through other roots, much the same as in the case of girdling or encircling roots on trees grown in-ground. The ratio of fine, feeder roots to more lignified and perennial roots becomes skewed to favor the larger, and practically speaking, useless roots.

Initial symptoms of poor root conditions are progressive diminishing of branch extension and lessened vitality. As rootage becomes continually compressed and restricted, branch extension stops and individual branches die as water/nutrient translocation is further compromised. Foliage quality may not (important to understand) indicate the tree is struggling until the condition is severe, but if you observe your trees carefully, you will find them increasingly unable to cope with stressful conditions - too much/little water, heat, sun, etc. Trees that are operating under conditions of stress that has progressed to strain, will usually be diagnosed in the end as suffering from attack by insects or other bio-agents while the underlying cause goes unnoticed.

Potting-up temporarily offers room for fine rootage to do the necessary work of water/nutrient uptake, but these roots also soon lignify while rootage in the old root mass continues to grow and become increasingly restricted. The larger and larger containers required for potting-up & the difficulty in handling them also makes us increasingly reluctant to undertake even potting-up, let alone the now increasingly difficult root-pruning.

I haven't yet mentioned that the dissimilar characteristics of the old soil as compared to the new soil when potting-up are also a recipe for trouble. With a compacted soil in the old roots and a fresh batch of soil surrounding the roots of a freshly potted-up tree, it's impossible to establish a watering regimen that doesn't keep the differing soils either too wet or too dry, both conditions occurring concurrently being the rule rather than the exception.

Most who read this would have great difficulty showing me a containerized tree that's more than 10 years old and vigorous, that hasn't been root-pruned at repotting time (Trees in extremely large containers excepted. Growing in very large containers is similar to growing in situ). I can show you hundreds of trees 20 years to 200 years old and older that are in perfect health. All have been root-pruned and given a fresh footing in in new soil at regular and frequent intervals.

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 bonsai culture is nothing more than 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.

I didn't mean for this to be so long. I haven't even touched on the methodology of the process yet, but I'll get to it soon, if I've presented my case adequately and there is interest. I'll follow with the short version of how to root-prune & repot. If not - I had a good time writing this anyway. ;o)

Hi, Gary - I think I saw some discussion about what you're doing with the dish gardens over on the bonsai forum?

I'm not sure I agree with you on the part of your post about the "inferior fruit" part of non-dwarf varieties, but I'm willing to listen while you make your case?

I don't do much with monocots, Gary, so I'm not going to extend the discussion to include palms. They're beyond what I have any substantial experience with.

Hi, Al. You make a good point. The ease with which cuttings strike (root) is very dependent on their energy levels. Trees that are stressed or strained by poor rootage offer weak cuttings that are difficult to root and offer a reduced success rate. Thanks.

Al



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RE: Trees in Containers

I didn't mean for this to be so long. I haven't even touched on the methodology of the process yet, but I'll get to it soon, if I've presented my case adequately and there is interest.

There is interest ;-)


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi Al,

Yes, there is definitely LOTS of interest. I have a couple of Mango trees and citrus in containers that will need root pruning at some point. Since they are already in a 20" pot I really don't want to go bigger. I would like to keep it in that same container for a long time, hopefully permanently. I have noticed that the mango roots aren't very large, kind of small actually. I'm thinking I won't have to do this for at least 2 years. I will watch for the signs you mentioned above.

Thanks for a very informative and helpful thread. Will keep checking this thread for more info...


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 12, 08 at 23:42

Hi, N. Nice to see you, as always. ;o)

Previously, I made the case for why it is important to do a full repot (not to be confused with potting-up) and prune the roots of your containerized trees - regularly. 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. The following is written primarily to offer some direction in the root-pruning of a high % of deciduous material, but with some very minor adaptations, it can be applied to conifers and evergreens.

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, undertake the root-pruning and repot 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). The ideal time is immediately before buds move (swell) in spring - next best time is at the onset of budswell - next best time is anytime late in the quiescent period.

For deciduous plants that have not been root-pruned before: With a pruning saw, saw off the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the root ball. With a hand-rake (like you use for scratching in the garden soil) or a wooden chopstick, remove all the loose soil. Using a jet of water from the hose and the chopstick, remove the remaining soil - ALL of it. 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 as you work. After the soil is removed, remove about 1/2 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, off the root you are pruning. Be sure to remove any J-roots, encircling roots, or others with 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 the chopstick, 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 speed recovery time by preventing breakage of newly forming 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 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 spring flush. 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 allowed to remain in its old soil and container.

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 all my deciduous material. 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 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)

I hope you're bold enough to make it a part of your containerized tree maintenance, and I hope what I've written makes sense - it's well past a prudent bedtime for me.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi
Have a couple of questions. have a white variety of Delonix regia,flamboyant tree that has been maintained in a pot since early 90's . About eight feet tall and seems quite healthy but refuses to flower. Anything i can do??
If this tree were in the ground it would be somewhere around 30x40 feet in that length of time and should flower within 3 years. Are there trees that will not mature in a dwafed state?? Would another of these be Colvillea racemosa??
I'm about to give up and give it to someone who has the room for it. have NEVER seen a white one ,grew it from seed.
so really don't know if it's very different from the red variety. Brings me to another question .If this is put into the ground will it mature or is it permanently stunted?? thanks gary


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 13, 08 at 10:26

I did a quick search using the words Delonix regia "to mature" and discovered that it can about 10 years for the tree to mature. Plants mature as a result of their ontogenetic age, not the chronological age. This has more to do with the number of times cells have divided than how old the tree is. Because trees in containers generally grow slower, they age ontogenetically at a lesser pace, so it's not altogether surprising that you might have a 15 year old tree that has not yet matured.

As you probably know, plants vegetatively reproduced are already much older ontogenetically as soon as they establish roots, so they can bloom much quicker, but trees from seed take much longer to mature. One example I can think of is Crataegus (hawthorn). It's not unusual for Crataegus in situ to go 25-30 years before they bear.

The tree is not permanently stunted, because the cause of the stunting is cultural, not genetic. (I'm including dwarfing root stock as genetic here, too) If you put it in the ground, it will probably thank you with blooms in a pretty short while. My guess is that it's probably on the verge of maturing anyway, so you probably wouldn't need to wait long. Just be sure that you attend to any root conditions that point to ongoing or eventual strangulation before you plant.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al
Thanks for the reply . Alas I have a yard 35 x70 feet lol. The reason I kept it in a pot lol The neighbors planted a red type in 2003 and has been flowering for 3 years and is about 30x50 in spite of the hurricanes lol. Had I known it was such a long project I would have chosen another species lol.
Interesting aside to this is there are 5 trees within view of my front yard. One I know to be 28 years old not sure about the others But all are in a deciduous state right now while mine never defoliates .Old leaves are shed as new ones come on. This makes me wonder if it's not another species. or maybe just the pot?? It is cold protected somewhat certainly more than the yard trees..
i think I'll domnate it someone with more yard since it's the white type .. 15 years is long enough!!!!
Thanks again gary


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 13, 08 at 19:10

Well, you said your tree is a seedling, so there is no telling what it might produce at maturity since it's a combination of 2 sets of genes. If the neighbor's tree was purchased from a nursery, you can be pretty sure it's a specific cultivar that was vegetatively reproduced (to insure reliable duplication of desirable genetic traits) and perhaps grafted to understock that has held up well in the area. That means the tree is ontogenetically much older than a seedling and would flower fruit much sooner than a seedling as a natural course of events.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

What about root-pruning broad-leaved evergreens? (Sorry if you already coverred it; I read the above rather rapidly).

My specific interests are with evergreen species of Feijoa, Rhaphiolepis, Camellia, Euonymus, Pieris, Photinia, Fatsia, Viburnum, Acacia, Eucalyptus, among some others.

Fascinating subject. Thanks for the inputs, and the time is takes to write this.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 14, 08 at 20:06

Generally speaking, the more natural genetic vigor a plant has, the better it tolerates root-pruning, but then comes along a plant like bougies that ARE vigorous but don't tolerateroot work well. That they (evergreens) do or don't tolerate it well, doesn't negate their need for root maintenance though, so I'll describe the safe way to root-prune the evergreens.

The first time you do root work on your plant, and after depotting, remove the bottom 1/4 - 1/3 of the root mass with a pruning saw. You aren't going to bare root the evergreens, unless you know they tolerate it well. Instead, remove the soil from 3 pie-shaped sections from the remaining roots. These sections should be conservative in size the first time you undertake the pruning (until you're able to gage tolerance) and should only remove about 1/3 - 1/2 of the remaining roots. Concentrate on removing the larger roots in the wedges and leaving the smaller roots. Buttress roots remain. Add soil to the bottom of the new container so the tree will sit at an appropriate height and fill the wedges with soil. Use a wooden chopstick to settle the soil firmly around the roots & water well.

Firmly securing the plant to the container to prevent movement of the plant in relationship to the container will fractionalize reestablishment time by preventing wind breakage of fine rootage.

The next time you work on the roots, concentrate on cutting wedges from the oldest part of the soil/root mass, away from your most recent efforts. In this way, you can replace the old rootage & soil in 2 or 3 sessions over several years while keeping your tree root-healthy. The equivalent work on the above ground parts of shrubs/bushes would be called cyclic rejuvenation pruning, which is basically removing 1/3 of the stems (trunks) of a multi-trunked shrub/bush each year and concentrating on the most vigorous (removing the largest). This type of pruning completely rejuvenates the shrub over 3 years & insures the wood remains young and vigorous.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers - Followup

Thanks, Al.

It might be useful to some people (me!!!) to have folks indicate the species that they have successfully/unsuccessfully root pruned. That could serve as a guide for the rest of us.

I'll start it off. I bought a large Rhaphiolepis 'Majestic Beauty' (an evergreen, a large Raphi hyrbid, can grow to small tree size) from a nursery. They were on sale because they were horribly pot bound.

This winter, I depotted, barerooted the best I could, cut a bunch of large circling roots, and kept only those roots that radiated nicely from the base. Repotted in fresh soil, in a larger container.

As of today, the plant is putting on a nice show of flowers. No new foliage yet. We'll see.


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RE: Trees in Containers

I would like to know what size pots these trees could be planted in? Are the pots small enough to be moved around or are they the HUGE pots that need a forklift to move. I was kinda wondering about fruit trees or maybe redbuds or something.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Wyndell, I know this isn't exactly the answer to your question, but the container has to be large enough to accomodate enough roots to nourish the top of the tree. If not enough roots to keep the top healthy, you need a bigger container, or less foliage. Take a look at those little bonsai pots and small trees.

My largest containers are metal and plastic container a bit larger than 1/2 whiskey barrels; they once contained a molasses-based livestock supplement.

In some of these containers right now I have 8'+ plum, 8'+ Liquidambar, 5'+ Magnolia soulangeana, and some others. All are well. These containers can be lifted onto a cart by 2-3 strong people (if not freshly watered!), or easily dollied.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thank you redneck. So a whiskey barrel size is plenty for most trees? I wasn't sure if I should envision a horse watering container or a container more closely to the size of big pots. I have no idea how big a root structure is actually left or needed so didn't know what size to imagine.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Maybe Al can shed a little more light on how big pots should be for some plants. I have only been containerizing trees for a couple of years now, so my experience is limited. All I can say at this point that the trees I mentioned above are all vigorous and healthy at this point, and still growing. I'm sure I'll reach a point where I'll need to scale the tree down.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Redneck, I ran across some good articles last year when I was researching this very subject. Alas, I can't find them now.

However, if memory serves me correctly I think one common rule of thumb is a 2:1 ratio of canopy to roots.
For every 2 units volume of canopy area, allow for one unit volume of root space.

In other words, if you have a small tree with an approximate canopy area of 4 cubic feet, then you would allow for 2 cubic feet of root volume, or approximately a 15 gallon container.

Hopefully someone else can confirm that as I'm working off old memory.

I'll take a detailed look later and see if I can find those articles again.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 15, 08 at 20:30

How large a container needs to be, or CAN be, depends on the 3-way relationship between plant mass, container size, and soil type. We often concern ourselves with "over-potting" (using a container that is too large), but "over-potting" is a term that arises from a lack of basic knowledge about the 3-way relationship noted, which should logically determine appropriate container size(s).

It's often parroted that you should only move up one size in containers when "potting-up". The reasoning is the soil will remain wet too long and cause root rot issues, but it is the size/mass of the material and soil type/composition that determines both the upper & lower limits of appropriate container size - not consecutive volume progression.

Plants grown in slow soils need to be grown in containers with smaller soil volumes so that the plant can use water quickly, allowing air to return to the soil. This (smaller soil volumes) and the root constriction that accompanies it will cause plants to both extend branches and gain o/a mass much more slowly - a bane if rapid growth is the goal - a boon if growth restriction and a compact plant are what you have you sights set on.

Conversely, rampant growth can be had by growing in very large containers and in very fast soils where frequent watering and fertilizing is required - so it's not that trees rebel at being potted into very large containers per se, but rather, they rebel at being potted into very large containers with a soil that is too slow and water-retentive.

We know that there is an inverse relationship between soil particle size and the height of the PWT in containers. As particle size increases, the height of the PWT decreases, until at about a particle size of just under 1/8 inch, soils will no longer hold perched water. If there is no perched water, the soil is ALWAYS well aerated, even when the soil is at container capacity (saturated).

So, if you aim for a soil (like the gritty mix) composed primarily of particles >1/16", there is no upper limit to container size. The lower size limit will be determined by the soil volume's ability to furnish water enough to sustain the plant between irrigations. Bearing heavily on this ability is the ratio of fine roots to coarse roots. It takes a minimum amount of fine rootage to support the canopy under high water demand. If the container is full of large roots, there may not be room for a sufficient volume of the fine roots that do all the water/nutrient delivery work and the coarse roots, too. You can grow a very large plant in a very small container if the root have been well managed and the lion's share of the rootage is fine.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al's last post provides a lot of very valuable information in a small space. His last sentence bears repeating, and remembering, and PRACTICING:

"You can grow a very large plant in a very small container if the roots have been well managed and the lion's share of the rootage is fine."


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RE: Trees in Containers

Please let me know if the questions I asked are off track. If you do a tree in a pot, can you still leave it outside in the winter or does it need to be small enough to bring in. It just seems to me the roots would freeze easier in a pot than the ground. I would like to do bonsai but I have no place for it to get light inside. A tree would be fun if its like a bigger bonsai. Besides, I'm having a blast with everything I have been learning. I am also assuming those lime and orange trees that the box stores sell would qualify as a tree. I bought one last year and I killed it. Would like to be more successful this year.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Wyndell, I do one of 2 things with my containerized plants to protect the roots from summer heat, and winter cold (realize that all my containerized plants are in non-decorative, nursery type pots):

1) I have a few areas in the garden where I arrange a large number of containers in a decorative pattern (large pots and plants to the rear, progressively smaller pots and plants up front, like a border). I leave a little space between the pots. Then I fill the entire arrangement with wood chips I get for FREE by the dumptruck load from a landscaper friend. I fill with wood chips all the way to the top of the pots. This provides an insulating layer in both summer and winter.

2) I put the plastic containers in larger decorative containers, trying to have at least 2 inches around the sides. I then fill the sides with wood chips or soil to the top of the smaller pot. This probably provides a lesser degree of protection than in (1) above, but these decorative pots are usually closer to the house and some protection in summer and winter.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Wyndell, I re-read your last post, and you mentioned that you have no room to get light inside to grow bonsai; be aware that traditional bonsai trees are very often/most often OUTDOOR plants, not intended to be inside for long periods. Examples: Japanese and other maples, crabapple, some oaks, Ligustrum, etc. etc.

Also, I too like the bonsai style, but have no desire for very small plants. So, I am training my container trees in the bonsai style, but in LARGER sizes than traditional bonsai (there's a term for this LARGE bonsai, but it escapes me at this moment). By saying I am "training in the bonsai style", I am concentrating on good surface root appearance (nebari), bonsai-like limb placement, thick trunks with interesting taper. But, since I am growing large trees, I am NOT particularly interested in leaf-size reduction or reduction in internodal length.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks redneck, I hadn't thought of putting the container inside another container. I guess I am still one of those who thinks the pot should be huge, lol. I know when I get them they come in a "dinky" little plastic pot. I guess I skipped a few pot sizes in potting up :). Now I'm looking forward to trying my hand at it once again. I do also assume the gritty mix to be used is the 1/3 bark, 1/3 turface, 1/3 granite (or possibly just 2/3 turface if I cant find granite).

I also didn't realize that many bonsai went outdoors. Not sure why I assumed they sat around on the living room table. My wife said I should take a bonsai class if I was interested and I am considering that.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Very informative and fun post. I have recently bought a 5'-ish tall satsuma mandarin standard (i.e. not a dwarf) that I put on my patio in terra cotta pot. I have other citrus (dwarfs) in pots... and my plan for this one was to have varying shapes and heights in my pot landscape, and I also have an enormous concrete patio that runs the length of my ranch home and it can accommodate a bigger tree in that space.

I bought it as a 7# pot (which was like, say, 14" round.) I immediately potted up to a 20" pot, which is a big jump, but I am using Al's well draining potting mix so I'm comfortable with that step.

AND, since it's not a dwarf, I have heard that standard trees are more apt to root around and colonize the pot faster than they would with a dward... so again, it seemed logical to make that jump up in size.

In terms of overall height, it's already had its central leader (is that the right term) the main trunk pruned at about eye level and it's been pruned into a lovely round-ish ball. I was told---AL, is this true---that this kind of pruning won't grow any taller from the main trunk... just the branches shooting off from the trunk, which I can keep pruned to my desired height.

I also picked this variety, Owari Satsuma, because I like the fruit A LOT, and because I was told it's a fairly slow grower. I have seen some photos of citrus standards in pots getting 7-10' tall and narrow as bean poles. I wouldn't want that... and am hoping that's not what I bought. LOL

Anyhoo, I suppose in a couple years, I'm going to have to learn how to root prune. LOL Baby steps. First I have to figure out how to keep this thing alive....

I love GW for the great people and the sharing of really useful, fun-to-know information.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 16, 08 at 17:30

In terms of overall height, it's already had its central leader (is that the right term) the main trunk pruned at about eye level and it's been pruned into a lovely round-ish ball. I was told---AL, is this true---that this kind of pruning won't grow any taller from the main trunk... just the branches shooting off from the trunk, which I can keep pruned to my desired height.

Yes - central or main leader are appropriate terms.

Any branch/stem/leader that is terminated is permanently terminated - it will never grow longer. What WILL happen, is the termination (removal of the apical meristem at the branch tip) will markedly slow the flow of auxin down the stem to the roots. Auxin is the growth regulator (hormone) that suppresses secondary growth behind the apex of the branch, so when it's reduced, cytokinin (auxin's balancing counterpart) will stimulate this secondary growth. Multiple branches will then arise behind the pruning cut to compete for dominance, so you'll likely eventually have multiple competing leaders unless you continue to remove apices (tips).

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Auxin, and cytokinin, and apexs... oh my!

Looks like I'm going to need to check out some good books on pruning.


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RE: Trees in Containers

What about the mix for PLANTING OUT? I'm not talking about bonsai trees but growing trees till they reach desired size and planting them in the ground? I have been reading Dr Carl Whitcomb's work on developing superior root system (oak's tap root problem led me to his research) and he has several mix for his rootmaker container - 50/25/25 of fine pine bark, peat and perlite or 2 parts, 1 part and one part. I've been looking at trees at nurseries or big box stores and they all seem to share that kind of mix. It would seem they do fine in that mix if the purpose is to plant them out in the ground, not long term bonsai stuff.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 17, 08 at 16:48

You're the second person in as many days who referenced the Whitcomb, Plant Production II text (which I do own). Those mixes are fine if you want to use them - nothing stopping you. I tried them early on as well, but find the more highly aerated mixes easier, more productive, and able to produce a more vital plant. Also, I think the topic discussion is more directly aimed at maintaining plants in containers for extended stays.

Remember - I came here many years ago suggesting a bark:peat:perlite mix not unlike the one you refer to. Originally, there was much skepticism, until people started using it. You have only to look at the hundreds of positive reports of results and thank-yous to see that it works, and works very well.

That mix (the one you refer to) is designed to use on product that goes to market quickly, to minimum expense, & to try to extend the intervals between watering while maintaining acceptable aeration (it's about money). The equal parts mix I suggest has proven itself extremely easy to grow in, extremely durable, and able to produce very robust plants. It's up to you to decide if it's worth a little extra watering and the added expense of what Turface and granite (or their counterparts) cost for what the soil offers (it's more about the vitality of the plant and durability).

If my experience showed that the mix you referred to was better from the plant's perspective, I'd be suggesting that. I say over and over again that the good of the plant and grower convenience are very often mutually exclusive. Inexpensive soils and those that might extend intervals between waterings are not necessarily things that speak to a more vital plant, but more to the convenience or perhaps frugality of the grower.

If I was making a decision of whether to use a mix like the 5:1:1 mix or the 1:1:1 Turface:granite:bark mix, I think I would let length of intended time in the container be my guide. If the plant was to be grown on in a container for 2 years or less, I'd use the 5:1:1 mix. 2 years or more, or continually maintained in a container, I would use the 1:1:1 soil.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

RedNeck! Let us know how your trees turn out. I'm very interested in this style of containerized trees.

I've always been fascinated with bonsai, but I think I lack certain qualities that ensure success on such a small scale. I'm very interested to know your results on a larger scale.


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RE: Trees in Containers

OK, zeckron, I'll let you know how it goes. I have no finished plants to share at the moment, because they are still works in progress, and I've only been working on them for a couple of years. I think my thickest trunk at the moment is about 4". Just about ready for a "trunk chop" for some taper and movement.

Give me about 10-15 years, and I should have some just about ready! ;o)


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RE: Trees in Containers

"I think my thickest trunk at the moment is about 4"

Well you're a lot further along than I. Good luck with your trunk chop. I have yet to get to that point. Despite all the good info I've read on the subject, such a drastic measure still seems scary to me.

Now that I think about it... I've seen hundreds of trees decimated over the years by our ice storms and they've all just about survived. The tree's behavior afterwards (i.e. activating dormant buds, multiple leaders, rampant growth on secondary and new branches, etc) is in line with everything I've read on the bonsai subject. Gosh those bonsaists are smart!

Guess I shouldn't be so scared after all...

Anyway, I look forward to seeing your progress in the future. Even if it is 10-15yrs down the road :)

-Brandon


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, May 10, 08 at 11:08

Kristi - In another thread you asked . . . . how much of the root ball to loosen when potting up and out of the black nursery pots into Al's soil. I made the mistake of not removing enough of the old soil, so in a couple of my citrus pots now I have 2 distinct soils... a wet sponge in the middle, and a fast moving bark mixture on the outer circle?

I think the question/reply is most appropriate on this thread, so I'll post it here as well.

There is really no clear answer to this question when asked in general terms. How much soil you can/should remove during a repotting operation depends on a number of things.
A) The plant material we're talking about
B) How well it tolerates root manipulations
C) Timing - where the plant is in its growth cycle - time of year
D) What kind of soil you're potting in - contrast in soil interface
E) Current condition (how-tight) of rootage

Generally speaking, and for most perennials (trees are perennials, btw), I prefer to bare-root and repot deciduous plants just before bud movement in spring. For evergreens, I like to bare-root or remove the appropriate volume of soil in 'wedges' before the spring growth push. For conifers (except pines), I prefer to repot just as dormant deciduous trees in the landscape are leafing out & danger of soil freezing is nil. I repot pines in early to mid July.

If you describe the condition you found the roots of your citrus trees in (mainly soil type & how root-bound they were) I'll tell you what I would have done as I potted them.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by bjs496 9/Houston 7/NJ (My Page) on
    Sat, May 10, 08 at 21:48

Al,

I'm sure I've asked before, but my memory (and the search function) are failing me lately.

Regarding the timing of root work, I have heard it said many times in Houston the best time to plant a tree is in fall. I applied this theory to my repotting this past year. I repotted about 120 fig and pomegranate trees this past year between late November and mid February. The trees leafed out over a three week period of time.

What amazed me was how much more securely the trees which were repotted early were anchored in the growing mix than the last bunch. Even those which were repotted only two weeks ahead of the last group had a much more firm grip. Even now (almost three months later) the last bunch are not as securely anchored as I would have expected.

I remember reading somewhere that root growth and dormancy are not related. If the root zone is warm enough, the tree will grow roots... regardless of what is happening with top of the tree. Is there any disadvantage to doing root work in late fall in areas where trees have little down time?

Thanks,
~james


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RE: Trees in Containers

al is the bomb on this subject.heed his wisdom.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, May 18, 08 at 14:09

James knows his business. ;o) He has lots of trees, lives in a very mild climate & is working with genetically vigorous material. I feel that if there is any chance that root temperatures will drop below freezing, and in material less vigorous than Moracea and Punicaceae, it is better to wait until spring to repot. I think I mentioned the freezing point in the post immediately above his.

Nice to see you, James. ;o) Thanks for the kind words, HDLB. ;o)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

I have a question about citrus root pruning. I repotted a 3 gal nursery specimen, and while removing the soil, I found that there was 1 really thick tap root that was as deep as the main trunk was high above ground. In fact, it looked like the tree had been intentionally planted at half it's original height, with the thickest portion at the bottom of the tap and decreasing steadily to the top of the bush. Maybe that's how a citrus is supposed to look below ground, but I've never seen it before. The finer roots were in 2 groups at just below soil level and at the end of the tap. I was surprised so see nothing coming off from in between (about 6 inches, and this also made me think it was deep planted). Being my first repot, I didn't feel comfortable chopping off the tap and loosing half the root mass, so just repotted the whole thing. Assuming it makes it to the next repot, should I chop off that thick root?


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 3, 08 at 20:44

You might be able to remove either set of roots now, but w/o seeing the condition of the trunk between the sets of roots - I can't say. The longer the tree is planted deep, the greater the likelihood of problems if you remove the top roots. It's common for the lower roots to die in cases like this as bark and cambial tissues between the two sets of roots rot, which halts nutrient flow from the canopy to the lower roots. The same thing can occur when you plant a tree too deep, except the rot occurs above all the roots, leaving the plant no chance for survival.

The upper roots on your tree are essentially a ground layer resulting from the deep potting when the tree was bumped up. If you wait until the next repot, after the upper roots have increased in mass, you should probably plan on removing the lower section of trunk below the top roots and repotting the plant at the appropriate depth.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks Al. I will plan for bottom removal the next time. I didn't realize that deep potting was a common practice. The subterranean trunk was in excellent condition with no signs of rotting and the lower root mass appeared healthy and about 80% the size of the upper mass. Also, the upper mass came off a single point on the trunk and filled half the original root ball, so it was surprising to see that as well. Is there a way to encourage roots to form on the other side, or is there any negative (aside from aesthetics) to planting the tree off-center in the pot?

BTW, thanks for your activity on this site to promote "improved" container media. I hope it will work out for me as well as I imagine it will.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 4, 08 at 14:54

Is there a way to encourage roots to form on the other side, or is there any negative (aside from aesthetics) to planting the tree off-center in the pot?

It's an aesthetic thing ...

If you want to encourage roots to form more evenly, expose the cambial layer where you want roots to form by wounding the trunk and dust the wound with an auxin compound (rooting hormone). Let me know the trunk diameter & I'll tell you the size & shape of the wound, if you like. If you're REALLY intent on a balanced buttress, you can start cuttings (if you know the rootstock) and root-graft new roots to the trunk wherever you want them. It's a common practice in bonsai, used to fix the problem you describe. Let me know if you want instructions - though somehow I doubt you wish to go that far. ;o)

Thank you for the thank yous and kind words, too! ;o)

Al


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RE: fresh grafted seedlings in in Containers

hi al; i appreciate you starting this forum as i have seedlings that i have purchased & they have just taken hold in the last month or so & there is 1to3 in. growth on the scions.they are planted in the3inby6in. deep grafting pots. these plants were propagated in oregon and shipped to iowa.i just received them today.the growers recommended that i transplant to one gallon pots for a year.these plants are spruces,firs and a couple of pines,32 altogether.it has turned hot so they will have to gently be hardened off i don't mind watering often.i thought one your recipes would work well.timing is everything and these seedlings are in a peat based soil mix and am not sure how to handle the roots when i do transplant.does this sound like a good idea and do you have a particular soil recipe for this application? the understock tops are cut off and the rubber bands are on but wearing thin.eventually i would like to pot in pot growing system. thanks for all of your educational contributions on soilless container potting. sincerely tim


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 8, 08 at 16:43

pleasedousthekindnessoftakinganextrasecondtoputthespaceswheretheygoandaddingcapitalization? Your post is very difficult to read & time consuming.

What is your plan for these trees? How long will you keep them? Are you going to sell them? Are you going to be potting-up another time (or several times) before they're finished with their stays in containers?

Al


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Hi Al; Not much of a typist, Will try to do a better job. I probably will keep these seedlings for my own enjoyment in a dwarf conifer garden that i am starting in a area of my property.These seedlings are grafted liners such as abies koreanis (aurea) and pinus virginiana (wates golden).It was recommended by the people that i bought these from to repot into one gallon containers. Hopefully after another year of being in the gallon pots ,they will be established enough to make it on their own, planted in the garden . Watering often would not be a problem.I liked your basic mix of perlite, peat,and pinebark, but i am not sure what micronutrients you recommended for conifers. I hope you can read this better. thankyou tim


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 15, 08 at 8:46

Ahhh - you like the yellow/contrasting new growth, hmm? ;o) No Chamaecyparis? There are soo many nice dwarf varieties with contrasting new growth and/or variegation. Check Iseli Nursery's material (Oregon). I order from them every year (20 - 4" plants minimum. About $100 by the time you're done, but WELL worth it. Their plants are BEAUTIFUL! They ship via FedEx, too. Wholesale only, but if you ck with a nursery near you, they'll probably order for you. You need to order by Oct or Nov for spring delivery.

OK - you're only going to grow them on in 1 gals for a year, so the bark/peat/perlite mix will work very well. Your fertilizer (30-10-10, 24-8-16?) may not include Ca or Mg, so make sure you supply it by liming. All plants use the same micronutrients - just a slightly varying amount of each. If you can find it, I would use Micromax as a micronutrient source. STEM would be an alternate (no Ca or Mg in STEM), and readily available is Earthjuice MicroBlast. Good luck.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks a lot Al. I'm one of those people that are hooked on dwarf conifers.I probably have thirty to forty dwarfs from blue to golden to off greens to just plain green.I had never purchased seedlings just taking hold from a Dec. or Jan. graft. I lurk a lot,reading what you and other contributors have to say.Its interesting and makes sense to use the bark mix. I appreciate your information and am going to use it. thanks again Tim


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RE: Trees in Containers

You people are awesome! This is just what I need! A couple of questions if I may, please feel free to recommend other posts if you have already addressed these. I just discovered this thread and am fascinated, especially by redneck and his large bonsai, and hoots1 with his dwarf conifers. I will be watching this thread religiously, so keep up the fabulous work!

Questions: Can you refer me to a post about the potting mix? Also, forgive me, but what is turface and fir bark and where do you get it? Also, what does PWT mean?

Thanks!


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 26, 08 at 16:53

Just use the search function on this forum using the words "gritty mix" (and use the quote marks) and you'll come up with lots of information.

PWT = perched water table. Read the link at the end for a thorough explanation of how water behaves in containers.

Turface is a brand name for calcined (high-fired) clay pellets. It is an excellent soil ingredient. There are other components available to you in CA that will also work well, but you should be able to find either Turface or another physically similar product called 'Play Ball'.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention V


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RE: Trees in Containers

Wow! I feel like I just stepped into the Matrix and uploaded a wealth of information! What a rush! LOL
Thank you Al, and everyone else here for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. I feel blessed for finding this thread.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Yes indeed, I know the feeling! Al really has provided this and other forums with loads of useful information. I've used his soil and watering advice and have better pine, spruce and fir trees to show for it.

Next year I intend to begin with that FoliagePro 9-3-6 fertilizer and see what happens.

Thanks again for the great info Al!

Dave


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 7, 08 at 7:54

You guys are very kind - thank you. My biggest kick is in holding the idea that I might, in some way, be helping to increase the satisfaction of someone's growing experience and/or providing info that makes easier their (plant) husbandry.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thought you'd be interested in it...

This is shantung maple (Acer truncatum) after 3 months in the 18 cell tray Rootmaker. I think it is around 14 inches tall now and a local commercial shantung maple grower told me that his typically grows anywhere from 6-12 inches in the first year with the traditional pots.

I will post pictures of one gallon root system in the fall...


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RE: Trees in Containers

Lou, the roots on your maple look great. Those are very healthy roots for such a young tree. Looks like the combination of your care and the Rootmakers are doing a fine job! Please keep us posted.

Thanks

Dave


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RE: Trees in Containers

Tapla, I'd like to thank you formally for sharing your wealth of knowledge that has helped me become a successful (so far that is) container gardener. Currently I have a lychee, nectarine, atis, guava, lemon, lime, satsuma, kumquat, pears, avocado, and a peach tree all thriving in containers with your gritty mix. Without your information I'd probably given up with the first plant! My sincerest thank you!

I begun root pruning the trees 5 months ago and just finished with a ponderosa lemon today. The process you describe for root pruning proved to be very laborious given the hard soil some of the plants came in. When I first started root pruning, it was difficult to rid the old rock hard soil on my 3 YO lychee, and in the process I destroyed a lot of fine roots( I admit I was over zealous). The plant was severely shocked, and I thought it was doomed, but after a month in the shade it came back and now has more vigor than ever.

What I ended up doing for the remaining trees was hosing all the soil out using a medium strength nozzle speed to dislodge the old soil, which kept intact the fine root system. This method was particularly effective for the citrus plants as I can basically remove all of the soil at once instead of a 1/3 wedge at a time (you can call me lazy). My biggest mistake was not removing the fruits from the lime tree which stunted it compared with the other citrus.

Do you have any opinions on this water hosing method for the initial clearing stage of root-pruning?


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Sep 25, 08 at 17:06

It was really nice of you to take the time to let us know your plantings are doing well. ;o) I appreciate the kindness, too.

Initially, root pruning can be extremely laborious, yes. I've seen nursery trees with soil nearly as hard as concrete - much harder than the roots. Take heart though, in the thought that after the initial bare-rooting process and moving the trees to the gritty soil you're using, subsequent root work will be a breeze. I hope the difficulty you described is good incentive for readers to get their trees out of the peat soils and into a soil that will make root work easier and not such a challenge.

Regarding the idea of using water under pressure to remove old soil. It's a good idea. I use it all the time. I have 3 Dramm 'Fogg-it' nozzles in 2,1,and 1/2 gpm (gallons per minute) sizes that I use in conjunction with an in-line shut-off to control flow. These, in combination with a curved root pic I've made, do a great job of removing stubborn soil w/minimal root damage.

I'm very glad to see that some of the readers are adopting the same kinds of rootwork practices that help keep bonsai trees growing with good vitality for lifetimes. I wish you much success, WF.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al,

Thank you for all that you've written on these forums, I'm ready to buy your book when it's finished. I've been using variations of your potting mix for all my containerized plants (especially J.maples)-potting mix, pine fines, perlite, permatill or clay potting pebbles.

My favorite plant added this fall is a cryptomeria 'spiraliter falcata', in a 6 gallon pot-it's been at the nursery 5-6 years & I don't know if it's ever been repotted. There are 2 trunks, 1.5" caliper, & it's 4' high, w/ lots of new growth at the top. It does have some brown tips, which I think are due to inconsistent watering.
I want to plant it in a large Asian ceramic pot, 24" diameter at the top, 25.5" high (diameter is 12" at base, gradually widening to a vase). Because this is a large pot, I was going to upend a 5 gal. container at the bottom, fill around it w/ pine nuggets, then use potting mix-would it be better to fill it completely w/ potting mix?


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 29, 08 at 20:52

... an interesting plant selection - you were drawn to the unusual contortion, no doubt. ;o)

Your pot will hold 27-31 gallons (depending on whether you measure in dry or liquid measure), so you'll need to either fill the container with a fast soil, or take steps to reduce the soil volume to prevent the constant saturation that rots roots. I would opt for a container full of fast soil, but you may have other considerations, like weight or expense. In either case, I would still employ a wick to help drain excess water. I'm not quite clear on what you were describing, but I THINK you were going to use the bucket to house the plant and the large container as a cache pot? I'm not sure how you would accommodate the root mass w/o some major pruning if you placed the bucket open end down in the larger pot.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

I have 2 more of these large pots that I use as cachepots for container plantings, but for this one, I have a narrow 5 gal. container w/ 6 lg. drainage holes that will fit in the bottom, which also has drainage holes (I drilled these myself, w/ a masonry bit,it was tough!)I figured the pine bark nuggets would be fast-draining & break down slowly (& help w/ the weight). The planting volume at the top of the overturned pot is 19" diameter, w the outside 5.5" being the bark nuggets, & 12" deep-that's larger than the container it's currently in. Would 1 wick be sufficient?


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 30, 08 at 16:46

There is no advantage to more than one wick, or to more than 1 properly located drain hole. The plant doesn't care if it takes 1 minute or 10 to drain the excess water from the container, and extra drain holes or wicks have no effect on either the end height of the PWT or the o/a volume of water retained - in the end they will be the same whether 1 or 10, drain holes or wicks.

Al


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Thanks, Al, I typed out my reply this morning, then forgot to post 'til after work. I work at a garden center & I've spent the last week 'potting up' 1 gal. shrubs to 3 gal. We use 1/2 topsoil (sometimes potting mix), 1/2 pine fines to repot most things. Some plants were really root bound (we got them in the spring) & some were a little soggy at the bottom-all of them looked happy to be in larger containers! Of course, I came home w/ a few to plant out, 2 heptacodiums, a viburnam 'Fireworks', & a variegated hibiscus syriacus, that I'm going to try & train as a standard, wish me luck...


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RE: Trees in Containers

I think I found the mix that I like the most...

3 part screened pine bark fines
1 part expanded shale
1 part peat moss.
Dynamite 18-6-8. I would have liked to get Osmocote 18-6-12 or 17-7-12 or others but they only sell to commercial growers. Frustrating...
No lime. I get enough of that from tap water anyway as we sit on top of limestone bedrock...

It gets very hot here in Texas and the mix consisting 5 part pine bark fines, etc seemed to dry out too fast before I could even water them again. I can't even go 2 days without the plants wilting which can be a problem if I go out of town. I've also stopped using Turface as I've found it to be wasteful after screening away half of bags because they were too small. I don't have to do that with expanded shale plus it help add weight to the container so they don't get blown down as it happens a lot.


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by root pruning, is max height and width(m0

of tree determined or vice versa?

In other words, once I have root -pruned, do I need to worry about pruning the actual tree?or, Do I decrease need for more roots by pruning the tree?

Also I need a "guide"(with pictures) of all the different types of roots you all mention: buttress roots,perennial roots,fine rootage,etc. Where can I find this?

I have a 6'tall sweetgum I want to keep in a container and also some evergreens: cassia bicuspularis and a Hibiscus tiliaceus var tricolor. I want them to provide shade of our patio more than anything.

thanks! teeka


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 12, 08 at 13:20

"In other words, once I have root-pruned, do I need to worry about pruning the actual tree? ... or do I decrease need for more roots by pruning the tree?"

Good question ... and there are many considerations to take into account that make it kind of difficult to give a 'one size fits all' answer. You DO decrease the volume of roots necessary to support the canopy when you prune the canopy, but roots are (energy) storage organs & will give up stored photosynthate (sugars and starches - basically their store of energy) to help the tree produce more leaves after you prune. If there is not enough energy returning from the canopy to support the roots after they have given up their store, the tree sheds them. You can see a similar example of the tree drawing energy and nutrients from its parts before it sheds them in the way leaves change color and abscise (fall off) when there are macronutrient deficiencies and to a large degree when deciduous trees shed leaves in Autumn.

Timing also plays a large part in whether a tree grows compact or exhibits lots of extension and increase in o/a mass. Trees pruned in early spring (before bud-break) will be affected only fractionally in biomass increase when compared to trees pruned in early summer after they have spent the energy they have kept stored over winter to produce the foliage you remove.

The tree will always try to balance the ratio of roots to foliage. If you prune the canopy hard, the roots will give up their store of energy and then die back to whatever volume is required to support the canopy. If you prune roots hard in spring, the tree is likely to activate only the buds roots can support. If you prune the roots to the degree they cannot support the canopy at any other time, the tree will likely shed leaves & branches until the ratio of canopy:roots is again in balance. That is why we 'baby' certain root pruned trees by siting them in shade and taking steps to minimize transpirational loss after the operation.

There are other factors that come into play, but those are some of the most basic considerations that would affect your decisions.

"Also I need a "guide"(with pictures) of all the different types of roots you all mention: buttress roots, perennial roots, fine rootage, etc. Where can I find this?"

You can search root biology, root metabolism, or root physiology online & come up with lots of information. Some of Dr. Alex Shigo's works would have all the info you need, but they are expensive and might be a little difficult to understand if you lack a good basic understanding of plant physiology. Growth control in Woody Plants and Physiology of Woody Plants by Kozlowski/Pallardy are, again, both great texts, but are expensive and tough sledding for most hobby growers. If you're serious about learning, you can find LOTS of good info on the net, and get many of your specific questions answered here.

Buttress roots are the very large roots attached to the tree where it flares out as it enters the ground. Perennial roots is a term that describes roots that survive from year to year - roots that the conditions of winter do not kill. I often use that term to illustrate there are degrees of hardiness in roots and generally, the more woody the roots are, the more hardy for that tree. Fine rootage is the smallest of the roots - they are the little hair roots largely responsible for uptake of nutrients and water. They are in constant flux - dying when conditions are unfavorable & regenerating when they return to favorable again, making it advantageous for us to learn what conditions are favorable & how to keep them that way. ;o)

"I have a 6'tall sweetgum I want to keep in a container and also some evergreens: cassia bicuspularis and a Hibiscus tiliaceus var tricolor. I want them to provide shade of our patio more than anything."

There should be no problem keeping them in containers. I would suggest you use white pots, or utilize a cache pot so you can keep the roots cooler in summer to minimize heat stress, though. Another important consideration: When the trees get tall enough to provide the shade you seek, they will be very susceptible to being toppled by the wind, so it would be a good idea to address that issue in your thinking as your plan progresses.

Good luck, Teeka. ;o)

Al


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thankyou , Al(m)

Thanks for all your wonderful advice and encouragement!

teeka


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 16, 08 at 9:29

You're welcome - I'm especially glad you found encouragement. ;o)

A musing for all, but especially a dear friend who shares a common reverence for a much favored author of The Little Prince", Antoine de Saint-Exupery - from his work The Wisdom of the Sands:

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.

Al


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what do you think of Jungle Growth (m)

in general, and the professional mix specifically?

It seems to be alot lighter than the other stuff I've tried and I don't have the place here to pick up pine bark fines and get all that ratio thing done properly.

It's pretty expensive,too, but it it's worth it, I'll keep using it. Any other "ready-made"mixes that could be used for trees in containers ( more than two years in container)?

thanks! teeka


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RE: Trees in Containers

Check out my trees in the containers...

http://picasaweb.google.com/louis.truett/LouSBackyardTreeFarm?authkey=oIbFmEiozzw#

FYI -

Midlothian cypress is just a name for this cypress found in my town Midlothian because noone is sure of which species of taxodium. It looks more like montezuma cypress than bald cypress but the seed size is in between them. Easily the largest cypress in town and best looking too with rich green color as it is growing in alkaline soil (limestone bedrock underneath) with no problem.

Nanjing Beauty is an hybrid between bald and montezuma cypress. They are all grown from cuttings. I recieved small cuttings and grew them in rootmaker container. Very nice looking tree.

I have around 50 shantung maple seedlings...

I have about 30 mexican white oak seedlings...

I have about a dozen of Loquat oak seedlings...

The mix varies... 3 part pine bark fines, 1 part peat moss and 1 part expanded shale seems to be nice stuff. I've quit using turface as it is a waste of money after screening half of it away.


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Wrong link!

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RE: Trees in Containers

Hello all. I've been using Al's gritty soil mix to grow some concolor firs, southwestern white pines, and other conifers outdoors in plastic containers.

I just potted up a couple of the concolor firs and I was amazed at the size and density of the root systems. The roots are thriving in a mixture of pine bark, Turface and granite. Very heavy main roots with dozens of smaller feeder roots, most with white tips. I did a small bit of root pruning before potting up the trees. The concolors are covered with buds for this year's growth.

The trees are in 1-gallon sized plastic pots with extra holes drilled in the sides for increased gas exchange.

I also noticed that the old soil mix is in excellent condition, and only the pine bark showed any signs at all of breaking down. This soil would probably be good for many years to come.

I'm very pleased with this soil mix and wish to thank Al very much for sharing the recipe for this mix. I'll never buy another bag of potting soil for sure!

Question: I plan to use Al's "weekly, weakly" fertilizing plan and was wondering when to start using the fertilizer? It's still March in Michigan with a bit more cold weather to come. Should I wait to fertilize until the buds open or should I start before then?

Thanks.

Dave


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 24, 09 at 21:22

Hey, Dave. You're welcome. (Dave & I go back a way.) ;o)

If your fertilizer's N is urea-based, it's best to wait until soil temps are reliably above 55*. If N is more than 60% in nitrate form, you can fertilize anytime, though it won't benefit the plants much when soil temps are much below 50*.

In your fast soils, 1/4 recommended strength as often as you like is OK - 1/2 strength every 1-2 weeks, or full recommended strength every 2-4 weeks.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

There sure is some great information here! Thanks to you Al and also to Dave for bringing it up again. And perfect timing too. I'll be planting a small tree in a large planter in the entrance to my container garden (about 30 gallon). When I bring the tree home from the nursery do I prune the roots back then the first time or just later in the tree's life? Also, since the tree will be little at first would planting small things around it be harmful in taking up soil space and nutrients with their roots? And if you have any suggestions for good small trees for central Florida I would love to hear them. I grow mostly veggies but some flowers as well so an edible or ornamental would work. Its in a spot next to a brick column in the entrance to a courtyard space so you would walk next to it. Again really fascinating (and super helpful!) information. Thank you.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al,

You outline somewhere in these hepful threads your procedure for watering and later fertilizing containers. You say that you mix your fertilizer in 2 gallon watering cans and then fill smaller 2LT cans.
Does that mean that depending on the size of the tree or plant, 2lt of liquid fertilizer per container is about the 'average' amount to apply?

Thank you again for all the extremely reliable information.


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al:
Thanks for the answer to my question about fertilizer. That all makes perfect sense. I checked my MG 24-8-16 granular fert this morning and the N is mostly urea-based. Now I just need to figure how to determine when the soil temp inside the container is around 55*.

Mizadventure:
Al is far more qualified to answer your questions so I'll let him do that. The only thing I can offer is to root prune your new tree if you see a mass of circling or tangled roots or if the tree has a few dead roots. The primary goal is to have some large roots that support the tree and also a lot of small feeder roots to easily absorb moisture and nutrients. If the roots are all tangled up or if roots are circling the root ball this is not good for your tree. If that's the case you might need to do some root pruning. I'm sure Al can give you better advice.

Since my trees are destined to be planted outdoors in the yard I only root prune my small conifers if roots are damaged, circling other roots, or sticking out of the drainage holes. If you plan to leave your tree in the container for many years or are growing for bonsai then your approach to root pruning might be different.

HTH,

Dave


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 25, 09 at 9:35

Miz asks: "When I bring the tree home from the nursery do I prune the roots back then the first time or just later in the tree's life?"

Trees are often bumped to the next size container just before they're sold because plants in larger containers command more money, so they may or may not need repotting/potting-up. Trees can be potted-up any time, but repotting and it's accompanying root work should be undertaken at specific times, depending on the tree genus/species. If the roots are tight in the container and circling, they need attention. If you need more guidance, please supply more specifics. ;o)

"Also, since the tree will be little at first would planting small things around it be harmful in taking up soil space and nutrients with their roots?"

Whatever you plant will definitely compete for root space, water, and nutrients, so it will have an effect. You can minimize it by growing in a larger container, but that may require that you use an appropriate soil that drains very freely. Tight roots slow branch extension, tend to cause leaf loss at the trees interior (if severe), make for a more compact plant with smaller leaves.

I'll leave the FL residents to advise you as to appropriate tree selection, being that I'm from the frozen north. The first thing that comes to mind though is Citrus, myrtle, jasmine, ...

Kevin - Most of my containerized plants are on growing benches & some are head-high. It's easier to water with a 2 L container than a 2 gallon at that ht. ;o) I make sure the container I'm watering isn't dry, and then apply fertilizer solution to container capacity (saturate the soil). I have a wide variety of container sizes and soil volumes, so it's hard to say what's average. I probably use about 10-15 gallons of fertilizer solution to fertilize 100 plants of various sizes, so 2 L/container is much more than I use.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks Al,

Didn't consider the matter of containers being at bench height. That's a lot clearer now.

Kevin


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks a bunch! I'll go ahead and pick one out and checkout the root ball and see what's what. I appreciate the info!
Sarah


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RE: Trees in Containers

Sarah,

Over the years I've purchased quite a few conifers and deciduous trees in containers from various nurseries. I've noticed that in many cases the trees are rootbound when the container is removed. This seems to be a fairly common thing.

Last fall at a clearance sale I bought a couple of Black Hill spruce (Picea glauca var. densata) trees in black plastic continers. The trees looked quite healthy and had lots of seasonal growth. When I got home and removed the containers I found both trees had some heavy circling roots and were very rootbound. I had to remove some of the root system to avoid long-term problems. So far they appear to be doing well.

So yes you should check out the root ball and do some pruning if necessary. Al or others on this list can probably give you more specifics than I can regarding root pruning.

Thanks

Dave


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RE: Trees in Containers

Regarding being root-bound:
I followed Al's procedure for root pruning two root-bound container acers during the dormant period this year. Both seem to be well ahead of where they were on the same day last year - even though this year has been generally colder so far in this part of the world (Ireland).

March 25 08

March 25 09


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 26, 09 at 15:18

Generally, trees with unattended roots that are tight will languish and increase in mass at a much reduced rate when compared to their counterparts whose roots were properly attended to. It's not unusual to have your trees sulk a little after a thorough root-pruning, but by summer's end, those trees that were root-pruned can almost always be counted on to have caught and surpassed their unattended counterparts in biomass. Then, in the next growth cycle, the unattended tree is in even more trouble, with growth even more suppressed, while the properly tended tree is fully recovered and raring to go. ;o)

I've probably mentioned it a dozen times upthread, but root pruning (in bonsai) is the reason that trees can remain healthy in (very small) containers for hundreds of years while most of us have a great degree of difficulty coaxing a woody plant to even LIVE in a container for more than half a decade.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al,

Yesterday, I just happened to be looking for a photo in my files from last year and I spotted the one above which is part of a larger image and I was struck by how much less leaf there seemed to be on the two maples as compared to the present. I then took another quick shot from 'roughly' the same angle.

Where I am located, by the sea, we very seldom see hard frost - so I took a chance and did the root pruning very early in the dormant period rather than waiting till just before bud break. Possibly there was some root growth during that period that is helping them to leaf-out sooner.

Last year they came into leaf in April but by the end of June the leaves had started to brown and curl and by September they were extremely tired looking. I was going to replant them in the garden until I came upon one of these threads. Your point about bonsai is well taken.

Kevin


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 26, 09 at 18:07

Yes - I can tell if a containerized tree has tight roots just by glancing at it. If it's not in leaf, I look at the leaf bundle scars to see if they are growing closer together and for how long they have been. This tells me that branch extension is diminishing - a sure sign of tight roots. If the tree is in leaf, I'll also take note of where the foliage is concentrated. Trees w/tight roots tend to have foliage at the center of the tree die back, leaving foliage most concentrated at the tips of branches. Trees with room for their feet to grow will be fuller & have larger leaves than their more restricted counter-parts.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Being a complete imbecile as far as Japanese maples are concerned, I had sort of expected them to grow indefinitely in their containers without tending to the roots. The leaf browning and curling got progressively worse over several seasons which I attempted to 'cure' by more watering fertilizing etc.
When I did finally remove them from the containers, they were indeed a sorry sight of girdling roots and finer ones jammed up against the sides of the container.
I thought I might have gone a bit far with the root pruning as I had to brace them against being rocked about due to the lack of anchorage. But so far so good. It is going to be interesting to see how well they fare during the rest of the year.

Kevin


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Root Pruning Peppers

Hi tapla,
Maybe the root pruning doctrine you elaborated applies to perennial peppers.
(You previously advised me to just prune the canopy, instead of the roots, of tomatoes to get root reduction for dwarfing down in containers.)
For extending the productive life of peppers it seems root pruning & repotting anew will be ideal.
If the first pruning focuses below the basal flare then horizontal roots can develop feeder rootlets. This may mean a support stake is required, but you do suggest it will be quicker to bud once recovers from surgery.
Other allure to pruning pepper roots is the ability to extend tweaking by more variables; container volume, repotting, potting up, plant size desired, branching, canopy, future root pruning & life span.
My focus is on edible pepper yield productivity & not bonsai peppers (which are charming) .
? Am I mistaken on the suitability of root pruning peppers ?


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 26, 09 at 20:53

Acers respond very well to root work, so you can be pretty aggressive w/o a lot of worry. I bare-root them regularly and do some pretty severe root reductions to get them into small (bonsai) pots. A tip: When you root-prune/repot woody plants, securing them so they don't move in relation to the pot with wire, twine, other, can fractionalize the time it takes to reestablish in the container. Movement when the plant is unsecured keeps breaking fine rootage, which is a waste of energy & lengthens recovery time.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 26, 09 at 22:43

Gringo - I think I was typing at the same you were, and consequently missed your post.

I think root-pruning your peppers would probably work well. It should rejuvenate them.

"... but you do suggest it will be quicker to bud once recovers from surgery."

Flower/fruit cycles are largely controlled by day length & to some degree temp, but I know that a hard pruning above and below will return the plant to an ontogenetically younger state & the new growth will carry more juvenile vigor.

Funny you should mention the support stake when I mentioned it in the post subsequent to yours w/o even having read yours. It does make a very big difference. If you take a tree to a workshop conducted by a bonsai master, they normally will not even help you work on it unless the plant is secured to the pot to the nth degree. THAT is how important they think immobility of the plant in relationship to the container is.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Gringo,
I've done that very thing with a pepper, thanks to suggestions here at the Forum.
Last fall, I removed my selected pepper from the garden, hosed off the garden soil,
pruned the roots and the foliage, and re-potted in a .7 gallon container - in a gritty
mix of bark, perlite, pumice, gravel. It's been growing all winter - albeit slowly -
and it now has nice buds about to flower. I plan on containerizing several more
peppers this winter, now that I've had a taste of success.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 27, 09 at 8:43

I guess that answers that question. ;o)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by alys Zone 5/6 - MO (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 27, 09 at 11:16

I didn't want to hijack the thread, but I'd appreciate it Al, if you'd pop over and answer a question on the hibiscus forum.

Thanks!

Here is a link that might be useful: Thanks Al!


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RE: Trees in Containers

I just potted up another concolor fir growing in Al's gritty soil mix. You would not believe how large and fully deveoped the roots are! It's a 3-year old tree in a one gallon container and the roots nearly filled the container. I had to do some serious root pruning when potting up to the next larger size container.

I reused much of the original soil mix since it was still in great condition. I just added a bit of gypsum to the mix and drilled a few extra holes in the side of the container for better gas exchange.

Al, thanks so much for sharing this great soil mix!

Regards,

Dave


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 29, 09 at 13:39

Can you tell Dave's excited? ;o) Thanks, Dave. I'm glad you're pleased.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks Al!

The interesting thing is the size of the roots. In the past I've bought bare root trees, roughly the same age and size as the concolor firs I'm growing now in the gritty mix. I don't recall ever seeing any bare root seedlings with this kind of root development before. The roots on the concolor firs are double, at least, the size of the typical bare root seedling.

Just shows what happens with this great soil mix and proper watering and fertilization.

Thanks!


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RE: Trees in Containers

Going by a comparison with this week last year, my Japanese Maples continue to confirm the good advice given in this thread regarding root pruning and re-potting.

Thanks Al....


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi Al,

I purchased a Magnolia Soulangeana from a nursery this year, and planted it in my front yard. It wasn't until too late that I realized that the tree would get big and was too close to my house, and my yard (which is only around 8 feet long). The tree is currently around 5-6 ft tall.

Can I move this tree to a large container during the dormant phase? (Would fall or spring be better?) And then follow your instructions to do the root pruning? I would love to just keep the tree in the front of my house in a container.

Thanks!
Gary


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 21, 09 at 20:11

You could probably lift it now & put it in a container .... if it's been in the ground less than a month.

Alternately, lift it in Nov or Dec & do your root work/repot then.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

This is good info as i'm growing a dwarf lime tree this year. =)


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Peppers in containers

Great thread, I've thoroughly enjoyed it, also the water retention threads though I haven't read all VII of them.

Josh what type of pepper did you bring in last winter? I've read heirloom or OP are fine, but hybrids are not so good after the first year. I wonder if any one has more to say on that. I have a sweet chocolate bell that is OP and I'd like to bring in this year. The rest of my peppers are all hybrid.

Al, I have a question regarding the time to pot up/root prune. My wife got an Improved Meyer Lemon which will need to be over wintered in a sunny window. I potted up from the small 1gal container it was in to a larger terracota that should be sufficient for a year or two. She wants me to repot before it comes in to remove any bugs that moved in while sitting out side. Could I repot in the fall and then root prune in the spring?

Another out door container question, is there any point in using the tray? It's been a very rainy week and I've emptied it a few times, My garlic sat out all winter w/ out the tray. Maybe use it to bottom water and then remove it?


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RE: Trees in Containers

Here's a bump for a great Thread.

RJ, it would be much easier to respond if your e-mail were made available.
You asked, "Josh what type of pepper did you bring in last winter? I've
read heirloom or OP are fine, but hybrids are not so good after the first
year. I wonder if any one has more to say on that
."

I brought in a(n) Hungarian wax pepper. Apparently, these have been in the U.S.
since 1932 - and the Hungarians have been fiddling with them for much longer.
Incidentally, I transplanted the pepper back into the garden on Tuesday, May 5th.

You might want to contact Meyermike about the lemon, since he had similar questions
just a few months ago, I believe.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers

This is a very impressive posting! Great thread, I'm only starting it now due to busy evening with the kids, but from what I've read so far this is the information I will need.

Looks like some good morning reading over coffee.

Thanks for pointing me in this direction Al. I think this will be a big help.

I took your advice and left the maple and pine seedlings in their current plastic pots. I'll leave them there over winter and bury them in the garden soil until spring, then repot them, using the 'gritty mix' you suggested.

Won't the roots of these tiny trees freeze in the plastic pots over the winter?

Margo


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 25, 09 at 9:17

Here's a copy/paste job from one of my previous posts. It should answer your cold-hardiness questions for now. I have lots of happy maples in containers, so now you know where to come for help. ;o)

Commonly, each species of plant has a general range of cold-hardiness. Within species and cultivar, cold-hardiness is genetically determined. That is to say that a plant that is propagated from cuttings or tissue culture will have the same ability to resist cold as the parent plant. Plants cannot "develop" a greater degree of cold-hardiness by repeated or prolonged exposure to cold, even after 100 years (trees).

If we pick any plant at random, it may or may not be able to withstand freezing temperatures. The determining factor is the plants ability to prevent freezing of bound water. Bound water is the water inside of cells.

There are actually three kinds of water to consider when we discuss "freezing". The water held in soil - When this water freezes, and it can freeze the soil mass solid, it doesn't necessarily kill the plant or tissues. Then there is free or unbound water, also called inter-cellular water. This is water that is found in plant tissues, but is outside of living cells cells. This water can also freeze solid and not kill the plant. The final type of water is bound water or intra-cellular water. If temperatures drop low enough to freeze this water, the cell/tissue/plant dies. This is the freeze damage that kills plants.

Fortunately, nature has an antifreeze. Even though temperatures drop well below freezing, all plants don't die. In hardy plants, physiological changes occur as temperatures drop. The plant moves solutes (sugars, salts, starches) into cells and moves water out of cells to inter-cellular spaces in tissues. These solutes act as antifreeze, allowing water in cells to remain liquid to sometimes extremely low temperatures. The above is a description of super-cooling in plants. Some plants even take advantage of another process to withstand very low temps called intra-cellular dehydration.

The roots of your trees can stay frozen for extended periods or go through multiple freeze/thaw cycles w/o damage, so long as the temperature does not fall below that required to freeze intra-cellular water. If roots remain frozen, but temperatures remain above killing lows, dessication is the primary concern. If the tree is able to take up water, but temperatures are too low for the tree to grow and make food, stored energy becomes the critical issue. Dormant and quiescent trees are still using energy from their reserves (like a drain on a battery). If those reserves are depleted before the tree can produce photosynthesizing mass, the organism dies.

There are a number of factors that have some affect on the cold-hardiness of individual plants, some of which are length of exposure to seasonal cold, water availability (drought stressed plants are more cold tolerant), how recently planted/repotted, etc

No one can give a definitive answer that even comes close to accurately assessing the temperature at which bound water will freeze that covers the whole species. Unbound water is of little concern & will usually freeze somewhere around 28*.
Some material will be able to withstand little cold & roots could freeze/die at (actual) root temperatures as warm as 25-27*. Other plants may tolerate much colder actual root temperatures - as low as 10*. There's just no way of knowing unless you have a feeling for how cold-tolerant the genetic material the plant was derived from might be, and finding out is expensive (from the plant's perspective). ;o) Another example of this genetic variance is that trees found growing and fruiting well closer to the equator need no chill time, while other trees, derived of genetic stock from a more northerly provenance may need a period of chill to grow with optimum vitality in the subsequent growth period/cycle.

It's wise to remember that root death isn't instantaneous at one particular temperature. Roots succumb to cold over a range of chill with cultural conditions affecting the process. The finest roots will die first, and the slightly thicker and more lignified roots will follow, with the last of the roots to succumb being the more perennial and thickest roots.

Since any root death is a setback from an energy allocation perspective, and root regeneration takes valuable time, it's probably best to keep actual root temperatures in the 25-40* range as long as we can when the tree is resting, even though the organism as a whole could tolerate much lower temperatures. Even well established trees become very much like cuttings if all but the roots essential to keep the tree viable are lost to cold. Regeneration of roots is an expensive energy outlay and causes the trees to leaf out later than they normally would and shortens the natural growth period and reduces the potential increase in biomass for the next growth cycle and perhaps beyond.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al, thanks for the great information! From what you wrote I guess I don't have to worry about maples and pines in plastic containers during the winter. Sounds like I'll just leave them outdoors, bury the pots in the ground and let nature do it's thing. I'll try not to worry about them either. The pots are very small so I may have to repot or pot up in April or May.

Thanks for sharing the knowledge!

PS: Just found the Water and Container Soil thread. I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle that thread just yet!

Margo


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 25, 09 at 13:53

I'm not saying this because I wrote the thread, but you can take a giant step forward in your growing abilities the moment the light goes on and you understand how soils work. I really believe that if there is one area that is closest to 'make or break' when it comes to container gardeners it's soils. Soils are the foundation of every conventional container planting & like a building, it takes a good foundation for the planting to endure, so please, let me encourage you to gain an understanding of soils and learn how to make them.

Don't be afraid to bury your pot deep (after your tree sheds it's leaves) - a little soil against the trunk because the pot is completely buried is ok, as long as you lift it early ..... and make sure the repot (different than potting-up) gets done before buds move, so maybe in mid- late March in most zone 5 locations.

Good luck!!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al,

This is in answer to your question posted on "Container SoilsXI dated April 6, 10" about when to move my collection of containerized Japanese and other maples into the gritty mix.

For everyone else, Al said:

"I hate to say it, but maples should be repotted before they leaf out. How old are they? How far along in their spring flush? Ever been repotted (not potted up) - badly root bound? Maybe we can work something out to get you by until next spring."

My reply:

I live in Manhattan in NYC, and actually have a small backyard with sun and shade! Starting in
Spring 2004, I started buying little Japanese maples on ebay and other places and potting them into garden soil (peat, bark,perlite and sand. One or two have died over each winter when I store them in a plastic greenhouse wrapped in bubble wrap and some mulch (keeping it
away from the trunks). (I cant tell you how much I long for a garage or a basement since its a lot of work wrapping
them all!)

I have about 30 a.p. cultivars including Otomezakura, Orange Dream, Octopus, Villa Taranto all now between
two and four feet or so. I have a Katsura bonsai and a Kotohime bonsai, both of which need to be root and branch trimmed. I also have several a.b. Miyasama Kaede (the frogs foot maples), an a.ruf. Hatsuyuki
kaede, and an a.s. palmatifidium!

Last fall as they went dormant, I realized that many really needed repotting. Fortunately, I found your gritty mix threads but unfortunately I only collected the ingredients to get started when NYC weather turned from winter to August. Early last week temperatures reached 89o and now have fallen back to normal spring temps but as you can imagine every maple is bursting into leaf!

(I really dropped the ball on re-potting them for several years traveling to Virginia a lot to take of my dying mother and her property.)

I read this thread last night, and finally realized that not only do I need to use the gritty mix for my containerized maples but I also need to trim the roots and some of the branches on most of them.

My plan (I finally have one!) is to keep my maples in containers in the gritty mix in my backyard trimming roots and branches as needed. I like the bonsai look but dont want to work so hard to get branches, roots, etc. just so. Too much work for me!

I have re-potted a few since 2004 but this spring most from 2004 are only partially leafing out and I can see from the fine roots on the surface etc. that they are pot-bound.

So the jackpot question is now what do I do and when now that I am beginning to know better? I am aware that Japanese maples for bonsai are often barerooted, root and branch trimmed, and ex-foliated to reduce leaf size in
summer. Could I possibly bareroot, branch and root trim and pot into gritty mix in containers in summer? If so, when? Or maybe just root and branch trim them without disturbing the center of root balls until next February
before they bud?

Sorry for the long post and again I just want to say how grateful I am for your guidance here! I think you should consider taking and selling videos of your doing root trimming of various trees and one on the gritty mix etc. And/or doing on-line classes and/or books 

Thanks so much,
Margaret/Taruvara


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 11, 10 at 11:21

First, to thank you for the kindness in what you said, I would appreciate it if you make sure to make a note to contact me next spring so I can send you a couple of started cuttings of A. buergeranum (trident maple). I promise you will love this plant in a container. It's an absolute joy to work with and very forgiving - responds to pruning both above and below the ground very well.

Ok - now to your problem. Maples are very forgiving of root work when they are dormant, but not at all tolerant of it when they are in leaf. I have successfully collected maples from the wild and from landscapes in the summer, but it usually includes almost total defoliation and after care is very touchy. This leaves you with a very weak tree going into winter, which is not the best situation to be in.

I think your trees would tolerate it quite well if you pruned them back hard and cut the bottom 1/3 of the roots off. After that, take a razor knife and make several vertical slits in the root mass and tease some of the soil out/off around the perimeter of the root/soil mass. You can then return the plants to the same pot with some fresh soil, similar to what they are in and keep them out of sun for a couple of weeks (or longer if they are dissectums or other shade dwellers). This won't allow your plants to reach the 8-9 vigor level (on a 1-10 scale) they are capable of under ideal conditions in container culture, but it WILL temporarily allow them to grow at much closer to their potential than the opportunity would allow if you do naught until next year.

Too bad you're not close enough to bring a few trees over. We'd make short work of the repotting and I could show you how to pinch them to maintain a natural appearance.

Going off topic here for a second. I just helped a member of our bonsai club rework a very large (a 4-hands size, which means it took 2 men to carry) Thuja (Eastern white cedar/arborvitae) bonsai. We carved and made shari (deadwood) of a 6-8" trunk, and a good part of the carving was done with a chainsaw. The point being that trees are very resilient if you work around their itinerary. ;o)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Can any of you recommend a book with good illustrations focused on pruning, roots and canopy?


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 11, 10 at 21:27

There are hundreds/thousands of books that give good instructions on how to prune above ground, but none I know of, other than bonsai books, that talk about root pruning in any depth or that go as far as giving instructions.

I would suggest you settle for a book on pruning the above ground parts and search the net for tutorials on root pruning. Of course, you could always ask me. Lol. I'm just turning the corner on about 100 bonsai repots (including bare-rooting and root pruning) so far this spring, with about 20 more temperate trees to go before I start on the tropicals and subtropicals in Jun/Jul.

When you search the net, use the words bonsai root pruning and you should come up with quite a bit of good information.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al,

Thanks so much for your detailed response and offering of
cuttings next spring!

What does it mean to the maples to "prune back hard"? I
feel that I should know the answer to this but I sure don't!

Thanks again for all your help and advice,

Margaret/Taruvara


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 13, 10 at 10:21

Pruning back hard is an arbitrary term, but it generally means a systematic approach to reducing the volume of the canopy by a considerable fraction - sometimes as much as 75% or even more. It's not unusual for me to grow a maple for several years in a systematic method which includes chopping the trunk off very low to the ground several times and starting a new top. This is 'hard pruning' to the extreme and is undertaken to induce rapid taper (a very fat trunk base tapering very quickly as your eye moves to the top of the tree. This gives bonsai the illusion of great age. OK - I'm off track here. It's also not unusual, once I have a trunk with nice looking roots and taper, to cut ALL the branches off & start over building the tree with branches where they naturally occur or grafting branches where they are needed for an attractive design.

For YOU, hard pruning might mean pruning the lower branches back to 4-5 buds, and the upper branches to 1-2 buds, or removing some branches altogether. Upright maples are VERY apically dominant and it's required that you keep the top growth well in check or the vigorous branches will 'steal' all the tree's energy and the lower branches will decline & die. I never worry about the top of an upright maple. It takes no time at all to build a new top from scratch. I always concern myself with maintaining the vitality of low branches, lest they are suddenly not there to worry about.

Pruning hard is used as a tool to balance energy in various parts of the tree, and to allow you to do certain things you couldn't do w/o pruning hard. If you do extensive root work, especially out of season, the tree is likely to shed the parts it cannot support with water nutrients. By pruning back hard - YOU decide which parts will be shed and prevent the tree from "making decisions" that could have a critical impact on the appearance of the composition.

I often give talks & demos on how to balance energy & growth in your containerized trees, but it's a little more difficult trying to write it down so it makes sense and so you can visualize what I'm talking about. I hope it was clear enough?

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Al
Are there any trees that cannot be containerized or developed into bonsai? The more I read here the less stock I put into "most trees cannot be containerized".
Dan


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 20, 10 at 8:13

If I said that all trees can be containerized, I might be technically wrong, but the number of trees that really can't be containerized would be so small, if there are any, that the point wouldn't be worth any one's effort to argue. I'm pretty familiar with trees, fascinated in a way, and I don't know of any that can't be grown in containers. Even sequoias are trained in pots as bonsai.

That takes care of the 'container' part of your question, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that some trees don't lend themselves well to being trained as bonsai. Some trees have large compound leaves that don't reduce well (in size) under bonsai culture. Others have very coarse growth and long internodes. Others have genetic traits common to the species that make them unattractive as small container plants, but almost all CAN be grown in containers. All eventually require root work if their level of growth and vitality is to be maintained, btw.

Some trees are more work when containerized than others. For instance, many of my pines can go 3-5 years between repots, but the edible figs in large pots, mulberry too, have roots leaping out of every container orifice by late summer, even though they're repotted yearly.

I find growing and manipulating trees into something evocative extremely rewarding. When you stand at the front of a bonsai tree with the tree at eye level, it should speak to you with its story. It should evoke the vision of a stately tree growing proud & unencumbered in the middle of a quiet meadow, or it should perhaps tell of its struggle for life against the elements on a craggy mountainside crushed by snow for endless months, then tortured by the sand-impregnated wind that has scoured it's bark to bare wood, leaving only a thin life line to support its sparse foliage ......

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks Al!
I feel confident in trying some additional tropicals, maybe even some date palms. My wife would have a fit if she knew I have serious plans for a greenhouse.
Dan


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 20, 10 at 14:33

The secret is to pick a number and tell her that's what everything costs. "How much was that Quadrunner?" "Two hundred bucks." "How much was that bonsai pot?" "Two hundred bucks." "How much did you spend on the new gun and elk hunting trip?" "Two hundred bucks." Everything around here is 'two hundred bucks' ...... she doesn't even ask any more because it's been the same answer for at least 25 of the last 32 years. ;o) Of course, I've never been particularly frivolous or self-indulgent, so that helps. Well .... maybe a LITTLE frivolous ......... but only occasionally. ;o)

Al


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LOL~ Dan good luck with the greenhouse. ;)
And the plants you plan on trying. You should be confident! The mixes are wonderful and Al is always so good about helping us!

I love it Al~ LOL!
Plants are my only treat to myself.. and I rarely hear fuss about it..

Except the $200 strawberries.I got to pick 2 last year, so they were named the $200 strawberries... the total cost of all the ones i've killed in the past 10 years. :) lol..

But when I remind hubby that the one or two bass from a fishing trip cost about the same per pound.lol.... he doesn't say much more. ;)
When you figure the bait, gas and food for a camping trip to come home with nothing..lol..

Actually,
Thanks to your help and your mixes working so well for us, he's all gung ho this season..We got a new fig last night and pomegranite. He actually , willingly went with me to get them. :)
And were looking into a few more fruiting shrubs, which I never would have considered in the past.!

He really is impressed and pleased with how the garden is shapping up this year thanks to your mixes. :)
And so am I! :)

JJ


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 27, 10 at 11:23

Right off the bat, I have to admit I haven't read this entire thread yet. What I have read, though, is extremely interesting, and makes me quite confident of the severe root pruning I must do next spring to my small collection of containerized trees.

I'm actually surprised that the thread didn't fill up by late spring, but I'm glad to see it resurrected... containerized trees are quite interesting projects!

What would you call an attempt to maintain deciduous, woody plants in larger-than-bonsai containers, without hoping for fruit? Semi-bonsai? I dunno... I'm just typing as I think...

Anyway... I've got a few interesting "project trees"... a group of twisted Wysteria vines in a 3 gallon pot, a red Japanese Maple in a 5 gallon container, and a very young pink Knock Out rose in a huge patio pot that began as a broken piece stuck in the soil. It rooted last year, and bloomed beautifully this year!

My actual question is in regards to a banana tree I have. It's about 3 or 4 feet in height, give or take, and resides in a 3 or 4 gallon pot. I don't think it's a dwarf variety... it was sent to me by a friend in Texas. It was a tiny thing a couple of years ago, and I really didn't expect it to root and take off. I keep it outdoors from spring to fall, and it lives in a stairwell with a south facing window over winter. By the time spring rolls around, it's usually looking pretty poor... massive leaf loss over winter from lack of light and non-tropical conditions, I'm sure. The stairwell does get a little chilly.

Is there any way I can un-pot it now and give it a slight root trim without damaging it? Or should I just opt to give it better medium and wait until next spring to do any root pruning? Is there a better way to keep banana trees indoors over winter?

I can't remember if I've asked you about the banana tree before... the memory isn't what it once was. I'm pretty sure it needs help, though... it's getting big.

So far, this thread is quite interesting... I'm learning a lot! I'm also finding everyone's choices in containerized trees to be very interesting! I think we should keep a thread on trees going... there are a lot of questions on playing around with... semi-bonsai? What IS the official word for this type of growing?



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RE: Trees in Containers

Al,
A little guidance please. ;)
I went through this last night and am still not sure what to do about a few of my plants, or even what catagory they fall under. Evergreen maybe?

I have 2 guava, and a pomegranite (sp?), both are evergreen, but do they go dormant? Our winters are fairly warm and temps really flip flop.

All are in the 5 gal, they came in, so that tells you the soil. ;) (YUCK!)
Right now watering is a pain, it just runs right out, and the center of them stays dry. I have to set them in a tray for a bit to soak some up.

I really dont want them left in this mess all winter. So can I root prune and move them to a new pot now, and get rid of the garbage? I would like to get them moved into gritty mix as soon as possible.

I lifted one out of the pot today, and all I see on the outside of the rootball is old dry brown, very small roots, no good healthy larger ones.
Ant the tops of the soil is the same garbage. Thick with dead roots.
Thanks.. as always..:)
JJ


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 30, 10 at 16:00

Jodi - I somehow missed your post. ;o)

Bonsai are named according to their size. The 'rules' are somewhat arbitrary, but ....
Keishi - up to 1 in (in height - top of soil to apex)
Shito - up to 3 in
Mame - up to 6 in
Shohin - up to 8 in
Kifu Sho - up to 16 in
Chu - up to 24 in
Dai - up to 40 in

You were asking about small trees in larger pots that weren't actually bonsai ..... those are called 'hachi-ue'.

Another term sometimes used to describe trees in the landscape trained to look like bonsai is 'niwaki'.

For bananas in pots: Chop chop! Cut it back hard. Expose it to a light freeze (frost) or two - so the foliage gets black, then chop it back level with the top of the pot.

Keep it cool 40-45* and very but not completely dry. When spring arrives, you’ll see the new shoot coming from the center of the old leaves. Repot then, fertilize/water well, and move it back outside after danger of frost passes. I would use the 5:1:1 mix or similar for bananas. Might as well, you need to repot every year anyway. ;o)

JJ - the guava is evergreen, and the pom can be either. Technically, the guava doesn't go dormant, but it can get so lethargic during cold spells you think it is. The pom can/does go dormant.

The pom can be repotted in your zone after the leaves fall. I've never repotted a guava, but I'm guessing the roots are fine, like citrus, and it would probably be a good idea to repot in 2 operations. Maybe someone with more experience with guava/gritty mix can chime in and help. Wish I could be there to help you out - we'd knock it out in a heartbeat. :-)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

FANTASTIC information for me Al..

It is awesome to know someone who guides me to grow such healthy trees of ALL sizes in my containers..

Thank you so much..

Hi Jojo and Jodi

Mike


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 31, 10 at 10:41

Wow! Seriously, Al? Chop my banana tree to pot level? I don't know if I can! I'm afraid! :-(

It's not a dwarf variety... it's just a shoot/cutting/whatever from a friend's yard in the Gulf area of Texas. I got it to root somehow, and I've been taking it outside for spring and summer, and bringing it back indoors, before frost, to suffer over winter in a stairwell with a weak southern exposure. The beautiful leaves it gained over summer are yellowing and dying as we speak!

Last spring, I repotted it into a larger pot, and it grew considerably! It went from about 2 feet in height... to about 4 or 5 feet in overall height!

So... I probably brought it indoors too early, then. In which case, what should I do? Should I still chop it off at pot level? Yikes! Help!

Picture this, if you will... it's a 4 or 5 foot tall, rather thick stem with only 2 or 3 leaves at the top. The leaves are ENORMOUS!

And, thank you for putting a name to the various bonsai sizes and types... very interesting!


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RE: Trees in Containers

LOL!
Jodi, you sound just like me the first time Al told me that!
I just got some banana's in a trade. And the info I googled says alot die back after a frost, and will regrow in the spring.
I'm pretty sure you can trust Al. ;)
I think he gets a kick out of scaring us though. ;) LOL!

I put mine in the gritty! Oh no!
Should I move them Al? They are not happy, I know that. They wilt in the day, then perk up after the sun passes the window. My computer was down when they came, so I couldnt ask, and just put them in the gritty.

They have all opened up a new leaf though. :)

I love all the Bonsai info you provided too! That's great seeing what all the types/names mean!

Al~
It is the guava I pulled out of the pot to look at. And it's the one I mentioned has all the dried fine brown roots around the edges and top of soil. I know they are all root bound and a mess!

I've seen a few Poms around here that don't drop their leaves, micro climates maybe?
So that's where it gets confusing to me as to when I repot. lol!

""Wish I could be there to help you out - we'd knock it out in a heartbeat. :-)""

That would be so great! :) But are you sure? I have plenty here to keep you busy! ;)

(Hi Jodi & Mike!)

Thanks!
JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 31, 10 at 12:14

Jodi - You can cut back bananas just like amaryllis. If you force them into a situational dormancy, they'll have lots more energy come spring, as opposed to if you'd allowed them to grow slowly where cultural conditions are poor. I tried to link you to a U of IL site that talked about overwintering as I described, but I kept getting yelled at for spam, though I have no idea why. I sent it to you by mail. They also wiped out my entire message, which was considerably longer than this one. Frustrating. ;o)

JJ - If your pom wants to act like an evergreen, repot during the coolest months, but definitely before the spring push.

The dead guava roots are probably due to heat build-up at the container wall. Very common. Often, the entire south/west side of trees & shrubs in containers die from the results of high soil/root temps due to solar gain. It could be from dessication, but heat is favored by the odds.

The banana might be hard for you to keep watered in the gritty mix. I tend to prefer the 5:1:1 mix for those plants that are super-vigorous - bananas, Alocasia, ...... plants that need repotting every year anyway. Maybe a larger pot and a move to a more water-retentive soil in spring. If you still want to make your own soil, using Fafard's Aged Pine Bark as the bark fraction will increase water retention considerably.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi Al~
Now why is this?

""Might as well, you need to repot every year anyway. ;o)""

I thought i've read in my travels the 5-1-1 can last up to 2 yrs. Please correct me if i'm wrong. :)

Or is it due to Jodi's climate?

Will I need to redo mine every year? I was hoping to grow them year round. From what i've read I may be able to get away with it outside. :)

I will get mine moved into the 5-1-1 soon! Thanks for that info!
They were looking sad when they got here, (they don't take too well to being in a box. lol) and I had gritty already made, so I ploped them in it, then forgot to ask you which was better when I got back online. lol.

I'll look into the Fafard. Not sure if its around here.

The Guava's are in the black pots, so yes that makes sense about the dead roots.

It lifted out and stayed together, so i'm pretty sure they are root bound.

Thanks for all your help!
I hope everyone is having a good night. We're off soon with the kids.

JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 31, 10 at 21:00

The 'need' to repot a banana yearly has more to do with the natural vigor of the plant and how fast it grows than it does with how long the soil lasts, JJ. There is nothing that says you have to repot yearly; it's just one of those plants that will perform better if you can see your way clear to.

Al


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Thanks Al!
That helps alot! I've never had them before, so I'm full of questions. ;) I have heard/read they grow fast.

I'm not one for short cuts, so yearly it is. :)
I don't mind the work at all, I actually find putting the mixes together and potting up plants very relaxing. :)

JJ


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 1, 10 at 5:58

JoJo, I would guess a yearly repot on a banana would be needed because of vigorous growth... the roots will quickly colonize the space within its pot, and without a repotting, they would tend to get a little crowded.

Ok... so, I'm gonna whack the sucker back hard, keep the pot on the dry side and in a cool, dark location... like my basement... and repot several weeks before the danger of frost is past, just to give it a head start on growth. Then, out it goes for another summer of sunshine.

I'll use a better medium mix this time around, and find a decent container for it.

Thank you, Al... I got your email with the article from the University of Illinois Extension, and it has some great information on wintering other plant types I have, too... like the Brugs.

Wish me luck... here goes nuthin'! ;-)

I, also, find the work to be relaxing, JoJo... for me, there's nothing like puttering around the yard and gardens, or puttering around my indoor gardens! In fact, I picked up more ReptiBark last night so I could continue my foray into situating some indoor plants for winter. It's not the best time to repot some of them, but it's the only time I have. Besides, it's very therapeutic... for me! :-)


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 1, 10 at 6:10

JoJo, I would guess a yearly repot on a banana would be needed because of vigorous growth... the roots will quickly colonize the space within its pot, and without a repotting, they would tend to get a little crowded.

Ok... so, I'm gonna whack the sucker back hard, keep the pot on the dry side and in a cool, dark location... like my basement... and repot several weeks before the danger of frost is past, just to give it a head start on growth. Then, out it goes for another summer of sunshine.

I'll use a better medium mix this time around, and find a decent container for it.

Thank you, Al... I got your email with the article from the University of Illinois Extension, and it has some great information on wintering other plant types I have, too... like the Brugs.

Wish me luck... here goes nuthin'! ;-)

I, also, find the work to be relaxing, JoJo... for me, there's nothing like puttering around the yard and gardens, or puttering around my indoor gardens! In fact, I picked up more ReptiBark last night so I could continue my foray into situating some indoor plants for winter. It's not the best time to repot some of them, but it's the only time I have. Besides, it's very therapeutic... for me! :-)


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Oops! I Stuttered!

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 1, 10 at 6:13

Oops! Disregard one of two... internal error, apparently... carry on!


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RE: Trees in Containers

A few Quotes I like~

"All my hurts my garden spade can heal"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Plants have the power to heal and to harm, the power to survive and sustain. They can bend the mind and inspire the spirit"
Bernice Walkley Porter

JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 1, 10 at 15:18

Jodi - next time you go to CHI, let me know! I'll direct you to where I buy my fir bark (in Dundee). $17/3 cu ft and $15 if you buy 20 bags or more.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi Al~
I looked into the Fafard, and it doesn't seem to be available around here, so I will adjust the 5-1-1 for the banana's.
JJ


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 2, 10 at 7:28

Amazing, Al... I grew up in Dundee! Well, in Dundee Township... a little out in the boonies. It's not the boonies today, though. It's all completely built up, and I hardly recognize the area when we visit!

A stop off while visiting our kids would work out better... Dundee is closer to Belvidere/Rockford than it is to Chicago, and it would be just a quick jump off I-90. We usually travel up via 39/51, but it would be easy to hop on I-90 and head toward Dundee.

I'd appreciate it if you could email me the name of the place, Al... I probably know it, just never knew they carried the bark! Excellent... that will help a lot! Thanks, Al!

JoJo, I used to have a plaque in my garden that said,
"The kiss of the sun for pardon,
the song of the birds for mirth.
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
than anywhere else on earth."

I don't recall who the author is... but I've always liked it. I don't know what ever happened to the plaque... lost in a move, or lost in a divorce... I'm not sure. I haven't had occasion to replace it yet, but I keep looking for the same one.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 10, 10 at 16:42

To Al
(or others with experience in repotting):
I have 3 new mango trees that I want to containerize. I'm in the process of collecting the ingredients for "Al's Gritty Mix" and I have studied about the proper pruning techniques and pest control. What I need now is help with the actual repotting procedure. When planting in the ground the consensus seems to be to cut away the bottom and place the nursery pot in the hole and carefully cut the sides to keep the root ball intact. But how do I do the planting in a container?
1. Do I want to remove all the nursery peat-type dirt from the roots and plant the bare roots in the new Gritty Mix?
2. Will there be danger of root shock?
3. Do I do any pruning of the roots if the tree was root bound in the nursery pot?
4. Any other tips on proper handling of mango roots during repotting?

Curt

According to current thinking, the consensus that for planting in the ground you "... cut away the bottom and place the nursery pot in the hole and carefully cut the sides to keep the root ball intact" probably needs some updating. You can read what Linda Chalker-Scott, PhD says about disturbing roots, here.

1) You DO want to remove all the nursery peat-type dirt from the roots, though not necessarily all at the same time on all trees. Trees with fine roots are often best switched to the gritty mix in 2 repotting sessions instead of 1. You can read, upthread, about how to remove pie-shaped wedges of soil and roots from, the root mass so you're actually removing about 1/2 - 2/3 of the soil at one time.

2) How much trauma the plant experiences depends on a number of things. Timing plays a significant role, as does how you handle the plant/treat the roots during the repot. Reading my posts upthread (see those dated Apr 12, 08).

3) Yes. Pruning roots of containerized trees on a regular basis to remove the larger conductive roots and make room for finer 'feeder' roots plays an important role in ensuring your plants have the opportunity to grow to their potential. I left the following description of how trees in containers might respond to repotting vs potting up on another thread recently.

I often explain the effects of repotting vs potting up like this:
Let's rate growth/vitality potential on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best. We're going to say that trees in containers can only achieve a 9. Lets also imagine that for every year a tree goes w/o repotting or potting up, its measure of growth/vitality slips by 1 number, That is to say you pot a tree and the first year it grows at a level of 9, the next year, an 8, the next year a 7. Lets also imagine we're going to go 3 years between repotting or potting up.

Here's what happens to the tree you repot/root prune:
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
repot
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
repot
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7

You can see that a full repotting and root pruning returns the plant to its full potential within the limits of other cultural influences for as long as you care to repot/root prune.

Looking now at how woody plants respond to only potting up:

year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
pot up
year 1: 8
year 2: 7
year 3: 6
pot up
year 1: 7
year 2: 6
year 3: 5
pot up
year 1: 6
year 2: 5
year 3: 4
pot up
year 1: 5
year 2: 4
year 3: 3
pot up
year 1: 4
year 2: 3
year 3: 2
pot up
year 1: 3
year 2: 2
year 3: 1

This is a fairly accurate illustration of the influence tight roots have on a woody plant's growth/vitality. You might think of it for a moment in the context of the longevity of bonsai trees vs the life expectancy of most trees grown as houseplants, the difference between 4 years and 400 years lying primarily in how the roots are treated.

4) Perhaps others who have repotted mangos can offer some tips. I'm sure you'll find lots of helpful information upthread. If you have specific questions, I'll do my best to answer them.

Best luck!

Al


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Transplanting/ Chalker-Scott

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 10, 10 at 16:55

Sorry - what Dr Chalker-Scott says about disturbing roots can actually be found here.

Al


 o
RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks for the link, Al!

Boy, those recommendations (re: B&B trees) would cause WWIII over at the Conifer Forum! ;)

Other than "Global Warming(tm)," proper planting technique generates the most inflammatory discussions.

You know what they say, though: "The Truth has no Friend."


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 13, 10 at 8:02

No truer words were ever spoken, Josh! :-)

From the B&B pdf... "Differences between soil textures will impede water movement and therefore inhibit root establishment."

That's one of the major reasons I always remove the previously used medium from a root ball when repotting my plants. Another reason is that organic ingredients of the previously used medium will have begun to break down, and the potential for root rot towards the center of the root ball is great.

That's a well thought out and written piece, Al... thanks for sharing it!


 o
RE: Trees in Containers

The article addresses planting trees in the ground. I have always removed burlap from any trees planted despite the nursery recommendations. It is common sense. I always disturb the roots of any plant going in the ground or in a pot. I root prune all containerized plants when repotting.

I have seen trees knocked over in storms with their roots still confined in burlap after spending years in the ground. People buy trees for Christmas and plant them outside after the holiday in prepared holes. But they leave the burlap covering the roots. The tree slowly dies.

I don't understand the reasoning behind the nursery recommendations. It is so troubling to see mass plantings done with shrubs and trees burlapped. It is amazing that this advice is still given and followed.

Jane


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RE: Trees in Containers

Thanx Al for answering my recent questions about containerizing my 3 new mango trees.
I do have 2 more specific questions now:
1. I plan to do initial pruning to 2-3 feet per Richard Campbell at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, but what do you think the sequence should be? Prune and recover before potting, or pot and then prune after recovering, or just do both at same time?
2. The gypsum component in the "Gritty Mix" - does it matter if it is granular (pelletized) or powder?

Curt


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 16, 10 at 8:39

It's easy to understand, Jane, when you consider the profit/consumer driven society we live in today... the more trees that expire, the more trees an unknowing customer will buy. They will think they did something wrong... and indeed, they did... but because they don't know any better they will continue to follow the advice of the "nurseryman", and continue to replace trees.

It's all about profit. It's an industry that, like any other, thrives on the ignorance and spending habits of the consumer.

While it's true that a good nurseryman would not give such poor advice on burlap wrapped trees, most folks do not seek out the higher priced yet more knowledgeable Mom and Pop nurseries... they spend less and purchase from a big box store that doesn't specialize in plants. The "nurseryman" selling them the trees just repeats what his supplier has told him.

It's all about our profit/consumer driven economy... and the consumer that doesn't arm him or herself with valid information before shopping.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 16, 10 at 9:32

I would wait until the tree is well-established to do any pruning. Leaving the tree's photosynthesizing machinery intact speeds recovery. It also maximizes the increase in mass, if that is what you initially seek in a young tree.

The gypsum pellets are 'prills' of gypsum powder, so as soon as the binder that holds the powder in prill form dissolves, the products are the same. Gypsum is prilled because it is easier to mechanically spread the prills than the powder. It doesn't matter which form you choose, though I prefer the prills. I think they allow the product to mix more uniformly with the rest of the soil particulates.

Al


 o
RE: Trees in Containers

Thanks, Jodi, I missed your previous posts!

Re: container tree going into the ground -
I can say from experience with a Mugo Pine that properly opening the root-ball can mean the difference
between a live tree and a dead one. I'm on my second Mugo now....but this one I planted properly.
So far, so good.


Josh


 o
RE: Trees in Containers

On my way back and forth to work each day, I drive past the corporate headquarters of a very expensive, European car company. For the past 3 months they have been doing extensive landscaping and stone work on approximately 10 acres. Huge project, involving blasting stone and major regrading of property. Walkways, stone walls, etc. I have watched each day in amazement at the scope of this project. Has to cost a fortune!

For the past month, there must be over a hundred workers planting shrubs, trees and gasses. Some, huge trees brought in with cranes. Every plant I see going in is wrapped in burlap. There must be a thousand yews and junipers going in all wrapped.

I would think if everything died in a few years, the landscape company would be in big trouble. I would assume they guarantee the work and would have to replace the dead trees and shrubs costing them a fortune. I would also assume the car company would not hire them again.

Good business? Capitalism? I would think a project this size would put the landscape company out of business if it failed. I just don't get it...

Jane


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 17, 10 at 10:09

One of the keys, I would think, Jane, would be in how long the landscaping company guarantees their work for... if, indeed, they do... and exactly what is covered in that guarantee. Not all landscaping companies guarantee their plantings... especially if the watering and care is left to the customer. And if they're a large company with a large volume of work, getting this job finished quickly is the goal, and going back to replace a few trees wouldn't be of huge cost to them.

Another key would be in length of time the planting will be there. By the time the trees begin to lose health, or before many expire, the property owners might even change the landscaping to include whatever trees or perennials come into popularity. Remember when Stella D'Oro Daylilies came into popularity? Everyone planted them! A couple of years ago, it was Knockout Roses... what's next is anyone's guess.

Obviously, the company in question has a large bankroll... selling expensive cars is their focus... and if they're in a very urban setting, they probably aren't thinking about how those trees are going to look or perform in 10 or 20 years... they're only looking at the short term advantage of the new plantings... to be appealing to the eye, and draw in the customers.

If you were so inclined, you could stop and ask the foreman what advantages he thinks are in leaving the rootballs wrapped... to see what his response would be... but I'm thinking it's all about the short term, the curb appeal... and in less than 5 or 10 years, those trees won't even be there.


 o
RE: Trees in Containers

Who knows. The place looks like a small city with all the stone walls and walk ways. There are so many workmen doing all the plantings. I noticed today, some beautiful bushes have been planted. Hillside of Azaleas and Rhododendrons with clumps of other bushes. Frankly, anyone could just pull these bushes up and walk off with them. They are perfectly burlapped (you can see the burlap above the holes)and look like they haven't been dug low enough...easy picking.

The 'park' is on a very busy street with no where to pull over. There's a stop-light and I watch the goings on while waiting for the light. The headquarters are at the top of this huge hillside. They blasted the entire area to put in all these walkways. Beautiful stone walls. Guess they have a lot of money to burn.

It appears the work is done by a large commercial landscape company. The many workers appear to be immigrants who probably don't speak English.

Lets hear it for GM and Ford!!

Jane


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi Al,

I'm about to do the potting of my 3 new mango trees, and it occurred to me that the "gritty mix" will probably spill out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. Is it OK to place insect screen in the bottom to hold it in, or will the screen get clogged up with material over time and impede drainage?

Trying to think of everything,

Curt


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi Curt,
As some have said.."I'm not Al" but maybe I can help". :)

Yes, alot of us use insect screen to keep the grit in.. and some use Plastic canvas, which is used for needlepoint.

If your materials are well screened, it shouldn't cause any problems.

I use it in all my containers, and they drain just fine.

JoJo


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 18, 10 at 16:34

What JJ said.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

Hi Al,

I had a question about putting small plants that I get from the nursery/garden center in the gritty mix (begonias, fuscias, trailing plants, coleus, etc..). Should I completely remove the old media/soil (using a bonsai rake and mister) or should I leave some of the old media/soil on?

I know with bigger/older plants you have recommended (depending on which growing cycle they are in) to leave parts of the old media/soil in place. I wasn't sure if this applied to even the relatively new, smaller plants.

Thanks,

Bill


 o
RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 4, 10 at 16:02

The younger the plant, the greater its % of dynamic mass & the greater its 'will' to live. Also, all the cells are in juvenile phase and carry juvenile vigor, so they will tolerate more than older plants. Still, it's probably better to wait until spring to bare root. Most bedding plants can be bare-rooted with just a root pick or chopstick/skewer. If you or others are interested in a root rake, Dallas Bonsai has them on sale right now for $7, which is half off.

Al


 o
RE: Trees in Containers

Anyone in the LA area that would like to teach a rookie how to root-prune this spring? I have containers outside with a valencia orange, bearss lime, 2 cherry, 3 peach, a white nectarine and will be adding a couple of plums, blueberries and maybe a banana in spring. I would like to move to Al's Gritty Mix at that time also.

I can pay for the lessons, I just am the type to need to see something a couple times for it to sink in.


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RE: Trees in Containers

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 7, 10 at 19:29

There are probably several bonsai clubs in your area that would welcome your membership.

You could also contact Roy Nagatoshi at his nursery in Sylmar for guidance. (818) 367-5372

Al


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End of thread

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 7, 10 at 19:29

It looks like this thread is at its end, or only a post or two away. Occasionally these threads go over the limit of 150 posts, normally allowed. If you found it helpful/interesting, please follow the link below to continue.

Thank you for your interest.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Click me for the continuation of this thread


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