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Trees in Containers III

Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 6, 11 at 17:33

This is a continuation of the second thread on the same topic, both having topped out at 150 posts. You can find a link to the previous thread and the helpful information/conversations it contains at the bottom of this post.

Trees in Containers
A discussion about maintaining trees in containers over the long term

It's not much of a secret to many, that a good part of what I've learned about plants and plant-related science has come as an outgrowth of my pursuit of at least some degree of proficiency at bonsai. Please, make no mistake, the principles applied to containerized trees under bonsai culture can, and in most cases SHOULD be applied to all containerized trees grown for the long term. Because of the small volumes of soil and small containers these trees are grown in, you might look at bonsai as a form of container culture taken to another level. Before most of the plants I grow become bonsai, they often undergo many years of preparation and manipulation while still in the same size containers you are growing in, so while I am intimately familiar with growing plants in bonsai culture, it would have been impossible for me to arrive at that familiarity w/o an even more thorough understanding of growing woody plants in larger, pre-bonsai size containers like you grow in. This thread is a continuation of one I previously posted on the same topic.

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 join the discussion with questions about your own containerized trees and/or your tree problems. I will try to answer your questions whenever I can.

The timing of certain procedures is closely related to energy management, which gets too little consideration by most growers tending trees in containers. Because repotting and root pruning seem to be most misunderstood on the list of what it takes to maintain trees that will continually grow at close to their genetic potential, I will include some observations about those procedures to open the discussion.

I have spent literally thousands of hours digging around in root-balls of trees (let's allow that trees means any woody plant material with tree-like roots) - tropical/subtropical trees, temperate trees collected from the wild and temperate nursery stock. The wild collected trees are a challenge, usually for their lack of roots close to the trunk, 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 reduced vitality. As rootage becomes continually compressed and restricted, branch extension stops and individual branches might 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.

I want to mention that I draw distinct delineation between simply potting up and repotting. Potting up temporarily offers room for fine rootage to grow and do the necessary work of water/nutrient uptake, but these new roots soon lignify, while rootage in the old root mass continues to grow and become increasingly restrictive. 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 undertake the task of repotting/root-pruning which grows increasingly difficult with each up-potting.

So we are clear on terminology, potting up simply involves moving the plant with its root mass and soil intact, or nearly so, to a larger container and filling in around the root/soil mass with additional soil. Repotting, on the other hand, includes the removal of all or part of the soil and the pruning of roots, with an eye to removing the largest roots, as well as those that would be considered defective. Examples are roots that are dead, those growing back toward the center of the root mass, encircling, girdling or j-hooked roots, and otherwise damaged roots.

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 growth/vitality rating of 9, due to the somewhat limiting effects of container culture. 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.

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 is nearly 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 as vigorous as it could be, unless it has been root-pruned at repotting time; yet 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 as noted above, bonsai culture is nothing more than highly 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.

Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other's company. Only a few love to be alone. ~Jens Jensen

Now that I have made the case for why it is important to regularly perform full repots (not to be confused with potting-up) and prune the roots of your containerized trees regularly, I will offer some direction. 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.

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, some generalities: undertake repotting of most deciduous material 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). Most conifers are best repotted soon after the onset of spring growth. Most tropical and subtropical trees are best repotted in the month prior to their most robust growth period (summer). Citrus are probably best repotted in spring, but they can also be repotted successfully immediately after a push of top growth.

For most plants that have not been root-pruned before: With a pruning saw, saw off the bottom 1/3 of the root ball. With a hand-rake (like you use for scratching in the garden soil) and/or a wooden chopstick and/or the aid of water under high pressure from a garden hose, remove all the loose soil. Using a jet of water from the hose and the chopstick, remove the remaining soil - ALL of it. The exception here would be those plants that form dense mats of fine roots (citrus, bougainvillea, rhododendron ...). 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 by misting very frequently or dipping the roots in a tub of water as you work. After the soil is removed, remove up to another 1/3 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 of the root you are pruning. Be sure to remove any J-hooked roots, encircling/girdling roots or others exhibiting 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 a chopstick/skewer, or sharpened wood dowel, 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 fractionalize recovery time by helping to prevent breakage of newly-formed 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, and older trees 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 repot 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 only potted up

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 most of my trees. 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 intensive 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 so far makes sense. Thank you so much for your interest.

Al

Knowing grass, I understand the meaning of persistence.
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of perseverance.
Knowing bonsai I understand the meaning of patience. ~ Al

If interested, follow the embedded link to the previous discussion about trees in containers.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Trees in Containers III

Congrats on having the thread split a second time Al.

I got the Corallinum and Fireglow into their new homes in the gritty mix tonight.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 7, 11 at 8:19

Thank you, Blake. I enjoy the thought that in some way I might be helping others along the path to an improved gardening experience. I know you mentioned in your other thread that you plan on keeping us abreast of your trees' progress. I hope you do. I'll be watching for more pics & comments; and of course you're always welcome here. ;-)

AL


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hey Al,

Had a follow-up question from your response in the container soil thread about balancing evergreen perennials after a repot(moving here, seemed more appropriate).

Per your comment on deciduous trees having the ability to only activate buds they can support, do evergreen perennials have the ability after a repot/root prune to selectively choose which branches they will continue to support?

Or do all the branches sag/decline evenly?

I ask because it seems like if all the branches decline evenly then it is even more important to pro-actively prune/balance after a report/root prune.

If this is so though it seems kind of odd from a survival standpoint. I would almost expect the perennial would only try to support a reduced number of branches and those would stay healthy while the others sagged/died off.

Thanks,

Bill

>Hi, Bill - I cover that topic in the 'trees in containers' thread, but basically it's a good thing to think about balancing things in containers, even though it's not conventional wisdom for landscape plantings. 'Balancing' is a particularly good option when reducing either plants that are in leaf or when doing severe root pruning on plants from the nursery to get them to fit into containers.

As you gain experience in repotting, you'll get a feel for how much you can take off (roots) of a plant w/o touching the canopy. When deciduous plants are dormant when you work on them, they tend to only activate buds as they can support them with water, so you catch a break, but evergreens & tropicals require a little more consideration.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 8, 11 at 17:36

"... do evergreen perennials have the ability after a repot/root prune to selectively choose which branches they will continue to support?

Or do all the branches sag/decline evenly?

I ask because it seems like if all the branches decline evenly then it is even more important to pro-actively prune/balance after a report/root prune.

If this is so though it seems kind of odd from a survival standpoint. I would almost expect the perennial would only try to support a reduced number of branches and those would stay healthy while the others sagged/died off

There are chemical messengers in plants that tell them what parts are producing more energy than they are using, and which parts are using more than they are producing. In the latter instance, the plant generally 'harvests' the salvageable bio-compounds in the energy gobbling parts & then sheds them. Often we can depend on certain species to shed certain parts, but other times the plant sheds parts randomly. In the case of trees, if you're observant you'll usually be able to tell which branches are weak, so you can expect them to be shed first, but just when you rely on your keen powers of observation, your tree might throw you a curve & shed a branch that's very important to the composition. For that reason, if you're at all concerned about appearance, you should reduce when you repot dormant deciduous. Conifers are a little more forgiving, but you still need to apply your experience, even a little common sense, in deciding how much to reduce. I reduce a LOT in the spring - mainly because I'm all about increasing ramification & keeping my plants full/compact, and by reducing frequently, you keep the foliage chased back close to the trunk.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

As always, thank you Al for the detailed response!

Had one quick follow-up that I thought I had posted before but looks like it didn't go through (think I just hit preview and not submit).

I'm using the "weak" foliage pro to water all of my gritty mix plants. For a new repot, do you recommend holding off on using the weak foilage pro or can you start that when you do the first water?

I think I had seen a few comments that would indicate not to fertilize immediately but I'm guessing this may be from a situation where over fertilizing was causing the plant to not be able to absorb water. I'm guessing this wouldn't be an issue with a weak fertilizer application but wanted to check with you to be on the safe side.

Thanks,

Bill


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 10, 11 at 14:43

I don't think there is any harm in having nutrients available to fresh repots, though there is considerable evidence in many of the texts I've read to support the idea that root colonization of the entire container occurs more quickly if fertilizer is withheld. I think your assessment that to over-fertilize or to have TDS/EC high enough that it hampers the plant's ability to absorb water is the main issue you want to avoid.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Great. Thanks Al!


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RE: Trees in Containers III

While looking back on one of my own posts.. I seem to be having a problem with the link to previous threads, so here it is again.

Plus I think this should be on the front page with it being so busy right now . ;-)

JoJo

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous discussions for tree's in containers. :-)


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 27, 11 at 0:32

Thanks, JJ. ;-)

AL


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Your welcome Al~ ;-)
Sorry I didn't see that sooner...

This thread is loaded with great information, and needs to be seen this time of year...
So it get's a friendly bump!

I'm sure many will find it useful!

JJ


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Been reading many forums looking for what this thread has to offer and it seems to be a taboo elsewhere.

I look forward to posting and contributing to this thread.

I am currently growing a 4 in 1 apple tree, a 5 in 1 cherry tree, 4 kiwi's, 1 key lime espalier, 1 peach espalier, 1 grape and 1 watermelon all in containers. I use container kellog container soil 50/50 with a kellog mulch. All I am using for ferts is fish emulsion and super thrive. I've picked up some dynamite organic time released fert and have yet to use it.

Love this site and love this thread. Let's keep it alive!


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RE: Trees in Containers III

azhollister,
I agree, this needs to be kept handy for others to see. :-)

JoJo


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I was hoping to use the Gritty Mix in a container for the Japanese Maple I will be getting next week. I very much doubt that the tree will be dormant as the tree is coming from a zone 5b nursery - the two Japanese Maples I have planted in the ground here in zone 5a are already leafed out.

I am getting the tree from Davidsans Japanese Maples. He normally sends out trees "as a semi bare root tree with leaves" according to his site. Not sure what that means other than that he makes sure the tree has survived the winter and he doesn't ship them in a pot, removing a lot of the soil around the root ball to reduce shipping costs...

Will I still be able to bare root the tree and plant it in the gritty mix, or do I need to just place it in a pot with "normal" potting soil (as that is probably what it is used to) and wait until next spring to bare root (and root prune) it? If I shouldn't totally bare root it, is there some sort of intermediate mix I could make that would have some of the positive characteristics of the Gritty Mix but not be a total shock to the tree?

Holly


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RE: Trees in Containers III

root pruning? That's a new concept to me.. you wont kill the tree by cutting part of the root?


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, May 19, 11 at 20:40

Holly - there's no real way for me to tell whether or not bare-rooting would be appropriate. If it's just a liner or a tree in a tube, it's probably ok, but if it's in a nursery container, I think I'd be leaning toward potting up into something fast (like the 5:1:1 mix) & letting the repotting go until next spring. Maybe we could talk a little more about it when you get it?

CL23 - Bare-rooting is essential to the long-term vitality of a tree kept in a container. Full repots with root pruning guarantee that the tree will at least have the opportunity to grow at near its genetic potential, while simply potting up ensures it cannot. When we repot, we concentrate on removing the largest roots, which do little more than take up space and serve as transport (water & nutrients up, photosynthate down) vessels.

AL


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I think I'd be leaning toward potting up into something fast (like the 5:1:1 mix) & letting the repotting go until next spring. Maybe we could talk a little more about it when you get it?

You are of course right, Al. Until I actually see how the tree comes - semi-bare root, potted, or...? - I can't tell you much about it, can I? I will have the ingredients for the gritty mix and the 5:1:1 mix ready to go so I can pot up the tree when I figure out (probably with your help) what it needs.

Thank you for your patience!

Holly


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Interesting, I didn't know you should cut off the tap root, or all of the larger roots for that matter.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I received my JM last week; it still had most of the soil around the root ball with a few roots hanging out of the bottom of the root ball - I guess this was what was meant by "semi bare root" - most of the soil removed to cut down on weight for shipping costs.

Anyway, I potted it up in the 5:1:1 mix, actually using about half as much of the sphagnum peat moss as the bark fines were pretty well composted. Assuming (:-D) that I can get the tree to survive over the winter, I will bare root it next spring while it is dormant and re-plant it in the gritty mix.

Holly


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 1, 11 at 22:44

Sounds like a plan to me!

AL


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conifer (wilma) in a container indoor. Is it possible?

Hi everybody,

Excellent work. This is a endless well of wisdom. This should be put in a bible book of containers.

I live in bradford, uk. I don't have outdoor space to grow the conifer (cupressus macrocarpa "wilma"). The only place is in a terrace with only 3 hours of sun per day if I am lucky. How bad it is growing this conifer indoor in a scale 1, bad, to 10, excellent? I hope I am not asking the impossible.
I grow everything next to a window, with 45% to 50% of humidity and temperatures in the spring and summer of 14 to 25 degrees celsius. The winter is between 4 and -10 degrees Celsius. There is sun in there all morning, but little after that . I leave the window open during the day. The soil is a mix 80% cat litter from tesco(LOOOL it works), 20% grit. The container is a 20cm. I am a bonsai grower and I already root pruned the conifer.

I don't know if this is a silly question because everybody in the nurseries tell me that i complete crazy and that the conifers only grow "in a good way" outside (at least the wilma).

The other problem is I think the "wilma" doesn't need a dormant period, but should I put her outside and provoke this period in the winter? The terrace is a place with sun only 3 hours a day, is very dark.

Maybe this should be post in the conifer poster but i think they kick me out for trying this. I am lost. Help from heaven?

Ricardo


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 12, 11 at 21:11

Everyone tells you that you CAN'T grow Cupressus indoors, but my friend Jack Wikle does an admirable job at it. You can read more about it here.

The plant he is primarily growing is Cupressus pigmaea, or dwarf Mendocino cypress. I shared one of these plants with Josh - they're a joy to work with. There shouldn't be any reason you can't enjoy some success with 'Wilma' if you're willing to make some adjustments.

Scroll down to page 2 to see a picture of one of Jack's cypress grown indoors under fluorescents.

Good luck.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

They really are a joy to work with....thanks, Al ;-)

This little cypress seemed to grow straight through the Winter in my fairly mild climate.
I've pruned off several inches of wild growth in the past few weeks.

Photobucket


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I Al,

Thanks is never enough. I am not a religious guy, but sometimes we just need a little push to believe, lool.

I read many times in forums and other places that one never should give "food" to a plant after root pruning and repot. What is the science behind this affirmation? I study physics, therefore I hate when someone gives a dogma and doesn't explain anything. I tried to use my knowledge and common sense and I don't understand.

Thanks again and again and again...
Ricardo


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hello, Ricardo!
Let me mention something that I've read here at the Container Forum;
and when Al happens through, he can correct this if I get it wrong ;-)

"Soil low in initial fertility is conducive to root-growth" -
after root-pruning, you want new roots to colonize the fresh soil volume,
and this happens best when soils are cool, moist, and lower in fertility.
A recently root-pruned plant also won't be "online," as it were, until the roots
re-establish themselves. Until that happens, the plant won't be drawing as
much moisture, using as many nutrients, or conducting as much photosynthesis,
and so it doesn't need to be placed in full sun or fed the same as a vigorously
growing plant.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Josh,

That's a good explanation, but why "conducive" at that particular time? What is the reason which makes that situation so special? It is normal to induce grow with low fertilizer at any time in the plant's life. My doubts are almost satisfied.

Thanks josh,
Ricardo


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Al and everyone else also,

After loosing the Sensu, as I've said, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on regarding tree diseases. In this reading, I came across a survey that claimed would check a person's readiness to purchase and grow trees (more likely it checks that you've read the author's other writings). One of the "essentials to know" for keeping a tree healthy during the first five years according to the article was to "water the tree with 5 gallons of water per 1" of trunk diameter twice per week". This seems like entirely too much water to me. I water using the wooden dowel method, and maybe water a quart to half gallon every three to five days on all my trees, no matter what size they are. Actually, I water lightly until I see the first signs of water at the drain holes, then 10-15 minutes later I water until water drains freely out the drain holes (approximately 1/3 to 1/5 of what I put in comes back out). I've never really measured.

Am I under watering or is the information in the article just for trees planted in the ground, or is it just plain wrong, or am I likely watering more than I realize?

Thanks

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 3, 11 at 18:52

'One size fits all' advice usually can be counted on not to 'fit all', but that advice applied to in-ground growing comes much closer to making sense than if it was applied to container culture, so to give the author the benefit of a doubt, we'd have to guess that the directive was for in-ground trees. If it was directed at container growers, I'd have to question the author's credibility, unless he included a very plausible explanation as to why he would suggest that for containers w/o knowledge of the soil properties.

There's no way to tell if you're under-watering, over-watering, or baby bear watering w/o more info re your watering habits. ;-)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Al,
Here's the best way I can tell you how I water.
1) I have bamboo sticks, approximately 1/4" diameter, stuck down in the pots all the way to the bottom. These sticks stay in the pots. When the sticks are only slightly damp to dryish to the touch I water as shown below.

This is on a tree, "Red Crusader", I just purchased today. The soil was quite dry, ie dry to the touch when the bamboo stick was stuck in.

First I slowly wet the plant until water just starts to come out the drain holes.
"First Watering"

If the video works, you can see, I wet all the top area, slowly and at the end of the video you can just start to see water coming out the drain holes. Not shown in the video is that water came out all 4 holes. I'm equating this with even watering, maybe incorrectly so.

Then 15 minutes later, I water thoroughly, until water drains out the bottom approximately 1/3 to 1/5 of what I put in.

"Second Watering"

You can see the water draining freely out the bottom after this second watering.

I should note, for others who see this post, the soil is very similar to Al's 5:1:1. Maybe a little more water retentive because the nursery where I've bought most of my trees uses sand in their mix (I also think they use some "forest and yard wastes" compost, though only a small fraction from what I understand).

After watering in this manner, the trees not yet in one of Al's mixes get tilted on their side (approximately 45 degree angle) until water no longer drains from the pot. I do this to try to change the shape of the PWT and get most of it out of the slightly more water retentive nursery soil.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I should probably also add, I check the sticks everyday, and only water when they are slightly damp/dryish. Most of the time this late spring or early summer that has been approximately 3-5 days between waterings. (Early spring here I didn't water at all. It rained almost every day.) Not all trees have the sticks. Similar sized pots and tree types are grouped together (ie 1 gallons in shade, 1 gallons in sun, 2 gallons in sun, 20" cedar containers w/ 1:1:1 mix in sun). Each group has one or two trees with a stick. When one stick in the group is dry all get watered.

I have 13 trees now, 8 in gallon pots with nursery soil, 1 in 2 gallon pot with nursery soil, and 4 in 20" cedar containers with 1:1:1 mix.

All except the Sensu have seemed happy (new growth (some more than others) turgid new shoots, no drooping, no wilting, some pests that I've been removing by hand and using neem oil applied every two weeks.

Anyway, that's probably more info than needed, but I'm an engineer by profession. So I like thoroughness, can't spell, and am happiest when I can follow a formula or systematic approach to things.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Would this topic apply to very large trees in pots too? Sorry, complete newbie here, thinking of buying a Swan Hill Olive tree the already more than 5 feet tall as a decorative piece for a large patio. It's in a box right now, and I was going to buy a decorative pot to place it in. I don't really want it to grow a lot at this point in time, so I am thinking that when we (I and the nursery workers) go to re-pot it, I should choose a similar sized pot to the box it's in and prune the roots?


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 11, 11 at 23:22

Blake - I don't see anything wrong with the way you water. I use a very fine break that lets me zoom through the chore of watering 300 containers w/o splashing soil everywhere, but essentially we water about the same way.

Ves - yes, but how you proceed sort of depends on the timing. Will this tree lose it's leaves in your zone? If so, that would be the best time to repot it. If it doesn't lose it's leaves, anytime between mid-Nov - mid-Feb should be good.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

My son brought home a Norfolk island pine (not a real pine tree) from his office. Its about 2 feet tall, and has grown maybe 3" this year so far. Its in a very small container and might be rootbound? I am wondering if we should repot it now or wait until it goes dormant in the fall/winter?

Thanks everyone

Margo


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I stand corrected. Measured again and its 20" tall from bottom of pot to top of leader. Sorry! :)


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Blake, just watched your watering videos.
I water the same way, though with a slightly finer rose-tip on my watering can.
Often, for quick watering, I simply use a hose-sprayer set to 'shower.'


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi,
I'm a new member on Garden Web and came across wonderful posts such as Al's "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention", I am thinking of growing a shade tree in a container and understand that the first thing I should do is pick the correct soil for that,

I have a few question that I hope to get your answers

I am thinking about albizia julibrissin, do you think that this is too big? other options? what is the size I can expect that tree to be if I have a container which is about 23 inch (a box shape container where each side 23')

What is your �recipe� for that kind of soil?

I understand that drainage layer is not needed, but is there a need for covering the bottom of the container with a piece of nylon hosiery, weed cloth or other synthetic fabric to prevent soil from running out?

Thanks!


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 3, 11 at 17:55

Mimosa/silk tree is a tree commonly used as bonsai, so it's a good container candidate. There's no need to worry about whether or not this tree or that is appropriate in containers; even the giant redwoods and mighty oaks are grown as bonsai. There IS a learning curve associated with maintaining trees in containers over the long term, though. Ultimately, how the tree turns out will depend primarily on your pruning skills and your ability to maintain roots so that the root system is predominantly FINE roots - the ones that do all the heavy lifting. Fat roots just take up space and reduce the amount of soil available for colonization by fine roots. I'm pretty sure it's explained in my initial post, but if you have more questions - feel free to ask.

Your soil CAN determine what size container is appropriate, but soils that are well aerated and hold little or no perched water don't go by the same rules as heavy, water-retentive soils that require you to guard against the effects of 'over-potting'. Learning to make a free-draining soil similar to what you read about in the 'Container Soils' thread will go a long way toward greasing the skids leading to healthier plants - I promise. ;-)

The recipe for the gritty mix is at the end of the opening post at the thread below, but you can use the 5:1:1 mix. Container soils are about structure, durability, and the air:water relationship. Building a soil that gets it right takes a little effort, but it's really worth it to those who want to get the most out of their planting efforts.

It is a good idea to cover drain holes with some sort of screening material. I use either insect screening or plastic canvas for needlepoint projects from hobby shops.

Photobucket

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

H Al,

Thank you very much for your detailed explanation I appreciate that a lot.

With your permission, more questions,
First, I'm sorry but I failed to find the 5:1:1 mix link, can you please send that again?

Pruning the roots is very important but I guess I will need to prune the brunches as well, if so what are the guidelines for that?

And, the picture you've added, that's the wick that is tied to the net, is one enough?

Thank you very much!


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RE: Trees in Containers III

One more question:

Do you think there is a difference between growing the tree in a plastic containter to a wooden container?

Thank you


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 4, 11 at 10:39

First, here is the link that has plenty of information about container soils. I think the information it contains is vitally important to tipping the balance of your growing efforts from acceptable to exceptional, if you're interested in that sort of thing. I'm not saying that because I wrote it, I'm saying that because I honestly think that the information, regardless of the source, is or can be a pivotal point.

I cant give you o/a guidelines on pruning the top of your plants because it varies by plant and by your goals. Even if you give me your goal and plant material, you may not trust my judgement (because what in my experience seems mundane may seem radical to you) and you may not be patient enough to do what needs to be done to get to the goal, I'm not saying this in a mean or accusatory way at all, but it's very common for inexperienced growers to sacrifice the plant's future appearance on the altar of now, because they aren't willing to deal with 'ugly for a while'. ;-)

That said, if you tell me plant type & what you want it to look like, I can offer options. One thing I am very good at is manipulating plants & getting them to grow as I want them to.

One wick and one drain hole is as effective as 100 when it comes to drainage. As long as the drain hole is situated at the lowest level of the pot & isn't obstructed (they rarely are), you're good to go.

There can be a considerable difference in growth rate and vitality between wood containers or other containers that have gas permeable walls (terra cotta, e.g.). CO2, methane, and sulfurous gasses can build up more easily in containers with impermeable walls, and these gasses have a negative affect on growth/vitality. Also, post with gas permeable walls allow water vapor to pass, so the soil dries faster. This is more a benifit when using heavier soils that hold notable volumes of perched water, but as a general rule, plants in soils that need more frequent watering will outgrow their counterparts in soils that can go long intervals between waterings. Watering soil forces out stale soil gasses ans brings in fresh air as the water passes through the soil ..... but I'm getting a little beyond the original question now, so I'll stop - unless anything I said triggers additional questions ...

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Found the link:
5 part partially-composed pine bark fines (mulch)

1 part sphagnum peat

1 part horticulture grade perlite (coarse size)

1 tbsp per gallon of garden dolomic lime


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RE: Trees in Containers III

"That said, if you tell me plant type & what you want it to look like, I can offer options. One thing I am very good at is manipulating plants & getting them to grow as I want them to."
The plant is albizia julibrissin, but for the question I would say that I'm interested in a shade tree, that will grow enough to give shade.... So
I need to control its height but, again, should be enough for a few people to sit around (the container).....

"but I'm getting a little beyond the original question now, so I'll stop - unless anything I said triggers additional questions ... "

your explanations are wonderful since understanding the 'what's going on under the hood' is fascinating

Thank you for your patience, I will probably ask more questions soon :)


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 4, 11 at 14:11

Controlling a tree's height is easy; it's the combining of that control with eye appeal where the hard part comes in. Fortunately, most of the leguminous trees like mimosa/silk tree are pretty cooperative when it comes to creating an umbrella-shaped canopy. Here's how to achieve it:

Allow all branches to remain on the tree initially - they will help thicken/strengthen the trunk. When the tree is about as tall as you want the bottom of the canopy to be, start pruning off the lowest branches gradually and terminate the leader. After that, it's pretty much a matter of A) pruning the top to keep it within the imaginary shape you envision for the canopy and removing the crossing/inward/straight upward-downward branches you would normally remove from trees in the landscape. B) keeping the tree healthy, which includes keeping the root system happy/healthy (that root maintenance thing again), - probably the biggest challenge C) keeping the tree from toppling on a regular basis. Wanting to maintain a tree in a container that is large enough for several people to sit under for shade is ambitious in and of itself. The amount of wind the canopy catches is going to be significant, so you might want to give some consideration to how you're going to stabilize the container as the tree reaches the size you're shooting for.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Thanks,

How do I mix the soil that I get when the tree arrives (the soil that forms its root ball in the plastic sac) with the new 5:1:1 soil mix, do I leave that soil as is?


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi, Guype!

Hey, Al! Great advice!

Guype, just wanted to jump in and mention that *when the time is right* you'll remove
as much of the old soil as possible from the root-ball. Then you'll fill in all the spaces
between the roots with the new 5-1-1 mix. With the 5-1-1, it isn't quite as essential that
the old soil be removed (compared to the Gritty Mix), but you'll net the best results if you
do take the time to get rid of the peaty, nursery soil.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 6, 11 at 10:13

Guype - please consider adding where you live (like my z5b-6a mid-MI) to your user info. It will really help those offering advice.

Trust what Josh says - he gets it right. You'd probably be best served to just pot up for now & wait until spring to repot.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Al;

I just stumbled onto your posts and am amazed that you kept at it these past years. Admittedly, I have not read ALL the posts but enough of them to understand your method to rootprune / repot.

I have a potted (15gal) 8 foot grapefruit tree that I was about to let die because I did not know about root pruning. Planted as seed in 1986. Potted up since. Grapefruits over the years got smaller and smaller. However, leaves stayed GREEN throughout the winter indoors and outdoors during warm months (am in Baltimore, MD). Pruned each year to fit thru door.

However, this year, I got greedy wanting larger grapefruits again (now plum sized), bought some JOBS Citrus fertilizer and added a cup on top and a cup in saucer in Spring. And this fall. If anything, I think it made things worse as now all leaves are yellow and I think tree will die soon.

Question: It is mid to late November. The tree is scheduled to be moved indoors for the winter as soon as we get a forecast in the lower 20s. Should I root-prune/repot now then bring indoors or bring in tree and wait to do it early spring before it goes outdoors again? I tried to include pic like others in their posts but could not figure out how.

Your reponse is welcome and thanx!

John


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 22, 11 at 14:08

It sounds like a high level of solubles is at play, which I would almost expect to be a seriously limiting factor, given the length of time w/o a repot.

I'd put your # of options at 3. Do nothing and let nature take its course, which I would rate as least desirable. You could bite the bullet & do a full, out-of-season repot and hope for the best. Or, you could remove as much fertilizer as you possibly can & flush flush flush the soil, then do it again.

I would base my decision on how healthy the tree is (or isn't) right now. If it's VERY weak, I think I would opt for the 3rd choice. If it's in good health, I'd get after a full repot & get the plant into a good soil and set in place a good nutrition supplementing program.

I'll wait to hear what you have to say before I offer more.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Just wanted to pop in and say Hello to Al and mention that this is one of my favorite Threads!
Regarding the Grapefruit...I must agree. Flush the heck out of that thing and hope for the best.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Thanx for the respond, Al.

If all the leaves are yellow, isn't that indicative of a weak tree? I would think so. If you agree, I will flush. I am assuming I would put hose on tree at slow drip and let it run for a number of days(?) If you can tell me how to include pic, I will do so.

Thanx again.

John


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Photobucket


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RE: Trees in Containers III

The tree looks great from here....
at that size, it must have some significant nutrient demands.

Flushing, from what I recall, would be passing water 7x the volume of the container through the mix.
But let's wait to see what Al says.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Tapla & others.Been following this thread for a while now....great stuff!I've just repotted/root pruned all my maples and as usual done it in autumn.My reasons for choosing this time are thus:
I'm led to believe in autumn the plants will use some of reserved energy to put out more roots.I've heard people argue ''why rootprune in autumn if the pot's gonna get half filled with roots again straight away?''....well this is what I'm hoping for.
Spring is the time I'm gonna lose maples if I am.The plants have so much to do at that time,completely on reserved energy,sometimes any stress is too much for them.I had some defoliated by unexpected heatwave and they didn't have any energy left to re-bud etc.So my way of thinking is rootpruning in autumn means a bit less work for the plant in spring.
Now I've noticed you and many here advise root pruning in spring.I know you must have very good reasons for this,it's just I'm unaware of them.
Please can you advise me on the pros & cons of spring/autumn root pruning so I can see if I'm missing out on any great advantages....many thanks.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 26, 11 at 13:14

SJ - 'Weak' is a vague term that needs to be better defined if it's to have meaning. 'Weak' just means the tree isn't dealing well with the cultural hand it's been dealt. In a general sense, if all a trees leaves are yellow, it could be a genetic predisposition, or it could be any one of a number of things. The first thins I would suspect are nutritional issues - either because the nutrients are truly in short supply, or because they are not actually in short supply, only unavailable due to pH-related issues that render the nutrients insoluble; but if the chlorotic appearance comes fast on the heals of fertilizer additions, it could be the initial indication the tree is shutting down in a drought response it won't be able to recover from unless you make the intervention.

If you're going to use a hose to flush the soil, I'd use a nozzle set to fine mist & situate it so the mist covers the entire soil surface. I'd probably let the hose run for an hour or two. If your soil is so heavy you're worried about root rot, simply lift the tree from the pot and set it on newspapers for a couple of hours to 'pull' excess water from the root mass. Then, repot it in the same container. You could saw off the bottom 1/4 of the roots at that time & fill the bottom of the container with a soil similar to what it's in now, then wait until spring to repot.

You can root prune/repot maples in fall with good results if there is no danger of the soil freezing during winter. If there is that danger, it's best to wait until spring. The reason is, the fine roots that will be stimulated to grow after the root pruning do take energy from the tree. Unfortunately, those roots are not well protected against freezing, even though their heavier and more lignified counterparts might be. If the newly formed roots freeze, the tree is essentially getting nothing in return for its energy outlay.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Thankyou for the reply Al,I've always wondered...I guess that's why most people prefer spring then.In recent years it hasn't been an issue in my part of country,but last year we had a cold(for us) early winter out of the blue.That was followed by the extremely rare hot spring I mentioned.If this is gonna become a trend I'll have to change my ways
....cheers


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi All,

I just wanted to throw in some of my experiences with my trees this year.

The first pic is that of my Japanese Maple seedlings. I work in lawncare and hundreds of my customers have Japanese Maples in their landscaping, or just planted out in the middle of the lawn. This Spring I dug about a dozen tiny seedlings from the lawns I was working on. It was either try to save them, or kill them as I was spraying the pesticides. Considering how haphazardly I gathered and transplanted them, I'm pleased with the ~60% success rate. The one on the far left is approx. 6in tall. Can't wait for next Spring and the chance to snag a few more.

Photobucket

The second is a Green Japanese Maple that I ordered on ebay this Spring. I could have fit its entire root ball into a dime coin wrapper. You can see that it has really enjoyed the 5-1-1 mix.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Last is just a Bloodgood that I bought at Home Depot. Now I'm just waiting on Spring to repot it into a nicer mix.

Photobucket


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by fun-gi San Antonio, TX - 8b (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 15, 11 at 12:43

Hi all,

I have three oaks (shin oak, downy oak, and what is probably a cork oak) that were purchased from a local nursery within the last 2 or 3 months. They are all root bound, and I plan on re-potting when buds start to swell as that is what I have read as the best time to re-pot deciduous trees.

The plan is to grow and style them as bonsai to be put in bonsai pots in what will be, I'm sure, several years. In a year or two hopefully I will be able to put them in the ground, but they must stay in containers for now since I live in an apartment. As of now consider them to have a total container future.

From what little information I've found about oaks it seems that they are sensitive to root work. I am planning on using one of Al's mixes, the 5-1-1 or gritty. These trees could probably be considered to be under stress from a lack of being re-potted by the nursery. They actually were all in the back in a section that belongs to the owner that holds plants that he may one day plant in his yard.

So, should I use the 5-1-1 and only do partial root work over a few seasons until I can remove the last of the original soil and go to the gritty?

Should I do the partial root work as above, but go ahead and use the gritty from the start?

Should I perform total root work and go straight to gritty?

Or as one bit of information suggested, since they are oaks, should I just leave the sensitive root ball intact and pot-up into a good soil? This of course is contrary to the trees planned bonsai future, unless it will allow the tree to grow a bit under slightly better conditions allowing for a better chance of survival when I do root prune.

I would also do partial or total taproot removal at re-potting time, depending on GW opinion.

Also, would there be any benefit to re-potting immediately since the trees seem stressed?

I'm looking forward to your opinions, and feel free to tell me I'm completely off base if necessary.

Billy


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 15, 11 at 16:58

I'm guessing the trees will be dormant soon (or are now), so there is no harm in waiting until spring to start your repots. I don't have a lot of experience with oaks, but I do know they will only have a taproot if the plant is from seed - not, if grafted or vegetatively cloned.

I'd bare-root and repot into the gritty mix this spring, and every spring thereafter. The reason I say every year is so you can keep working on the root system to get it flattened out. I can't offer specific instructions for reducing the roots for bonsai w/o seeing the roots, but that can be worked out if you contact me before you do the work. You can bare-root one day & send photos, and I can give you the initial guidance you need, same day. You can leave the tree in a tub of water over night, or in a plastic bag tied tight around the roots if need be.

Plants that have pronounced taproots, as in Quercus, exhibit a genetic propensity toward strong, vertically-growing roots. It's likely that instead of finding ONE taproot descendant of the seed radical, you'll find many strong downward growing roots arising from secondary or even tertiary roots. You'll be concentrating on getting that type of growth under control in your root pruning efforts. If you imagine cutting a young carrot (strong taproot ....) in half & transplanting, it's not hard to envision several strong downward growing roots arising from the perimeter of or above the point of truncation.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Al, many thanks for all the time you have invested, to help reduce the time we have to invest. I look forward to your advice this spring.

If anyone else has more oak specific knowledge that would be appreciated also.

Billy


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 16, 11 at 11:49

You are, of course, most welcome. Have a very Merry Christmas, Billy.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I've been growing a pair of California Blue Oaks for several years now,
and I've successfully re-potted into a gritty mix of screened fir bark, red pumice, and perlite.
At the time, I re-potted in December - but now I would wait until Spring, before bud movement.
In fact, I'll be re-potting this Spring. My mix will be slightly different this year, since I have better
and more varied ingredients, including Turface, a new source of course Perlite, and quartz.

In one of my other containers, a squirrel stowed a Live Oak acorn...so I'll pot that seedling, too.

I wish I could link you to a Thread on working with Oaks, but all I have is an ID Thread:

California Oak ID


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by fun-gi San Antonio, TX - 8b (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 19, 11 at 17:22

Thanks Josh. As far as a link, that has been the issue with my information search. There isn't much that I can find on oaks in containers. I guess most people like them in the ground.

Have you root pruned your blue oaks at all or just re-potted? Also, is there a specific reason your switching to a spring re-pot?

Thanks again, and Merry Christmas to you Josh and to you, Al, as well.

Billy


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 17, 12 at 22:04

For reference:

A rough bark maple that will never be a bonsai unless I layer the top off - because it's grafted to an A palmatum seedling
Photobucket

You can see I sawed off 3/4 of the root mass before I even thought about trying to untangle the roots.
Photobucket

Photobucket

You can also see I removed large roots growing downward & chunks of the stem so I get a flat root system
Photobucket

The roots still need a lot of work, but I don't want to do any more than what I already did, or I might jeopardize the tree's survival.
Photobucket

***************************************************

I thought I'd show a before & after picture so you can see the difference a little wiring and pruning can make.

Before: Photobucket

and after:
Photobucket

Notice how I secured the tree to the pot because of the greatly reduced root system, and because securing the tree to the pot fractionalizes the length of time it takes for the tree to reestablish. It's too bad you can get a feel for depth by looking at the pictures. This is the tree's first rough styling, but it has branches in the right places; and because it's so apically dominant, a top will be easy to build. The main goal will actually be to RESTRAIN the top through constant hard pruning to keep the top branches from thickening. That would make the tree look unnatural, because in nature the lower branches are always thickest.

*************************************************

Here is a Japanese hornbeam seedling with a horrible root system. Notice how I pruned the top very short & left the bottom branches long? That's so the bottom branches thicken. I'll probably chop this tree back eventually, at about half the ht it is now. I'll train another branch to vertical like I already did at the top. See where I chopped it?
Photobucket
Photobucket

It would take years to correct the root system, so I'm going to build another one that will be perfect. Here's how I do it - I put 2 zip ties tightly around the trunk, like this.
Photobucket

Then I use a brad point drill to drill through the cambium into the sapwood. I let the holes dry w/o letting the roots dry, and fill them with a rooting hormone gel.
Photobucket

Pot it so the soil is just below the wounds:
Photobucket

Then I pack wet sphagnum moss (not peat) around the wounds.
Photobucket

Then fill the pot with gritty mix so the wounds are about 1" below the surface. By next spring, a huge bulge will appear above the zip ties. By spring of '14, roots will have appeared in perfect symmetry around the large basal flare, from the holes I drilled. This is a perfect way to shorten a too tall tree too, and there is no risk involved with the procedure, other than what you might normally be incurred from other cultural conditions.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Wonderful pictures and techniques, Al!

I have a question about the Rough Bark maple. That root-mass looks very, very dry in the first pic.
Were they really that dry?


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 18, 12 at 21:12

It was pretty dry, but not completely. I could feel just a little moisture at the bottom of the roots before I chopped off 3/4 of the root mass. If that part is still damp, there's enough moisture to sustain a dormant tree. It's a lot easier to work on trees when the root mass is quite dry.

Here's a boxwood I pruned & repotted earlier today. I should have taken a picture before I did the pruning.

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Awesome pictures and explanation of what you're doing and why. Thank you once again for sharing. I love seeing pictures like these of the process from the master. What's even better, atleast to me, is that I understand what you're doing and why (mostly just from looking at the pictures before actually reading the text, which means I must be learning). It's cool to see some of the "theory" put into actual practice. The internet and boards like this one are truly awesome. The information that can be obtained in a single afternoon is amazing. Of course, putting that information to use in a practical manner is still what separates us beginners from the master, but in time, with practice and patience, thanks in large part to your help, I hope to become at least a semi-competent container arborist.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 19, 12 at 21:17

When you apply a tourniquet, water and nutrients still flow upward to the canopy via the xylem, but photosynthate/carbohydrates are blocked by the restriction and accumulate in tissues above. You can actually start the process before you start the layer and it will take less time. Here is another maple I did this to because of an ugly looking root system (initially).

The trident after a chop. The thin new leader will be allowed to grow for a least a year. By then, the larger 'sacrifice' branch to the right will have 'fed' the trunk below the thin branch, helping it to fatten and improving the taper of the trunk. In a year or two, that branch will be removed/chopped. The process will have already been repeated further up the tree. This is a special tree because of it's great root system, something coveted by experienced bonsai artists.
Photobucket

After depotting
Photobucket

I've removed the bottom 2/3-3/4 of the root mass by sawing through it.
Photobucket

A look at the roots after cleaning.
Photobucket

The top view shows how perfectly spaced the roots are. If you were to look really closely, you'd see something unusual about the roots.
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You'll see it clearly in the next pictures
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Did you notice the large gauge aluminum wire embedded in the tree below the upper roots? I employed the technique I illustrated above on the hornbeam on this tree Actually, I'd forgotten I did it until I saw the roots. By then I had figured out what I did. See how the trunk bulges out above the wire, making a strong root flare ..... and the position of the surface roots are a promise this will one day be an exceptional tree.

I was going to show a boxwood repot too, but Photobucket stopped working ......

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Cool...really neat to see how (using the Trident as an example) the new roots will grow in to the scarred spots (drilled holes) on the Hornbeam.

In the first picture showing the wired up new leader, the big branch/leader on the right is the sacrificial limb to thicken the trunk, and the thin branch on the left is the new leader, correct?

This brings a question/confirmation I meant to ask you previously but just sort of forgot...the lower limbs/back budding shoots on my trees should be allowed to grow wild for a few years with little trimming, all the while pruning the top quite hard to allow the lower branches to thicken and force growth lower on the tree, correct? (In general, no particular tree in mind.)

Great pics and explanations...ps, I didn't see the wire until you mentioned it in the description, but I did see that a new set of roots had been started higher on the trunk. Really an awesome set of pictures between the two posts to illustrate the technique.

Do you have good (or any for that matter) experiences with air layering Palmatums to get them off the root stock and onto their own roots. Although I'm not technically going for bonsai, some of my trees have quite ugly grafts and noticeably different bark on the root stock than on the cultivar.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Fantastic pictures, Al. As the saying goes, a picture is really worth 1000 words! Your descriptions and photos are invaluable!


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 20, 12 at 9:48

More later when I have more time ....

Here's a boxwood:
Photobucket
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And the before/after pics of a maple forest I've been working on for 5 years. It was just repotted & I'll be concentrating now on developing ramification (twiggyness) in the tops through frequent pruning & defoliation.

before
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after
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Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Greetings! I can't thank you all enough for your shared knowledge!! I have learned so much from your postings. I voluntarily maintain a very large roof garden in our coop in New York City. I have been doing this for the past 10 years and clearly have been doing it "successfully" but clearly all wrong! Wrong in a sense that I have only potted up our trees/firs once. And some not at all as they are way to big too big to transplant. So my question is that I have a 10-12 foot Japanese Maple that has been in the same container for ~20 years. Although it has leaves, it has not had any new growth in ~3 years and the amount of foliage is clearly declining. I purchased a very large teak planter with hopes of transplanting it. We had a very mild winter and early spring this year & don't know if I should even bother. The advice given to me was to merely purchase a new tree and not risk breaking our backs and ruining the new planter. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 31, 12 at 16:44

Can you estimate the size of the soil mass in any way (gallons, cu ft, dimensions ....)? You KNOW I'm going to tell you it's worth root pruning and repotting, don't you? ;-)

Thanks for the very kind words, btw.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I did know that!!!! I had a tree expert come by, who was wonderful. Said he didn't think it was worth repotting because of the amount of work involved, and the fact that it's too late this year. The container it is in is 34x34x18. The new container is 40x40x26. So I'm not sure what that translates to soil mass wise. And the trunk is 8" in diameter.

Many thanks,
Alethea


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Here is a foto of the tree. Sorry about the quality & that the weather isn't better!

Here is a link that might be useful: Foto of Japanese Maple


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 1, 12 at 13:35

I'll let you decide if it's worth repotting. I see plenty of pruning opportunities that would allow you to reduce the top by at least 1/2 - especially the ht. I think the question pivots on whether or not you could commandeer a couple of brawny lads and convince them to give up a little of their time over the course of a morning or afternoon to help you put a plan in place. It IS to far along to do a full repot now, but what you COULD do is pot up until next spring, THEN do your root reduction/repot. Admittedly, it's a lot of work, especially for your first endeavor, but if it was my tree I'd do it just for the fun of it. I'd LOVE to be able to get a group together & tackle the project, using it as a learning tool for the others.

Let me know if you decide to tackle it .... and I'll help you through the process from now until next spring.

BTW - is anyone else NOT seeing most of the pictures I posted to this thread over its course? As I scrolled up the thread, almost all the pics are gone.

Al


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Pics

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 1, 12 at 13:55

Never mind the pictures - they're baa~aack. ;-) Musta been a fluke of cybernature.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers

You're on Al!!!! Are you saying you want to come to NY to help??? ;) What are your thoughts on using a block & tackle to raise the tree? And once raised, can I do any root pruning? Also, should I top off the tree now?

As for your pics, I am able to see them without a problem.

Alethea


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 1, 12 at 18:37

I meant that it would be cool if the tree was here & I could use it for a demonstration - nice try. Lol

I wouldn't 'top' the tree, but I would certainly reduce the top substantially by pruning hard but selectively.

I think that for now, I'd work the tree out of it's container, remove a few inches of roots from the bottom, loosen some roots on the outside of the root mass & then put it in its new container until next spring when I would bare-root it completely, root prune, and repot. I'd probably plan the operation for the first week of Mar.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

so when you cut off or remove half of the root ball, the plant or tree will still survive and be healthy?

interesting....


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 4, 12 at 16:28

There are some considerations you need to take into account, but if you do it at an appropriate time following appropriate procedures, none of which are particularly difficult, the tree will hardly miss a beat. I'm not trying to be a s/a when I say that I wouldn't put several years of work into a tree as it progresses toward becoming a worthy bonsai specimen if I thought I was going to kill it when I root pruned/repotted. The fact is, root pruning actually has a considerable rejuvenating effect on the tree/plant - it's GOOD for it. If you read this thread's opening post, you'll see I made a very good case for root pruning being necessary to long term vitality - that slow decline is virtually assured when we're dependent on potting up as our sole method of managing root restriction.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I have a question about leaving trees indoors after they've leafed out. I root pruned my 9 Japanese maples and repotted them in the gritty mix about 3 weeks ago because the buds were starting to swell when we had that freak two week period of 70-80 degree days. They are all in various stages of leafing out now and pushing new growth. I've been bringing them outside for the day and back inside each night as the highs have been around 50-60 and the lows are typically around 28-40.

My question is, what do these trees need from a sunlight perspective at this point in the growing season. My maples that are planted outside haven't leafed out yet because of the cold weather. Is it wise/safe to bring my containerized maples out every day to get some sun when the temperature is between 45-55 degrees?

Also, is it necessary to bring them out every day or is it ok if I skip the occasional day due to my schedule or because the weather is poor. There are some days that I have to leave early for the office and I'm afraid to take them outside at 6am when the temperature won't get up above 40 until 7 or 8.

I appreciate any advice you might have.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 6, 12 at 11:50

Yes - I have 15-20 maples in various stages of development that I keep on nursery carts at this time of year. I wheel them in and out into the sun as temperatures allow. If it's not going to freeze, they stay outdoors. I bring them indoors to protect newly forming roots after repots from freezing, and to protect foliage on trees in more advanced stages of the spring flush. I don't worry quite so much about trees with foliage that is only just emerging, because that retains some degree of resistance to chill (effects of freezing temps), but I suggest that you play it safe & move trees in if frost is likely.

You want the trees to get light so the important internodes are short. If you're managing your trees properly, at some point they'll require hard pruning. When that occurs, you want to be able to prune back to short internodes, not the long ones that would be produced in extended indoor stays in dim light.

I move mine outdoors before work if the actual temp is above 30*. This morning, there was still a hard frost conspicuous on lawns & roof tops. If it's too cold, my wife helps me out after it warms, if I remember to ask. ;-)

Best luck!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Thanks Al. Just to be clear, I do eventually intend to plant these trees in the landscape, so would the short internodes still be a concern? (I'm just raising them in containers for fun (and to learn) until I decide who to gift them to).

I do try to follow your pruning advice in general to maintain the overall appearance of the trees (no more than two shoots per node), but I'm not trying to dwarf their growth. Given that I'm not trying to limit their apical growth (I'd actually like to increase it), does it make sense for me to ignore the "two nodes per shoot" rule?

I also have one more question if I can capture just a bit more of your valuable time. Given that I've repotted them into the gritty mix and root pruned, and that my maples have started leafing out and producing new growth, should I be following a regular fertilizer schedule now? During the summer I usually fertigate with a quarter dose of FP every couple days depending on the weather, and once every few waterings I flush the smart pots with just water. Is it to early to resume this schedule?

I've learned a lot reading all these threads over the past two years and really appreciate your advice. I feel like if I were one of my trees I'd be in a pretty confused state right now as they live in my 70 degree home office at night and then get put out in the sun during the day for 40-55 degree weather.

Thanks again.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 6, 12 at 15:39

If they're bound for the landscape, internode length is not much of a consideration unless you plan on keeping them very compact.

If you want to increase growth, both ht & o/a mass, just let the tree grow unencumbered; but if you want them to look good in containers over the long term, the sooner you get your hand involved in manipulating the growth habit, the better the potential for a good looking plant.

If you're using FP 9-3-6, you can start applying weak doses of fertilizer, but if you're using a fertilizer that gets its N from urea, you should wait until mean soil temperatures are above 55* to begin fertilizing.

You might be confused because the ability to reason is part of your genetic disposition. Trees are totally reactive organisms, so there's nothing for them to sort out. As long as you're able to supply conditions they are genetically programmed to deal with, they'll fare well in the long run. Your job, as the reasoning half of the affiliation, is to figure out how to keep the plant operating at well within the limits of its ability to cope. Get the soil, fertilizing, light levels, and timing so you're working with the tree's natural energy flow instead of against it, and you're easily 90% of the way 'there'. ;-)

Best luck!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

So we undertook the potting up on Saturday. Unfortunately we were not able to remove roots from the bottom as the weight of the tree was probably 500lbs. I did remove quite a bit from the sides. I'm not sure how we are going to undertake bare rooting it next year as we are on a roof and don't have access to cranes. Is there a way to go in from surface and dissect out some roots versus actually lifting the tree out. And should I fertilize now? And if so, what kind and how often?

Many thanks for you support.....
Alethea


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 9, 12 at 9:59

The tree is in a cedar box? My suggestion would be to tip the tree on its side and get someone to carefully sever the bottom half of the roots with a chain saw before you get into the root mass & remove some of the larger roots ..... with the promise you'll pay to have the chain sharpened after the work. If that doesn't fit into the limits of what you think is a workable plan, you'll just have to do whatever you can. BTW - there's no judgement in what I said - it just IS. ;-)

As far as fertilizer goes, I think I'd use FP 9-3-6 + Pro-TeKt 0-0-3 on it at monthly intervals while it's growing well. Getting away from a soluble fertilizer with urea in it is going to help keep growth more compact. The Pro-TeKt will also allow you to fertilize at reduced N rates w/o encountering issues with P or K deficiency, and the added silicon will be helpful as well. Alternately, you could use any 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer at low doses and include a little potash each time you fertilize. A thorough flushing of the soil at monthly intervals would be a beneficial part of the o/a plan, too.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Al,

I have a Shishigashira that I have had for about 5 or 6 years and was wondering about pruning the branches.It's spring here in Nanaimo BC and these recent pic show the tree has almost finished leafing out...but I want to trim some of the branches. Not a lot...the large crooked one on the bottom right I would like to shorten and I want to remove some smaller portions in other areas (not much). Can I do it now or should I wait till next spring? I have been using your soil mix 3-1-1-1 (pinebark,turface,peatmoss,pearlite)... maybe not quite your mix but it seems to work for this tree. I did the roots this spring a few weeks ago. They are perfect...they look like Moe's hair from the 3 stooges. I think the tree is pretty healthy but I don't want to stress it by trimming now if it is not recommended. What do you think?


Tim


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 28, 12 at 11:56

You won't hurt your tree by pruning now. That particular tree could have all the branches removed if you wanted to, and it would still survive.

It's really hard to get good perspective on a tree by looking at photos. I take pictures of my trees that look so good in real life, but am often left with the feeling others are thinking, "What the heck does he see in THAT tree?" ;-)

What my eye goes to right away is the arrangement of the two lowest branches. They're opposite, or 'bar' branches. Fortunately, the left branch is growing upward and the right branch more horizontal. I would remove the lower right branch entirely or shorten it so the 'check mark' part of it is removed. This creates another problem, though. The branch above it is very strong and needs restraining. I can't tell if the branch that appears to come off that heavy branch at the siding lap is attached to that branch or not. If it is, I would cut that branch back to just above that branch to slow it down. After that, I would remove any secondary branches that are growing nearly vertical - especially on the lower part of the tree. There appears to be some congestion in the center of the foliage mass. I'd be looking at that area with an eye toward opening it up just a little, too. After you're done, take more pics & we'll see if there is anything else that would pave the way toward a better looking future.

For those who intend to maintain trees in containers, you'll find this tool invaluable.
Photobucket

It's called a concave cutter, and works wonderfully as a pruning tool - far superior to even the best of bypass cutters. I have a Masakuni pair that is more than 25 years old. I use it in the gardens for all my pruning & on all my bonsai. It's never been sharpened, and still works like new. If you get a pair, buy the best you can afford. I have a pair by Joshua Roth that is also very old and a quality tool.

You'll also find this tool to be very useful, too.
Photobucket

Called a 'concave knob cutter', it's used to get in between the Ys formed by maple branches and to clean up after removing branches. You cut a concave depression where branch stubs were so that when callus tissue rolls over the wound it doesn't leave a conspicuous scar.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Thanx Al!

I see what you mean by perspective. I should have taken newer photos from all sides. Its amazing what a week or so will bring in the spring. And as I turn the tree it looks better on some sides and horrendous on others. I have not really started to groom this tree yet but I did make the 2 cuts you recommended. It may take me some time to decide what to trim next and how I want it to look so don't think I ran away. I'm just not sure what I want it to look like. I kinda like the bushy look and love the leaves. Thanx again....I'll post some more pics soon.

Tim


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Al, while you are here giving out advice on JM pruning, I'd love to hear your recommendations on how to prune these two Japanese maples. I realize it's hard to give advice based on photos, but I know these trees need some major formative pruning and I just don't have a clue of how to begin. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

This is Hupp's Dwarf. Its leaves grow right off its branches:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

and, a second tree...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Like Al has said previously, it's hard to get a good feel for the 3d shape of the tree from a 2d picture but here's my first swing at this one.

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Basically, I'd cut where the red lines are, saving the branches that have blue rectangle shapes on them. Of the branches that are indicated to be saved in the upper part of the tree, I'd prune back to another branch point ultimately having no more than 2 nodes on the thinnest branches in the very top of the tree. I'd further remove any "handle bar" branches from the save portion. The two lowest branches, I'd let grow for now in an attempt to thicken those branches. In time those branches would also be pruned back to keep them in balance with the rest of the tree, but that's several years down the road.

Basically, to get the two lowest branches to thicken, you'll have to prune the top heavily and repeatedly to overcome Acer palmatums' natural apical dominance, and by pruning as described above, you've begun to develop some taper (each step up the tree being a little thinner) rather than the main leader(s) of the tree being thick all the way up.

Remember this species naturally grows into a semi-tall, upright bush. One of the Japanese gardens in the Seattle area has a Shishigashira that's close to 12' tall and nearly that wide. So to keep this species in a container and still be able to move it around and perform proper maintenance (root pruning, repotting, etc) you're going to want to keep this guy somewhere around 3'x3' or 4'x4'.

At least that's my take. I hope Al will see this post and provide his thoughts (as well as critique my suggested pruning cuts and thought process). Next to taking up an apprenticeship with Al (which would be hard as we live on different sides of the US) or actually cutting my own trees (and sometimes, through my own inexperience, making cuts that I later regret) using paint to suggest pruning cuts in these forums and having AL critique those suggestions is a very good way to learn from the master.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, May 3, 12 at 22:16

It's soo hard to be specific when looking at a 2D picture. I know I could prune it in under 10 minutes to give you a framework to build on, but that requires being able to look at the tree from all sides so you can take in ALL the spacial considerations for both the present AND the future.

First, you can hardly go wrong on a young tree, no matter what you do, because you can always fix it. You could chop that tree off immediately above the tiny little first branch on the trunk, and in a few years, you wouldn't even know you did it.

Here is what I would do. Look over the tree and wherever 3 or more branches emerge from the same point or very near the same point, reduce the number of branches to 2 - to a 'Y'. Think about it and keep the branches that contribute most to the composition. If you can't decide, keep the thinnest. Then, post pictures from different angles and we'll look at it with an eye to shortening it.

If you want it to remain in a pot, you should probably get used to the idea you're going to be continually cutting it back. You'll LOVE those tools (pics above) if you don't mind being separated from a few bucks .... or can convince someone they would make a perfect gift.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Blake and Al, THANK YOU so much for your help! I realize that it is very difficult to give pruning advice based on a 2D picture, but I just can't find this information in any book, so your advice is still invaluable! I'm going to try to prune this tree incorporating advice from both of you, and see how it goes.

Al, I own a concave cutter, so the issue is really just where to apply it!

Is it OK to prune these trees now, even if it's pushing 90 here this week?

While you are both dispensing advice, anyone want to weigh in on how to prune my other tree, the Hupps Dwarf? Given all of its branches tend strongly toward the vertical and its leaves bud right off very close to the branches, I can't tell what should stay and what should go. Suggestions?

Finally, I like the idea of taking an apprenticeship with Al :-) Let me know when you are ready to offer your own live course, and I'll sign up!

Mark


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Honestly, my limited experience with palmatum dwarf's has indicated that pruning them is a very different experience than pruning the larger trees. Although I'm not certain about the Hubb's, many of the dwarf palmatums are so slow growing that a wrong cut can take years and years to correct. So I wouldn't want to give advice about pruning that tree.

That's not to say that dwarfs can't or shouldn't be pruned. In fact, with many of the dwarfs I've seen online, without some pruning for shape, the dwarfs take on the look of a bushy looking shrub.

Most of Al's advice above would apply to dwarfs as well as any other tree.

My suggestions would be to look at the tree from all angles (including top down), then compare to shapes that you've seen that you like. With a vision in you head of what you'd like to accomplish, begin to prune with very similar goals as Al normally suggests. IE remove excess branches so that no more than two branches emanate from the same point, prune for taper, etc. A couple of things to keep in mind with dwarfs that are going to be different than the larger trees due to their slow growing nature, is rather than cutting them way back (lots of the dwarfs don't get more than 4' tall and take a long time to get that tall) prune to branches that enhance taper and prune so that you provide layering when looking at both the sides and from the top.

Here's a couple of pictures of a Shishio hime from the side and from the top. I've circled the same leaf cluster in each picture with the same color to give an idea of layering both vertically and from the top down.

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Photobucket

With the spring flush some areas have grown in bushy and overgrown areas below them. These areas will be thinned and some of the branches in the top will be removed to allow the branches underneath to show through from above. In time, as shoots provide the opportunity, I will prune for additional layering vertically as well (right now there's too much growth in one plane near the top) but I think you can get an idea from the pictures.

This tree is a dwarf and will only ever get about 3' tall, even planted in the ground. Older specimens will get 4'-6' wide when planted in the ground. In their natural condition, this tree is very dense, more dense than my personal taste, so I choose to thin it. It is slow to moderate growing, so I don't want to prune too much (as I did on the front of the tree). There's a hole now that will take some time to fill in. So just be aware, as you prune these dwarfs (especially if Hubbs is a slow growing variety) that mistakes or taking too much out will take longer to correct.

Blake


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RE: Shishio hime

Actually, looking at this pictures more closely, my most likely next pruning cut will be to remove the dark orange area on the left. By pruning this area of the left hand branch back to the gray area, the blue branch underneath will be allowed to be seen from above and I'll remove some of the mass from the vertical plane at the top of the tree. This will provide better horizontal and vertical taper.

In time the light orange area on the right side of the tree will be pruned back to encourage ramification (branch density). I also hope a shoot from the pink or blue area on the bottom side will be able to trained to fill in the hole on that side of the tree.

The other thing that I'll begin to do (not this year because the tree was root pruned and repotted this year) is to defoliate the tree in the summer (once a year). The resulting second flush leaves will grow in smaller with each defoliation.

Blake


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RE: Hupp's Dwarf

Sorry Mark,

For some reason when I was thinking about your "Hupp's Dwarf" last night I was mixing in the "Hubb's" from "Hubb's Red Willlow" rather than calling it the correct name. Sorry again.

I did a quick search this morning for "Hupp's Dwarf" and confirmed my suspensions about this tree, as with other dwarfs, being a slow grower. "Essence of the Tree" includes within its description of this cultivar the statement, "After the second year, no more than two inches of growth per year with internodes almost on top of one another."

So this is indeed a very slow growing little dwarf, only reaching about 2' in container culture/3' when planted in the ground.

With this in mind, I would suggest carefully studying the tree and only pruning after you're sure of the shape you want to obtain. Remember it will take some time, at 2" per year, to fill in any mistakes.

Places to start would be: crossing branches, where more than two branches emanate from the same node & handle bar branches. Prune slowly, stepping back and viewing the tree from many angles after each cut, before making additional cuts.

Contrary to the practices I've subscribed to, based largely at first on posting pics and having Al graciously make suggestions for cuts, then later on several books and websites I've read (some of which Al recommended), Acer palmatum dwarfs in general and the very slow growing ones like your tree, will take a long time to recover from heavy cuts, so a lighter touch, in my opinion, is in order for the dwarfs.

Okay, as usual, rather than one well thought out clear and concise post, I've made several rambling ones. So I'd better cool it and let someone else post.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Blake,

Those different colored outlines make it so much easier to understand what you are trying to illustrate! I realize I have not paid sufficient attention to the top-down view when making pruning decisions about my trees.

Thank you also for pointing out that extra care is needed when pruning a dwarf palmatum. I realize I was remiss in not telling you that both of the trees whose photos I posted were dwarfs. The tree that you made specific pruning suggestions on is Acer palmatum Mikawa yatsubusa. I agree with you that this tree looks like it needs some drastic pruning to get rid of the long 'leggy' branches that only have leaves on their tips. The problem is that when I got the tree it looked this way. Do I just have to resign myself to looking at some pretty ugly stumps for several years before this tree looks good again, or is there a way to do this in stages?


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Sorry Mark,

For some reason I had it in my head I was looking at a Shishigashira. Very different trees.

Mikawa yatsubusa is described as a very slow growing tree. So first advice is proceed much more cautiously than my previous suggestion (assuming you haven't done anything drastic just yet). If you have, it isn't the end of the world. It'll just take a little longer to grow back in. One of the descriptions does say it's great for bonsai, so it likely will respond well to a variation of a "cut and grow" method.

I probably should have asked a few questions prior to giving suggestions previously (even if I did think it was a Shishigashira). I jumped head long into making suggestions when I thought it was a Shishigashira because of my own experiences with that tree. Shishigashira, in my experience, has responded very well to heavy pruning.

1) What are your plans for the tree? bonsai, container for life, eventually transplant? I suppose being a dwarf (with a listed average 10 year landscape height of only 5' (10 year container height is 3')) the difference in pruning cuts for a landscape tree versus pruning for a container tree wouldn't matter that much, but may help you sort out what kind of look you want.
2) Mikawa yatsubusa has a very bushy natural shape. For an end result do you want your tree to be the natural bushy shape or a more open sculpted look?

I honestly think at this point, assuming you haven't pruned either tree yet, the point to start with both is following Al's previous advice (always good to follow Al's advice). "...wherever 3 or more branches emerge from the same point or very near the same point, reduce the number of branches to 2 - to a 'Y'. Think about it and keep the branches that contribute most to the composition. If you can't decide, keep the thinnest. Then, post pictures from different angles and we'll look at it with an eye to shortening it."

It would probably help if you could use paint to color coordinate leaf clusters from the top and a couple different sides to help see the 3d shape of both trees.

As to the last question, you'll likely be able to prune some taper into the tree if you make your cuts carefully, but in the end you're going to have some drastic changes in branch size for a couple years as that taper develops naturally. That said, because the Mikawa yatsubusa is one of the trees that grows leafs in clusters, if you prune to a node with a couple of buds (if they're starting to sprout a little, all the better), the leaf clusters will likely help hide the cut ends.

Hope this helps and sorry for the misunderstanding.

Blake

P.S. Not that it's what you want and largely because I'm willing to have ugly trees as I prune to develop the shape I want, I would have likely made the cuts I suggested on the Mikawa yatsubusa (when I thought it was a Shishigashira), even with it being a dwarf, if it were mine. When I shop for trees I see the shape I want it to be and not necessarily the shape the tree is currently. My wife thinks I'm nuts, because on more than one occasion I've pruned a third to a half of a new tree within an hour of buying it, though not always. Once I pruned the top 2/3's of the tree right at the nursery. The nurseryman thought I was absolutely crazy. Fair warning, I have pruned things I later regretted, but so far on all but one tree, I've been able to find a goal or new goal for the final desired shape. On the one, I'm willing to wait it out and see what happens. There are many ways to achieve a final look, but my temperament seems better suited to the "cut and grow" method. Maybe I'm lucky, more likely finding Al's posts and following his advice has made my trees happy and healthy so they recover from my assaults, but so far I've been rewarded with tree's that are growing into the shape I want by using the cut and grow method.

Don't want to take over Al's thread or even direct traffic away from this thread (Al's mixes, fertilizer program, post on neem oil, recommendations and general advice is the reason my trees are doing well, I'm just a willing and eager beginner.) but if you want to see a few more trees that show the layering and taper beginning to build in some of my trees, I posted top down and side shots of 8 or 10 of my trees recently. Check out "A Journal for following the development of containerized maples" if you want.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Blake,

I'd like to keep the Mikawa yatsubusa as a containerized tree. I will start with some of the basic pruning cuts based on Al's previous advice. Now that I understand more about the difference between pruning in-ground and containerized trees, I realize that I should have been more careful in choosing my specimen. That Mikawa yatsubusa has some really long leggy branches with no leaves on them. I think I will be stuck removing those and looking for new growth to make it possible to better shape the tree. I have a feeling it's going to be pretty ugly for a while...

Is it OK to make some of these drastic pruning cuts now, or do I need to wait until next spring?

Thanks again for all of your input...much appreciated.

Mark


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RE: Trees in Containers III

You can prune now. The tree may bleed a little, but as Al once told me, he's never heard of a tree bleeding to death.

When you prune, prune to a smaller branch or an active set of buds. This will help the tree recover more quickly. If you trim to a point above an internode that doesn't currently show buds, the tree (if healthy) can and probably will activate dormant buds at that internode, but this is the growing season. The quicker the tree is able to put leaves back on, the quicker the tree is able to begin producing sugars again.

For what it's worth, I prune all growing season long, pinching buds or removing branches/new shoots as necessary to keep the tree going in the direction I want.

Some of my trees don't back bud readily or grow as fast as others so they don't get pruned as much as the others, but time of year has little to do with when I prune.

Actually, that's probably not entirely true. I didn't really prune much after late August or September last year, choosing instead to leave the late summer growth alone and waiting until early this spring to shape the trees up again. My reasoning was that there may be some winter die back (and there was) and by leaving the late summer/fall growth on the tree I'd have more options for reshaping after any winter die back had taken its toll.

Works well for me.

Blake


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Why is it best to repot after chill requirements have been met? Why not after leaves have dropped but before quiescence?


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 26, 12 at 21:20

If there is no danger of new roots freezing, it's ok to repot most plants in fall after leaves drop.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Everyone. I'm growing some white pines and lacebark pines in containers. They are growing very well in their 1-gallon containers but I think they will need to be root pruned or potted up this year.

I read somewhere on this forum, I think, that for most trees and shrubs the best time to pot up and root prune is in early spring, but pines seemed to be an exception.

I think I recall reading that most varieties of pine trees should be root pruned and potted up in July, but I can't find that post. Can anyone confirm if this is true or not? It's usually very hot and dry here during mid-summer so just wanted to double check that information.

Thanks

TYG


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RE: Trees in Containers III

TYG, as far as I've heard, only the Pinus mugo is worked on during the Summer.

For other Pines, I've always potted January - February to catch the plants while they're still in a quiescent state and not pumping sap. So I'd say you've missed your chance for root-pruning. Up-potting shouldn't be a problem at all, however.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Greenman28, thanks for the reply on this. I was hoping to be able to do some root pruning this season, but if it's too late for all pines, except for mugo pines, then, as you said, I can simply pot up this season and tackle the root pruning early next year.

Because this winter was so harsh there was very little time between severe winter weather (above average snow, record low temps) and spring weather. By the time our snow finally melted, plants seemed to be leafing out right away, with very little opportunity to root prune anything.

Thanks for your input on this.

TYG


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Man, that is tough....short window this year.
Once I see the candles forming/extending, I leave the conifers alone (unless I'm pinching candles). I do, however, have a cypress that I want to re-pot...I think it'll tolerate it.

Al will hopefully add his advice, considering he should be re-potting bonsai right about now, and he, too, went through a cold Winter.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Josh,

Thanks for the replies. Yes it was a very long and bitter Winter, and we are having a strange Spring here. Frost one day, then 85F degrees a day or so later. How plants can handle those kinds of temp swings I have no idea. It's tough enough on people lol...

So I didn't see anything specific about when to root prune white pines or lacebark pines, just general info about doing root pruning conifers in spring while they are semi dormant. So, rather than risk damaging the trees while they are candling I simply did a quick up-potting now. The roots looked on good shape, although one root was circling the rootball so I removed that one.

I'll try and do some root pruning early next season, March-April time frame up here in MI. Can't do it any earlier since the containers and soil are frozen lol.

Thanks again.

TYG


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Everyone, just wanted to share a success story with the group. This is my first full growing season using Al's 5-1-1 mix for growing trees. Up until last year I used various potting soils for growing trees in containers, and the trees did OK but not great. Some grew very well, others barely grew at all.

So last month, in early April, I took several of my small container trees and moved them to a modified version of the 5-1-1 mix. So far they are doing great. While repotting I also did some root pruning, removing nearly half of the roots. I think the combination of Al's 5-1-1 mix and the root pruning is really helping the trees.

I'm attaching a photo of a very small Picea glauca (white spruce). This tree is only 2 years old and has already doubled in size only 1 month into the growing season and after root pruning then moving to 5-1-1 mix. I think the tree is much happier in this mix that that old peat-based MG potting soil.

Thanks Al and everyone who contributed to this thread.

TYG


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Nice Picea!
All of my conifers thrive in the bark-based mixes....so do my maples....

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Josh,

Yes I agree with you. These bark-based mixes are really good for most plants. I'm new to using bark mixes but I do not recall my trees growing so well, or so quickly, in the peat-based mixes.

Nearly every tree I have growing in bark-based mixes are doing very well this year. Amazing stuff that pine bark. :)

I'll attach another Picea glauca photo. This one is 3 years old and growing like crazy.

TYG


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I just graduated college (buisness) last year and have been in the landscaping industry for about 4 years. I have a family farm in Piedmont north carolina in between Charlotte and Raleigh, 100 acres of farmland and 100 or so mainly wooded. Long story short I met a boxwood specialist recently who is semi retired and interested in selling. Could buying a large quantity and then starting to propagate those be feasible/profitable long term. Also have been looking into growing japanese maples in containers realize the time commitment and expertise needed but any advice or thoughts would be appreciated.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hello! I just got a new fiddle leaf fig and I root pruned it and repotted it. It was my first time root pruning and I think I may have overdone it a bit. I took all the dirt off of the roots and cut a good bit of them away. The leaves are now very droopy and the top stems are completely drooped over. Is this normal? Will it likely recover from this? I can post a picture if that will help.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Here are the pictures. I root pruned and repotted 4 days ago. It looked like this the day after repotting.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

What about growing trees in containers for eventual planting in-ground?

I'm growing some oaks, dawn redwood, maples, and a few others in root pruning pots, for eventual planting in ground, probably this fall or next spring.

I often bare-root containerized plants even from a nursery, so would washing off the 5-1-1 I'm using be recommended here as well, before planting in the ground?


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hairmetal, yes indeed!
When going from container to ground, shake off the 5-1-1. You want all those roots to be immersed in the native soil only, since that's where they're going to stay. Once planted, use that old mix as a top-dressing / mulch for the trees.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 5, 14 at 14:59

VM - When you repot, it'simportant to keep the fine roots constantly moist. When I do root pruning, I work with a hose and a jet of water (a Dramm Fogg-It nozzle) or I work over a tub of water. I never go more than 1 minute w/o dunking the root mass in the tub, or I keep it constantly wet with the hose.

Sometimes, when you do a hard root prune of a tropical or subtropical plant that's in leaf, you need to remove a fraction of the limbs or foliage to prevent the tree from indiscriminately shedding leaves or branches, which it will do if the remaining root mass isn't enough to keep pace with water demands of the canopy. Keeping the plant out of wind and in a humid environment reduces the demand for water from the roots.

Did you happen to take a picture of what the roots looked like after the work?

HM4 - Just a note: You can't indiscriminately bare root deciduous material and plant it out w/o a plan. Do it in fall after leaves fall or in spring before the plant puts on its spring flush. That would be as buds just begin to move in spring or just before. Bare-rooting a deciduous plant in leaf more often leads to disaster than not ..... and if the plant IS going to live through the work, it would need to be heavily defoliated so the entire top doesn't die back.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

quick question.

Does using the 5:1:1 necessitate regular watering or else the upper layer becomes hydrophobic. I've noticed regularly that despite using damp peat moss before mixing that just under the wet surface after watering there is about a 1-2cm layer of soil that just does not become moist. The plants are flourishing so I'm not worried at the moment, but is this normal, or potentially dangerous on hot days? Usually I have dig around the edges to loosen the dry stuff and really wet everything. I'm thinking this may also be the result of using terracotta pots. Is it damaging to the plants to have this dry layer?


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RE: Trees in Containers III

The top layer will dry out well before the lower layers in summer heat. It should re-wet, though, with a simple watering. If not, you might consider watering sooner...or perhaps a light supplemental watering....or even a mulch layer.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Hi Josh,

I have a mulch layer, it's the bit directly below, i.e. at the soil level, that becomes hydroponic. It's only a small layer but it extends down the sides of the pot a little bit. I'm bit worried the roots will not be able to expand into this area as they grow.

Watering more often is probably the answer. It's a bit of annoying though when I thoroughly water something and water is dripping from the bottom of the pot, only to find that the top has stayed dry.


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Yes, your mix is getting too dry, and water is just running down the sides of the pot. Sounds like you'll need to carefully re-saturate your container mix. Start by lightly poking or scratching the surface of the mix, then watering very slowly, just a trickle to moisten the surface layer. Move on to the next container, repeat, and then come back to the first container, trickle some more water, and so forth. Do this progressively, in small increments, without "flooding" the top of the pot - don't allow the initial water to rush to the sides of the container.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

I have a quick question. You said,

"Using a jet of water from the hose and the chopstick, remove the remaining soil - ALL of it. The exception here would be those plants that form dense mats of fine roots (citrus, bougainvillea, rhododendron ...)"

Since citrus is an exception, what should I do instead to repot a meyer lemon tree?
Thanks


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Now is not a good time to re-pot a Citrus. Early next Spring would be much better, if you can keep the tree healthy until then. I've found that Citrus can be bare-rooted quite easily, but you must keep the roots moist while you work, and you should have your new mix moist and your materials at the ready when you begin.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers III

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 19:02

For plants that have fine, dense root systems, I usually work toward getting the root system flat, so it's only 3-4" deep - a little deeper for large caliper trunks. Then, I cut usually 3 wedges out of the root mass that equals about half of the roots. At the next repot, I remove the other 3 remaining wedges. For most growers, you would do 3 wedges 1 year, 3 more the next, then hold for a year or 2, depending on how ambitiously you pursue maintaining your plants in top vitality. I have several burning bushes growing as prebonsai, and they have extremely fine roots, so I do the wedge thing.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers III

Thanks for the help!


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