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Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Posted by the_yard_guy 6A (My Page) on
Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 19:19

Hi all. I just picked up a small concolor fir (Abies concolor) seedling from a local store on clearance for less than $5.00. The tree is about 18" tall and looks to be in decent condition, at least he part I can see. It's growing in a 1 gallon plastic container. I have no idea what the roots are like but I'm guessing they may not be in great condition. Currently it's growing in what looks like a combination of fine peat and sand, no pine bark or perlite for sure.

Since the trunk and branches look to be in decent shape my goal is to move this tree to a container with better soil mix, like a 5-1-1 or possibly a gritty mix.

Question: I'm not sure if I should try and bare root the tree and move it to the new soil now (late August), or wait until September/October when it's cooler. I'd like to get this peat/sand soil mix off of the roots and get the tree established into a much better soil before winter begins. Even if I do bare root the tree this year I don't plan to do any root pruning, hopefully, until early spring next year. If the roots are in really bad shape I might have to do some minor root work. Hopefully that can wait until spring.

If I do move the tree to a new soil mix, what about adding fertilizer this late in the season? Normally I mix in Osmocote Plus CRF into my soil mixes but not sure if that is a good move this late in the season.

Any advice? I can post a photo if it would help.

Thanks

TYG.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

I would wait until early Spring to do any potting, personally.
Around here, Autumn planting is effective because the soil stays warm deep into November, which corresponds with Autumn rains, and thus allows trees to do some root establishment before the cold slows things down.

If you want, you could "pot up" the root-ball into a container of bark and DE, or bark and Perlite. Just a basic filler to increase the volume in which the roots reside.

Post a photo!

Josh


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Josh : Thanks for the feedback. I didn't want to risk pushing the tree into shock by doing a bare root repot now so I'm trying to give it a good chance for winter survival. As I mentioned, I have no idea how good, or bad, the roots might be.

I was unsure if the tree would be better off as it is now, in a less than desirable soil mix of compacted peat and sand, or doing a late season bare root repot into much better soil.

I'll get a photo posted later today.

Thanks.

TYG


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

I think I would wait, too... I like to have all my planting and re-potting done by early July, at the latest, which still gives a plant... or perennial in the garden... some time to get settled in and establish some new root growth before a change in seasons.

In fact, I still have a few bulbs that could use re-potting, but I'm waiting until early next spring. I will also re-work my Plumeria at that point in time, cutting it into various sections and rooting it.

I might do what Josh says, and pot it up if the roots are really bound up and the soil is in poor shape, though... that will get it through until you can really work with it.


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Jodi : Thanks for the second opinion. Much appreciated. Seems like the consensus is to move the tree, bad soil and all, to a larger container with bark and perlite for winter, then do root work in the spring.

I'm good with that. I'll try to check out the roots when I move it over, just to see what condition they are in.

Thanks again.

TYG


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

BTW, I have read on here that in general it's bad practice to have 2 different soil types in the same container, especially causing potential drainage problems. Any concern to mix the peat/sand and the bark/perlite mixes over the winter?

Thanks

TYG


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Howdy!
In general, it is bad practice to have dissimilar mixes in the same container, but my thinking is that the bark and the DE/turface/perlite on the outside will maintain aeration and also wick some of that excess moisture from the peat/sand. If you were to try Gritty Mix and peat/sand, I would not recommend it. I also say this because of the type of plant we're talking about. Conifers, in my experience, tend to be a bit more tolerant of a range of mixes - although less tolerant of out of season re-pottings ;-)

Josh


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Josh: As always, thanks for the reply. I checked the existing soil again yesterday and I think it is holding a lot of moisture and quite compacted. Trying to add some drainage by wicking away that moisture is a good idea. I can't imagine there's much oxygen down at root level either.

I'll try this over the coming weekend and let you know how it goes.

Thanks again.

TYG


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Yard guy,

A few more details would be helpful, please... How do you plan to overwinter it? Will it eventually find a home in mother earth and if so, when?

I'm not sure, but it sounds like you plan to maintin the plant in a container for some time. And then ultimately planting in ground?

What I would do here in my Zone 6 (NJ) would be to wait until dormancy (late Octoberish) and do a full repot then. The plant will not suffer from temporary loss of feeder roots at this time, and will have a good bit of time to recover before the truly cold weather hits in late December. In general, waiting until spring is good too. One thing with firs is that the roots are quite finicky, and I'd err on the side of getting it out of peaty mix ASAP.

One way or the other though, it's best to wait and not do anything now (other than possible pot up as described by Josh). And remember to keep the container out of the sun.

Hope this helps.

-Alex


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Alex: Thanks for the reply. Much appreciated. For winter I plan to store this tree, and all my other pines and spruces, in an unheated garage, applying snow every month or so for moisture. The containers will freeze solid no doubt. Eventually, when it's to be maybe 3 feet tall I'd like to plant it in our yard if the shape and color turn out to be pleasing. Hard to tell at this stage how well it will look when it matures.

Usually the containers do not freeze solid in this area until early December.

I'm attaching a photo of the tree and a close up of the soil.

Thanks.

TYG


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

It's a nice-looking starter tree. You could plant in-ground this fall if you have a spot ready for it. It will be easier to maintain this plant in-ground versus in a container, over the medium term. But if you put it in gritty mix and keep it out of full sun, you'll be fine. When you do plant it, a well-drained site is a must for long-term success.

Anyway, no change to my previous comments: put it in a better mix either right when things go dormant in your area this fall (my preference), or overwinter as is and repot in very early spring (late March/early April). If you do wait until spring, be careful not to let the potting mix stay too wet over the winter. Good luck!

Alex


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

its a conifer.. and a tree ... i am surprised you post this in the container forum ????

did i miss where you explained.. why you cant just plant it properly in mother earth??? .. and let her hold it over.. even should you wish to repot come spring????

it definitely needs a bigger pot ... especially if you think about a trees root mass.. having the potential to be twice as big as the plant above ..

pull it out of the pot.. and find out.. how root bound it is.. then shove it back in the pot ...

as far as trees grow.. fall is root growing time... they are storing the energy they produced this summer... that is why it would be a good time to plant.. repot.. or do root surgery ... perfect time is 6 to 8 weeks prior to ground freeze ...

gritty mix is fine.. if you have it laying around... cactus mix is good .. or just cut peat-type media with 50% mini bark chunks... but do go up to a 5 gallon pot ...

the thing is... a large pot.. will take winter a lot easier than a small one.. not getting too hot in winter. and thawing the roots.. etc .... interfering with dormancy ....

the biggest problem with the garage.. is that it is probably.. easily.. 2 or 3 zones warmer ... and winter is usually a drought in such ... watering and dormancy maintenance is very tricky ...

you would be better off.. putting the pot on the north side of the house in full winter shade... and letting it cope out there... as compared to trying to out wit mother nature in a garage ... and if it got buried under snow ... that would be even better ... it will stay dormant ...

this is not really a foo foo plant that you need to baby.. get it dormant.. and keep it dormant.. you you should win ... you are thinking this z4 conifer.. is so foo foo.. it needs protection in your z6 ... that is counter-intuitive .... dont complicate you life ....

ken


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Ken,
he laid out his rationale earlier in this Thread:
he wants to keep the tree in a container until he is satisfied that it will express the form and color he wants in his landscape.

Josh


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

then all the power to him ...

and .. as i said.. a bigger pot is more temperate in winter..

get it dormant.. keep it dormant ... and you will win .. and in my case.. that usually means reducing variables... or relying on ma nature.. rather than trying to beat her ....

one trick to forecasting form and color and what not.. is to buy a named cultivar ... yes .. you pay more... but you can predict what you will end up with ...

and.. BTW ... yard guy has been hanging in the conifer forum ... and that was why i was surprised.. for this question... he came here... of course.. i probably suggested spreading his ??? around various forums to garner the advise of others.. and am now wondering why he left.. lol ...

good luck all ...you pot gurus do amazing things.. i was just trying to add some tree/conifer lore to it all ... and add my experience with trees.. in pots.. in MI ... in winter ....

ken


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Everyone: I appreciate the good advice on this topic. Bottom line is that right now I won't do anything since it's supposed to get hot (low-mid-90's here next few days) so I'll wait a few weeks and see what happens then. I agree, no big rush to move this tree.

Ken and Josh: No worries and thanks for the great suggestions. You both gave me lots to think about. I posted the question in this forum because I was already answering another thread in this same forum but I could easily have posted this question in the Trees forum, or the Conifers forum, or here in the Container forum. I didn't want to cross post and have duplicate questions in 3 or 4 different forums. I think any of these forums would be acceptable. Didn't mean to cause any confusion.

Have a great weekend and stay cool everyone.

TYG
Thanks!


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Yeah, I think everyone has mentioned a larger container....id est, "potting up" to gain protective volume without bare-rooting the material.

Josh


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Hello Josh!

I'm a bit confused everyone..

Does the above poster want the tree to take off, get huge or stay Bonsai small and shape?

If small, why not just stick the tree in the ground in that pot until you can dig it back up in the spring,, pot and all or do the pot in pot technique like I do?

What is your final goal with this tree? Are you going to keep it very small, or let it get as big as you can?

There are other options instead of potting up for now.
I can bet if that tree didn't sell at my local nursery, they would just lay it on it's side and cover it with a winter protective material until next spring in that same pot.

I would take the safest way to over winter it if you have the room, and that is to bury the pot into the ground until next spring.

MIke


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Hey, Mike,
he wants to grow the tree for a while to see if it has the right form and color for his landscape.

Great suggestion about burying the pot in the ground for overwintering. Roots will escape into the native soil and increase the vitality of the tree a bit, and since the tree will be root-pruned and re-potted eventually, losing those temporary roots won't matter at all.

Josh


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RE: Concolor fir tree: Repot now or wait?

Josh, thanks! Hope you are well by the way..The earthquake thingy..

Jodik...I meant to say hello to you too))

Mike


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