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Trees in Containers II

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

This is a continuation of another thread that has topped out at 150 posts. You can find a link to the previous thread ant the helpful information it contaihns at the bottom of this post.

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 makes sense - it's well past prudent bedtime for me.

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

Click Me to go to the Previous Thread

Al

Comments (150)

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ron,
    It looks great! Love seeing pictures of what everyone is doing! Happy worms! LOL! That's how they should be! ;)

    Hi Al~
    I got my apricot done today! Boy it felt good to stand back and look at her in the new mix, knowing it's so much better off now!! 10 more to go! LOL!!

    Question on how deep the tree should have been put. I see up thread, you mentioned...
    ""The top of the highest roots should be at or slightly above the soil surface""

    I put my tree at almost the same depth it was at in the old mix. Which puts the highest roots at about 2" below the surface. Will this be O.K.? I hope so, I really don't want to have to mess with it now. LOL!

    All the old soil came off pretty easy, with very little loss of small roots, and the roots looked good, so I'm really pleased!

    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The large, top roots are either conducting or anchoring roots & serve no purpose in absorption of water/nutrients, so I plant them at the surface. Actually, I often REMOVE any small roots that adventitiously appear above any large clusters of toots, and make sure the large roots are at the surface. It can be as simple for you, JJ, as just removing a little soil. ;-)

    Margo - that's right. I'm so impressed!

    YPA

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  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Al~
    Will it hurt the tree if I don't remove the extra?

    Simple yes, to remove some, but will also make me crazy. LOL!
    The tree is already sitting lower in the pot than I like. I considered yanking it out last night and re doing it, but ran out of daylight. :)

    It really bothers me to not have my containers nice and FULL, with mix almost to the rim. lol..

    Sorry, not trying to be difficult. :-)

    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    It's not as bad in the gritty mix as it is in heavier soils because the top dries out so quickly. The danger is in the bark eventually rotting & exposing the cambial tissues to the same rot organisms, which can girdle or partially girdle woody stems.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    O.K. I understand that.
    It is in the gritty mix.
    Well... would it hurt to gently lift it some and tap the pot to close off any air pockets? I could get Mike to help me. I could also remove some of the mix.

    I feel kinda silly about the level of the soil being too low, but it does really bother me. :-)

    I want what's best for the tree, but need to keep what little sanity I have left. LOL!

    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You could do that, JJ. ;o) I always tap my pots with a rubber mallet to settle the soil around the roots. Don't worry, I have little quirks that trouble me, too ...... and one or two big ones.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    LOL! Love the smiley Al, and thanks for not thinking I'm a nut. ;-) I guess everyone has a quirk of some sort. :)

    Hubby said the mallet is at work, so he'll bring it home tonight.

    I always give the pot a few good whacks with my palm, but think I will get my own mallet to add to the tool box. Especially since i'm putting everything in large terra cotta's now.

    Thanks!
    Have a good evening!
    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You too, JJ. ;-)

    Al

  • margo_k
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    This may be a dumb question so no laughing please! :)

    If I root prune a tree growing in a container, and I plan to eventually plant that tree in my yard, will the tree be hurt in any way if I remove the large taproots that many trees have?

    I would think that for bonsai this would make sense since there is no need, space, or purpose for taproots, but if a tree is moved from a container to a garden bed would there be an issue if it was missing it's taproot?

    Just wondering about that, so maybe its a non-issue?

    Thanks!

    Margo

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "If I root prune a tree growing in a container, and I plan to eventually plant that tree in my yard, will the tree be hurt in any way if I remove the large taproots that many trees have?"

    That's a perfectly logical question, but it does end up being a nonissue. The main taproot is positively gravitropic - meaning it grows with the force of gravity - downward. Even if you remove the taproot from a seedling, other roots with strong positive gravitropism will grow downward from near the trunk. Part of that is due to the effect of gravity, and part is due to the normal downward journey of a % of the roots that 'follow' the water supply during times of drought. Many trees will have 90% of their roots actively engaged in water and nutrient absorption in the top 6" of soil in the spring and early summer, only to have 90% of the active roots at 18" or deeper during the dry months. The larger roots that run that deep don't die, though the fine roots attached to them often do as more ideal conditions return to better aerated soils just below the surface when moisture levels are again conducive to good root health/growth.

    Short answer - don't worry about it. A large % of landscape plants are grown from cuttings. Cuttings = not from seed = no seed radicle = no true taproot on those plants either.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Al~
    Here's my apricot, does it look O.K. :-) I lifted it some and took out a little of the mix. Lower than I like, but maybe i'll fill it with flowers and not see it. ;-)

    {{gwi:56749}}

    {{gwi:56750}}

    A few leaves aren't looking so hot this morning, but the rest of the tree looks good.

    {{gwi:56751}}

    A few of the good..

    {{gwi:56752}}

    It's still under my patio in the shade, out of the worst of the winds. I want it moved out to the yard, but we are expecting high winds again this week, should I leave it where it is a bit longer? I think it's been about a week since I potted it up.

    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Yes - keep it out of the wind & direct sun until the roots recover & the leaves perk up. ;o)

    Looks like it should be fine - was it in clay?

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Al~
    clay? soil or pot?
    Black plastic nursery pot, and what ever soil that they used. Are you referring to the dark right at the soil line? I noticed that yesterday.. It is a wet, silky like dirt that i'm going to try and wash off,. I'll pull the soil back some.

    I did speak too soon, and some leaves wilted today.
    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oh - I meant the soil it was in from the grower. ;-)

    It should be ok. About all you could additionally do is rig a screen/wind-break or tent around it that would help you keep humidity high (wet surfaces all around the plant inside the 'tent') and slow the air movement.

    Al

  • glad2garden
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Al, I've been keeping my Yvonne cypress in the garage for the winter. Is it time to bring them out now?

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The top will be fine, but if you think the night temps will drop below about 25*, it would be best to put it somewhere where root temps would be moderated. Do set it directly on the ground instead of up on a deck or other elevated surface where the warmth of the earth will less affect root temps.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Al~
    Thanks! I didn't think about the humidity. It's low! 12% today.

    The soil it came out of was peat type, with some bark, mostly sapwood, and a lot of fine sand! It came off pretty easy, but did take a lot of the fine roots with it. All I did in the end was a gentle rinse. I hadn't planned on bare root for this tree, it just ended up that way. :-)

    I'll move a few other plants and get it up closer to the house out of the wind as best I can. ;-)

    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    OK - it's not too unusual for a tree to sulk for a little while after a full repot - mine often take a break too. I have a 1" thick root cutting of a Ficus nerifolia that I saved when I repotted last summer. I had pruned it off the roots of a large specimen plant & it laid on the hot cement all through the repot. It was only after I was done that I noticed it had nice movement in the root/trunk, so I washed it off & stuck it in a pot in the shade. I watered it all of Jul, Aug, and Sep before bringing it in. It never showed a single bud, but it was still showed green cambium. It's been sitting under lights, apparently lifeless, in the gritty mix all winter, but when I watered a few days ago, I noticed buds just starting to develop on the trunk and around the cut at the top. It's been almost 9 months since I stuck it in the pot, and it's just now giving up on its pout. ;-) I guess the moral of the story is, it's pretty hard to kill a young tree that is almost all dynamic mass. If you don't over-water, and you keep the soil damp instead of wet, even if you screw up badly on your first repot or first FEW repots, the tree is likely to eventually bounce back & perform for you.

    The thing is, you might sacrifice a little oomph now, but when the plant gets back on its feet, it will probably easily surpasses how it WOULD have performed had you only potted up.

    Pulling for you, JJ. ;-)

    YPA

  • glad2garden
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks Al!

  • meyermike_1micha
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hey Al. What terrific help you have been offering here. I love it and thank you!

    Al: I have advice to ask you and hopefully you can help.

    Now that the temps are regulary visiting the 40's, 50's, 60's by day, and 30's by night, would you suggest that I can finally bring my fig trees out doors and let them sit in full sun while they awaken?

    Thanks so much!

    Mike.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I would actually keep them as cool as possible (32-42* if you can manage it) for as long as possible. It's easy to promote a flush of growth by allowing the soil to warm, but that may mean you need to do the fig foxtrot with them, moving them in and out every time frost threatens after they flush. I'm all for delaying the flush in deciduous containerized as long as possible, because they usually break leaf at least a month before their counterparts in the landscape and are then either in a dark garage/shed/basement/other, or outdoors where they're at risk of freezing.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Al~
    Thanks! I appreciate the pull. ;-) I expected her to sulk, just wish it had sooner instead of teasing me for a week. LOL! I did figure out today, it is getting hit by some late afternoon sun, so i'm going to put it on a plant stand with casters so I can move it around the patio.

    Questions. :-)

    I have several large plastic pots that I got before learning the benefits of terra cotta, that I really can't toss. 14" 16" and 20". Would it help any to drill some holes up the sides? For air and gas exchange? If so what size drill bit? and about how many holes.? I'm planning on using them for the fig, and a few of my fruiting shrubs/evergreen.

    Thanks!
    YFJJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I use a lot of big containers that don't have gas-permeable walls, and I don't have any problems when using the highly aerated soils that get watered more often than their heavier counterparts, and I don't bother drilling any extra holes in the sides & wrecking their appearance. I do think that terra cotta pots are healthier from the plant's perspective, but I still have about half or more of my containerized plants in pots other than terra cotta.

    FWIW - if I WAS putting extra holes in the bottoms & sides, I'd use a soldering iron/gun or a nail heated with a propane torch to melt the holes through - stronger & less likely to crack. ;o)

    YPA

  • jodik_gw
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm with Al... while I prefer to use the unglazed clay, I also have several large plastic and composite (fake clay) planters that I use with no problems.

    The cost of clay is kind of prohibitive. Some of the nicer decorator clay pots can go really high in price! I wish, but I can't afford them.

    We do have access to a local manufacturer of garden statuary, and since we know the owner, we get a better than fair deal on chipped or discontinued items. Urns and pots in larger sizes are usually grabbed up before we get there, though. We did get a great St. Francis statue, and one of those jockey holding the lantern statues for the barn area!

    I agree... heat a nail with a hand held torch and go to it... if you need holes in the pots. In your climate, JoJo, I wouldn't worry about it. :-)

  • meyermike_1micha
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Yes! Have you seen the cost of clay pots go up this past year???????????%&*%^&$^&$*&%(&*^(**()! All the new stock must be doubled what it was 3 months ago.

    I also prefer clay, although many are in plastic for my convenience.
    I am always at HD buying them up, and just 3 months agao, a 6inch one coast 1.29, now it's 1.99!!!! The cost of all of them has sky rocketed. It is a crying shame. Makes you think twice about throwing out old used ones now. I am sure I can find a few of those around if I dig hard enough.

    Al: Thank you for that suggestion about bringing my figs out. Back into the shed they went this am, even though I saw green numbs starting to show. I hope with cold and dark temps in there, I can stall the forward movement until at least the frosts have mostly past. By the way, remember when the pots froze, YOU WERE RIGHT, they made it.:0)

    Thank yous:-))))

    MIke

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Al and Jodi!
    Thanks! :-) I just thought, with as hot as we get here in the summer the tree's may be better off with some extra holes.

    I do need to put one in the bottom! The darn pots don't have a drain hole!

    Hi Mike!

    I know terra cotta isn't cheap, but neither were the plastic I bought that will only last a few years out here! So i'm better off with the terra cotta. I'm slowly getting them here and there for all the outside plants.
    The largest I have is 14" high and 16" diameter , $21.00 plain, not decorated.

    Went to get 10" for the small citrus, and the only thing on the shelf was marked 9.8"!!! what's with that?

    Everything is leafing out like crazy here, so I hope to get them all re potted this week!
    Talk to you guys soon!
    JJ

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Al~
    I've read all I can find on my Evergreen Tree's and am not sure how I should pot them up.

    They are Guava's, one of which lost all it's leaves over the winter, and just starting to show signs of life. They are in horrible, compacted soil from the grower. The water just runs right out the sides and the middle is hard to get watered, I have to set them in a dish, to soak some up.

    Citurs~ Some in 5 gal. nursery. 3 in very small, tall containers, and I have a feeling they will bare root no matter what.

    And a pomegranate, which is semi evergreen around here depending on weather. This one lost it's leaves, but they just started to grow back like crazy this past week.

    You wrote in another part of this thread, not to bare root unless you know the tree will tolerate it. Which I don't. :-)

    And to bare root or remove the wedges before the spring flush of growth, and I think I missed that window a little. We had and still are, an unusual warm spell, still getting up around the 90*'s.

    Oh, and my Fig, I know she's not evergreen, but sneaking it in anyway. ;-) It's leafing out, and has small, pea to marble sized fruit.

    Suggestions would be greatly appreciated as to how to tackle these plants. :-)
    Thanks!
    JoJo

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    For the guava & citrus, I would saw the bottom third off the roots, then bare-root half the remaining root ball in two wedges. Next spring, I would do the two remaining wedges.

    The pom would be treated like a deciduous tree & can be bare-rooted. Cut the bottom 1/3 off the roots, bare root, and cut the top back to shape. Don't be afraid to cut it back and remove branches so it looks like a little tree. When you're intentionally working on roots of potted plants, it's sometimes necessary to cut them back, because the tree might not be able to provide water to the entire top - especially so if the tree is in active bud-break or partially in leaf. Don't delay - work first on the trees that are most advanced in putting on their spring flush.

    Treat the fig like the pom. If you decide it's too late to do a full repot, saw the bottom 1/3 off the root ball & cut deep vertical slits in the remaining root mass with a utility knife to help prevent circling roots. remove some of the soil from the perimeter of the root ball & repot in the same container or pot up.

    I was out working in the garden this AM. I wondered why my hands were so cold, but as I look at the little WeatherBug temperature indicator on my taskbar, I see it's only 36*. That splains it, I guess. I pruned a bunch of trees and bushes and guess what I did? I have soo many plants, and I'm really trying to reduce their number, but I potted up a several rafts (a VERY dwarf Malus sargentii [crabapple] and Potentilla fruticosa - a Potentilla that grows in shrub form and actually makes a nice fat trunk) and stuck a bunch of cuttings from both the apple and Potentilla - so there's another 12-15 new plantings I'll have to deal with after they strike.

    A 'raft' planting is when you take an entire branch and treat it as a cutting. I take the branch and remove all the branchlets from the weak side & leave all or most of the branches on the strong side. The branch is then laid flat, with all the strong side branches sticking up in the air, and some of the bark peeled off the underside to expose the cambium (roots faster). I am also able to wire the branch in a sinewy form so when the new branches start to grow into individual trees that are connected underground, they are nicely spaced and look natural.

    Here are 2 different young 'raft' starts of J chinensis 'Shimpaku':

    {{gwi:14314}}

    {{gwi:14312}}

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Al~
    Love the little tree's!! Someday i'll get started on bonsai's. Doesn't sound like your doing very well in the cut back on tree's department. LOL! My mom and I are always willing to adopt and take in strays. ;-) lol..
    I won't tell you the temps here, you'll end up hating me. ;-)

    As far as the Pom goes, I wanted to grow it more as a shrub, part of the screen to block the neighbors. I'll see how it goes with the roots, and maybe prune/shape it up. :)

    I don't recall seeing this mentioned anywhere in all the reading i've done.

    ""then bare-root half the remaining root ball in two wedges. "" So, are you saying remove the soil instead of cut out the wedge? for the citrus and guava?

    Thanks for your help!
    Looks like I have some very busy days ahead of me. Tis the season. :-)

    JoJo

  • jodik_gw
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Awesome, Al! Bonsai... another thing I'd like to delve into, but really don't have the time or space to keep any... although, I do have a couple of plants that could possibly fit the bill if I got serious.

    I love seeing the results of your work, Al... really nice!

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks, Jodi. Those are just the very beginnings of plantings that will be nice in 10 years or so. The first 5-7 years are spent building promise into them and the next several years in refinement. Bonsai is the reason I dug so deeply into soils. After failing at it, I didn't give up - I understood where my failing was - I couldn't keep my trees alive and healthy because of the soils I was using, so ...... the rest is pretty much history. ;o)

    Al

  • meyermike_1micha
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oh Al!@!!!!

    Those are just the cutest and yet most beautiful trees I have ever seen. Way to go!

    I am ever so grateful to have you around for more than just learning a great deal of information from you! Your pictures and plants speak VOLUMES! Also thank you for the tip on root pruning on my citrus come this spring.

    Thank you

    Mike

  • kernul1
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hey Al,

    Any thoughts on when would be the best time to repot/root prune Camellia's? As a background, I am doing this in San Francisco (Zone 10) and am moving them from traditional (crappy) container soil to gritty (manna from heaven) container media.

    Camellia's tend to do their major blooms during the winter season. I'm not really sure if you would do the repot right before they bloomed, or just treat them like any other plant.

    Thanks,

    Bill

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I would do it following their major bloom period or early spring (Feb in your area?) - as long as there was no chance the roots weren't going to be exposed to freezing temps.

    Al

  • jodik_gw
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I hear you, Al... the very same reason I went in search of better information, and consequently found you... I couldn't keep my bulbs alive and healthy! I'm still amazed at how it all clicked once I understood what was happening under the soil surface, and a little mad at myself that it took so long to figure it out! But, all's well that ends well. :-)

    It's a little bit strange that this information isn't more widely spread or known... but understandable, if you see the world for what it's become.

    The addition of proper sunlight for some of my collection, as I utilize the greenhouse, will really throw everyone into high gear! :-)

    And... I still have the Japanese Maples and the Wysteria to work with... I've learned a lot about root pruning and balancing the canopy over winter... and I'll be putting it all into practice very soon. I just may end up with a pseudo bonsai yet! ;-)

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Bonsai can be very addicting, but it's a major commitment because the trees require so much attention. That's not the biggest hurdle though; you're already beyond that - that being the fact that 95% of the people who initially come to bonsai don't yet have the skills to keep their trees alive and healthy beyond a single season or two, and aren't willing to spend the time/effort it requires to acquire them.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Al~
    Another question. :)
    For the Guava and citrus... you suggested this..

    ""For the guava & citrus, I would saw the bottom third off the roots, then bare-root half the remaining root ball in two wedges. Next spring, I would do the two remaining wedges.""

    Should I pot them with the 5-1-1, due to how much of the remaining soil is the original from the nursery, And would be very different than the gritty...And because I will be redoing them next season ( the opposite sides). And then the 3rd season bare root into the gritty mix?

    Now, if any of my tree's sulk like your ficus did for 9 months, I'd be real tempted to toss them. LOL! Your patience is amazing. ;-)

    JJ

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You should be ok using the gritty mix & removing the wedges. The gritty mix will absorb water quickly & it will migrate/diffuse into the harder root mass. It's more important not to have differential horizontal strata in the same container than vertical. ;-)

    My ficus sulked because it started out as a cutting that was all root tissue, (and it laid in the sun for an hour on the concrete before I got the bright idea to pot it up). ;-) I left the distal part of the root exposed, so root tissues had to DEdifferentiate into meristematic (stem cells) tissue so it could then REdifferentiate into apical growing points (branch buds) which is all I have right now, 9 months later ...... but I have no doubt it will take off soon as more buds are popping.

    Al

  • jodik_gw
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I can imagine, Al, that someone truly into bonsai would want to start at the beginning, growing their trees either from seed or from found specimens they located and dug. That's a lot of dedication.

    Seeing the amount of trees you care for on a constant basis, knowing what you must invest, in terms of time, and how beautiful they all are... it's mind boggling, really.

    The first hurdle to growing any plant type is being able to keep it alive and healthy. And I think learning how container growing differs from garden growing, learning the function of medium, and learning how to properly water... these are the "bones" of growing successfully.

    I've already caught the bulb bug... maybe I'll catch the tree bug next! :-)

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hello, container gardeners!

    I wanted to share a tree - Birch - in a container. This was a seedling a couple years ago,
    moved into a 1-gallon pot, and re-potted this Spring into a 3-gallon container. Luscious leaves...
    and look at that crunchy, delicious mix ;-)

    Chinese pistache seedling - same treatment - in the container to the left.

    {{gwi:56754}}


    Josh

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    ... a happy looking little guy. ;o) Looks like you've 'got the knack'.

    Al

  • andrewofthelemon
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ugh, this seems to complicated for me :(
    Well, i'm a quick learner!
    Good thing all my container plants are in 4in pots or smaller xD.
    Well, except for a large rosemary (too large) that i cannot bring my self to prune, or get rid of...i did just repot it a week ago.
    Al if you aren't going to make a video...can you write a book? You just have so much information to share, and this tiny website can never seem to hold it all. You could put it up for how ever much money (or free, even) on amazon.com without having to worry about getting it published or anything (which it should be)

    Sir Andrew of the Lemon, Recalcitrant Teenager, Newb Extraordinaire, Slayer of Gnats, Pruner of Trees, Broke as All-Get-Out, and Stabbed by Thorns

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks, Al, I'm gettin' there ;-)

    Welcome, Andrew! Don't get overwhelmed...as you study, it'll all become much clearer.

    Well, folks, before this Thread tops out, I thought I'd sneak in a final Tree in a Container -
    in this case, it's the wonderful California Buckeye, grown from seed, and re-potted last year at
    the beginning of March. This course, free-draining bark-based mix hasn't compacted. Healthy
    new foliage - and growing in less than 1-gallon of mix. Bigger container next year for sure ;-)

    {{gwi:56756}}


    Josh

  • FromDirt
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Nice looking tree, Josh.

    I'm looking into a few new trees for my collection and could use any advice someone may have.

    1. Sweetbay Magnolia
    2. Trident Maple
    3. Japanese Stewartia

    All three are less than 3' tall at present, and I would like to keep them in containers for now.

    From what I can gather, all three should do well in gritty mix, and as soon as I find out the best time to repot, I will do so. Does anyone have any experience with either the Stewartia or the Magnolia in a container?

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Al~
    Should my shrubs be lifted some, so the trunk is a little higher out of the soil when I re pot them ? like it was suggested for my apricot? The pomegranate, and Guava's.
    Thanks... :-)

    Josh,
    The tree's look great! I love the buckeye!
    JoJo

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    When you repot, take a look at where the main mass of roots comes off the trunk & pot so those are at the surface. Sometimes that requires that you remove a few stray adventitious roots that emerge above the main root mass. It's ok to sort of mound some soil over these roots temporarily when you repot to help keep them moist, but the top of the main root mass should be at or very slightly below the surface after a couple of weeks.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Great Al!
    Thanks!! Hope to tackle them this weekend. Were due for cooler weather and I have some time on my hands. :-)

    JJ

  • jodik_gw
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    And... here we have another informative, helpful article by Al about to come to the end of its allotted traffic, 150 responses! Congratulations, Al!

    Once again, let it be known that we greatly appreciate the extra efforts you go to in order to make us better growers! Thank you, Al, for your ceaseless work to this end! :-)

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks, Guys. I really appreciate your constant support & kind comments. I think I'll use up the last two posts so I can be sure I link to the new thread.

    Take care.

    Al

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    As the thread is about to end, I'll leave a link to its continuation below.

    Thanks to all who participated and made it so much fun to share!

    Al

    Here is a link that might be useful: Thread continued here