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How Large Is Rootball on Mugo Pine?

3 years ago
last modified: 3 years ago

I want to buy a 25-year-old Mugo Pine from a neighbor and want to know how wide and deep the rootball might be. The plant is about three feet high and five feet wide. I have read that Mugo does not have a tap root, and it is easily transplanted. Ideally, I would like to use this as a container plant in a large concrete container, so it will be important to size that container for the root mass.

Is there any reason I should not trim back the width from five feet to about three feet?


Comments (35)

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    You will need to pass on this one as the time of year is not very suitable, it is not likely to have a compact easily transported ball, it will be murder trying to get it out from among the rocks and you are not going to be able to whack 2' off of a pine and end up with a presentable specimen.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Embothrium
  • 3 years ago

    Agree with all of the above. And unless you were intending to use something hot tub sized for planting, that is not a suitable container specimen.

    It is much harder to adapt an established, inground plant with its associated rootball into a container than it is the other way around.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • 3 years ago

    @Embothrium Sorry for not being clearer, but the photo with the rocks is just an example. My plant is in the ground.

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    @gardengal48 As a matter of fact, I do have some containers the size of a hot tub :) This one is about three feet across at the top.


  • 3 years ago

    Independent of whether the move is advisable, I still want to know how wide and deep I should expect the rootball to be on these plants.

  • 3 years ago

    i dont think you are going to get an answer with the specificity you wish ....


    id also give it a pass ...


    these are rather cheap plants .. and i would be more tempted to grow one from a babe.. before i dug a 3 foot rootball... and then tried to lift it out of the hole.. let alone drag it across town.. and lift it into a pot ...


    even in my heyday... i would probably pass.. even if they gave it to me... due to the cost of the my labor alone... and the very high odds of loss ...


    ken

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    HI Westes,

    If you can wait until say November, that would be a better time to move it. However, I have moved stuff at the wrong times simply because I had no choice (e.g. three Japanese maples one July because a new septic system was going in. they lived.)

    So, if I were attempting this, I would try for a root ball about the width of the crown, and about 15-16" deep. The way that we dig up woody plants is to use the shovel backwards, and make a 'moat' around the plant. Once you have done that, it is relatively easy to get the shovel underneath the root ball horizontally, loosen the plant, and slide/push it onto a tarp. With the maples, which were about 6' tall, four of us carried the tarp to the new locations, where the hole was dug and waiting. Make sure that the root ball is moist but not sopping - it needs to hold together.

    For you, getting it into the container is going to be more challenging because you have to lift it, but you might also rig up a ramp and drag it up that.


    All of this is going to require several strong people.


    There is no guarantee or even likelihood that this is going to work, but as I noted, I have tried all sorts of things, sometimes just out of curiosity.

    Regarding trimming. If you really want to trim it, ideally you would trim it and then wait a year to move it. But if you are under some kind of pressure to do this (friend is moving, for example, do the minimum pruning that you can, move it, and then prune it again next year. Mugos take well to pruning.

    Those that cautioned against it are playing the odds, which is the logical way to go. I'm just not always logical. ;-)

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Sara Malone Zone 9b
  • 3 years ago

    Just to add to Sara's comments, you can expect the root system of an established mugo pine to be at least the width of the shrub at a minimum....and likely half again as wide.......or more.

    So that 5' across shrub could very well have a root system that extends to roughly 10' in diameter. And disrupting or curtailing the roots significantly in order to make it easy to move are not going to be doing the pine any favors. Adding pruning to that disruption is only going to stress it further.

    If you can hold off until November, root pruning now can help to reduce the size of the rootball required to move successfully and encourage the development of new feeder roots inside that defined area.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • 3 years ago

    @ken_adrian a Mugo costs over $100 in a 5-gallon pot. A specimen the size of the ones I am looking at would cost $1000 at a nursery and would be in a 30+ gallon crate bottom.

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    @sara_malone Now the problem I am worried about is how much will this thing weigh? If the soil is watered down, this website is telling me that a 60 inch * 60 inch * 20 inch wetted clay rootball is going to weigh over a ton. That alone makes the project impossible given my resources. Am I calculating this wrong to say I have a 72000 cubic inch rootball, worst case?

  • 3 years ago

    Your math is correct. Have you grown trees in containers before? We haven’t gotten into suitable container soils yet, so in addition to everything else, you should be aware that garden soil does not serve a plant well in a container.

    tj

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked tsugajunkie z5 SE WI ♱
  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    @tsugajunkie If there is anything I am good at - so far - it is designing and measuring the characteristics of container soils. I would do a variant of the gritty mix with a small fraction of peat moss to get better moisture retention. I measure air space, porosity, and water retention and keep things within healthy ranges. Mugo is not very pH sensitive so not a problem there.

    Just in the short term, I might put them into some giant bottomless planters, at which point I can worry much less about soil characteristics since the container soil is in contact with the ground and drains freely to that.

    P.S., If my math is correct, the project is dead on arrival. There is no way I am going to hire a crane on each end to move a two-ton rootball.

  • 3 years ago

    i there any reason I should not trim back the width from five feet to about three feet? I can answer that one, your pine will not generate new growth from the cut back branches so you will be stuck with a "hacked back" look. You will ruin the very thing that makes it special.

    I sense from your query that you are not familiar with hand digging trees/shrubs. If for some reason you cannot follow the steps in THIS old thread of mine, maybe you can hire someone who can help you. Forget about the container, plant your newly dug shrub in the ground.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked sam_md
  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    A 100 dollar mugo pine in a 5 gallon pot is not going to be a regular mugo like the one you have shown but rather a more dwarf, named clonal selection that took longer to develop to a 5 gallon size than typical.

    Or you are basing your statement on stock displayed by a high end retailer with pricing that is off the scale. Like the tourist destination cheese shop I was at recently that had Appel gouda wedges like are stocked at supermarkets priced at 18 dollars each. And jars of sliced peaches priced at 14 dollars, and so on. (We won't get into their pricing of WSU cheeses including Cougar Gold - in smaller tins than the college creamery used to use in the past).

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Embothrium
  • 3 years ago

    @Embothrium actually, for a five to six-year-old plant that is only eight to 10 inches wide, the good nurseries want $150. I could get a baby stick figure for $50 but then I would be waiting 10 years for a real plant.

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    A garden center up here has new looking 5 gallon 'Slowmound' from Iseli for 100 dollars. Tops a lot bigger than 8-10 in.

    Pinus mugo ‘Slowmound’ - Iseli Nursery

    By the way if the specimen you asked about is actually 25 years old - and has not been pruned to restrict its development along the way - then it is in fact more dwarf than usual also.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Embothrium
  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    @Embothrium Slowmound is a bigger plant than I want. Do you know if that nursery has any Iseli "White Bud"? I am also looking for a good mature Jakobsen, which I want to make a centerpiece in the large concrete container I showed a photo of below.

    Does your nursery do mail order? Are you in the Pacific Northwest?

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Sorry I don't have a nursery and the place I saw the 'Slowmound' - which I mentioned in reference to your earlier statement that you had seen 5 gallon mugo pines for 100 dollars - is a walk in garden store.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Embothrium
  • 3 years ago

    @embothrium Can you share the name of the walk-in garden store?

  • 3 years ago

    "Can you share the name of the walk-in garden store?"

    I'm not sure that makes any difference :-) Anyone of a dozen or so local retail nurseries/garden centers in this area is likely to offer the same.....and for very close to the same price. And my local nursery has some gorgeous, big Jakobsens in stock! I'm eyeing them for a design project I am doing.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • 3 years ago

    @gardengal48 Would you mind putting up a few photos of the Jakobsens? I would like to get a sense for what size they are and what price they are sold at, in the PNW. It's very hard for me here because the stock of these in the Bay Area is not great. I end up having to mail order from Monrovia or find a PNW reseller willing to ship.

  • 3 years ago

    Can't promise how soon that may be. I don't head over to the mainland all that often. But I'll try to remember the next time I am there.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • 3 years ago

    Iseli sends out trucks that make the rounds in season (rather of course than undertaking separate trips back and forth) - when one retailer here has fresh Iseli conifers typically all the others (that buy from them) will as well. Same situation will be in effect down there.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Embothrium
  • 3 years ago

    @embothrium Well I don't know any of the retailers, and I do not know which ones support mail orders.

  • 3 years ago

    'Jakobsen' is almost always in stock at Pond and Garden in Cotati. I'd also check East Bay Nursery and Berkeley Hort.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Sara Malone Zone 9b
  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Conifer Kingdom is a good mail order....many different sizes will ship

    ron

    CK

    explore trinomials

    ACS Mugo

  • 3 years ago

    @sara_malone Looking at Pond and Garden's website, I get the feeling these are plants grown from seed, not cultivated from a known dwarf plant.

  • 3 years ago

    @plantkiller_il_5 ConiferKingdom's Jakobsen's are one-gallon plants. I am looking for a more mature five-gallon specimen.

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    WEstes he hasn’t updated his website in about 15 years. He know as much about dwarf conifers as anyone I know.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Sara Malone Zone 9b
  • 3 years ago

    @Sara Malone Zone 9b Wow, his web site's contact form does not let you fill in your name or email. Those fields are locked out for me. No answering machine on his phone number either. He is losing a lot of customers.

  • 3 years ago

    jakobsen " yes , I know , but the kingdom is a great place to explore

    ron

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked plantkiller_il_5
  • 3 years ago

    He is probably the best specialty conifer nursery in Northern CA. People routinely drive from Sacramento or San Jose to shop there. I agree, he should update his website, but like many small businesses, he uses Facebook much more than rely on his website. When he has a new shipment he posts the entire inventory on Facebook. He also is the best pond retailer (pond materials, fish, etc) around.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Sara Malone Zone 9b
  • 3 years ago

    @Sara Malone Zone 9b It is because of that expertise that I make the point he is losing a lot of customers. He has no way to capture interest from someone reading his website. Ah, I will chase him down on FB thanks.

  • 3 years ago

    He sez call him! He answers during business hours.

    westes Zone 9b California SF Bay thanked Sara Malone Zone 9b
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