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If Pawpaw taproot is damaged, will it survive?

 
pollinator
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Location: Athens, GA Zone 8a
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I bought three pawpaw trees from the Georgia State Botanical Garden plant sale. They looked very healthy, about 1.5' tall, with no signs of disease. They were planted in those black pots that have slots on the sides, for air-pruning I think.

I didn't realize until I got them home that on all three of them, the taproot was poking through the bottom of the pot about a quarter of an inch. I was able to get one of the trees out of the pot without damage to the taproot, but two of them required cutting off that little tip to get them free of the pot. Still, it took a little tugging.

Have I killed them in doing this? I put them all into well-loosened soil, clay amended with compost and a little sand, and mulched them well with hardwood chips. $20 holes, I made sure of it. So far, after a few days, they look the same as they did before. I've got my fingers crossed that they are going to be okay. (Michael Judd, reassure me?)

 
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I can't give you the precise reassurance you want, but...

Plants vary a lot (not just from species to species, but from tree to tree) in their sensitivity to root disturbance and difficulty of successful transplanting.  

Pawpaws do have a reputation for being somewhat sensitive.  By reputation, they are hard to establish in general.  

That said, my experience is that trees want to grow.  I can't tell you how many times I've done something that gave some tree sapling a horrible setback, but, up to a year later, it grew back or leafed out again.  I've learned never to write off any tree until it's been through a spring season with no sign of green on it anywhere.  And generally, I don't write off any young tree until it rots at the soil line and falls over.

Without having much experience of pawpaws, I would nonetheless bet a modest sum that you have not killed yours.  At most, you've given them a shock ... but that was going to happen when they were transplanted anyway.  
 
Diane Kistner
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Dan Boone wrote:I've learned never to write off any tree until it's been through a spring season with no sign of green on it anywhere.  And generally, I don't write off any young tree until it rots at the soil line and falls over.



I will keep this in mind, Dan!
 
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leaves are starting to fall here, are you far enough south that they don't go dormant? potted trees can be transplanted anytime but if you transplant in fall and water in and end up promoting growth if you get freeze in winter it could kill off new growth, just something that could happen.
hopefully you have healthy plants that have enough vigor to survive some root damage, next time maybe cut the pot rather than the root.
good luck
 
Diane Kistner
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bruce Fine wrote:leaves are starting to fall here, are you far enough south that they don't go dormant? potted trees can be transplanted anytime but if you transplant in fall and water in and end up promoting growth if you get freeze in winter it could kill off new growth, just something that could happen.
hopefully you have healthy plants that have enough vigor to survive some root damage, next time maybe cut the pot rather than the root.
good luck



Bruce, we're in zone 8a, and I was told fall is the best time to put the pawpaws in the ground is now...and we do get freezes in the winter, although they're telling us it's likely to be warmer this year. Who knows, given the way the weather's been this year?!

Yes, I hope they'll survive. I DID try to cut the pot instead of the root, but I still wound up having to cut the tip of the taproots off, because they were tenaciously thrust through the tiny bottom holes and had grown into the plastic!
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