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Do you really need to cut back bare root trees when planting?

 
Renate Howard
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Location: zone 6b
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I'm just curious if people do that for a scientific reason or just because that's "how it's done". It seems to me that if you let them use the highest, best remaining viable bud it will give the tree a little more height to reach the sun that much better over weeds, etc. (in case we don't keep the area clipped quite as well as we should, LOL). Since the trees need the pumping action of the sun on the leaves, photosynthesis, etc. it seems like "too many leaves for the remaining roots" couldn't happen. The tree should unfurl the leaves as it is able, and the more it can grow, the more energy it has to grow more roots, the faster it can get established. If it lost a lot of roots during the process of being dug up, transported, etc. then it seems like it would just unfurl fewer leaves at first, keeping the remaining buds on standby until it can replace the damaged roots, or unfurl the leaves more slowly.

I planted around 40 tree seedlings this spring, all bare root. I was going to go back and cut them back but got busy on other things and didn't and now they're starting to grow. I think I'll just leave them alone and see what happens. So far they seem to be opening the leaves very slowly at first but then they pick up momentum and eventually open all the buds along the length, allowing them more photosynthesis and hence better first season growth and establishment, without needing to use as much of their resources growing nonproductive stems like they would have if I'd cut them back to just a couple of buds.
 
dj niels
Posts: 177
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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I put in a bunch of bareroot shrubs last month, and didn't cut any of them. Last fall I got some raspberry starts from a friend, and cut them back, and I'm afraid I killed them. I have read that currants need to be cut back heavily, but just not sure about the others.
 
Lance Kleckner
Posts: 111
Location: West Iowa
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I always cut them back because when dig them up, don't get all the roots, and feeder roots are destroyed anyways. So there is going to be transplant shock no matter what when transplanting.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Most bare root trees are pruned so as to give them a desired form example central leader vs open center.
And also to keep trees at manageable height (10ft vs 25ft).
They are also "pruned" to allow smaller shipping boxes thus cheaper shipping.
During shipping younger tender growth also go thru more shock that older growth.
I have gotten bare root with leaves on them in April with Hydragel that supposedly provide water, the trees are pretty much dead, if they had "pruned" this tree I would have been happy.


Trees used stored sugar to grow leaves in the spring, If you could redirect that stored sugar to making roots, I do not see how that could hurt.
I have however transplanted tomato plants and seen that leaf-water pumping action kill them when there is not enough root.

Still randomly prune 1/2 your seedling and see which ones looks better next year

 
Renate Howard
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Location: zone 6b
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I was too slow in putting wire cages around them and the deer pruned them for me. Zealously. Hopefully the trees will survive!
 
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