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Root-bound Plants  RSS feed

 
laurie branson
Posts: 40
Location: SW Washington. zone 8a
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Hi Robert -
I propagated and grew from seed about 350 trees, shrubs, herbs and vines with the plan to get them in the ground out at the farm we are building, but for a zillion reasons not everything will be planted out this fall.
I've potted them up all spring and summer, but now most of them are getting pretty root bound. They are currently all over my deck at home. My question is how to best get them through to spring when I can plant the rest of them out.
I live near Seattle and my farm is a few hours south. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1708
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I'm wondering much the same thing, though in a different vein. When I planted out a bunch of blueberry bushes--and perhaps an apple tree or two--two years ago, I didn't really loosen up their roots before planting, and they seem rather stunted. Is there anything I can/should do to make them healthier?

Thanks!
 
Robert Kourik
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Hi Laurie, Nothing you can do to prevent more of a root-bound situation. Just keep them moist and fertilize if need be. I new study done in Seattle showed that shaving off an inch or so of the outer root system before transplanting will make for better trees than teasing out the circling roots. The shaving produces more lateral shoots to more quickly respond to transplanting.

Sorry Nichole there isn't much you can do except mulch deeply beyond the foliage and make sure they are fertilized out there as well. Water beyond the foliage to encourage the roots to grow into more soil like they would normally like to do.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 410
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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So what is the deal about planting out root-bound plants from pots? I've heard it both ways for trees (loosen the roots, don't loosen the roots). What's the theory? Does it depend on the plant? (I just potted on a tomato plant from a small seedling container to a 20L bucket and didn't loosen the roots).
 
Robert Kourik
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Hi Rose, If the roots are circling or potbound it's always better to tease apart the roots and spread them on a small cone of soil before covering them up. However, a new study with large shade trees showed that slicing down the sides an inch deep or so was better than spreading/teasing the roots. I haven't tried it yet but will as the source is very well trusted. Tomatoes generate roots along the length of the stem if it's buried and will over grow any of the roots on the bottom of the transplant. But this applies mostly to tomatoes.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I can add to Robert's comments on tree roots since I have been shaving deciduous trees for planting for years.

When you remove the root container of one of these trees (be it burlap around the root ball or a plastic container) and you trim the circling roots, you will see a marked improvement in the tree establishing in the new planting space.
This last year my wife didn't believe me while we were planting some new pear trees, so I did one my way (trimmed the roots back to the intact root ball) and one her way (tried to tease them out with out breaking them off).
Both were planted in generous sized holes with a good soil mix used to fill in the void along with a 4" thick mulch layer on top after the watering in.
The tree we planted her way took almost five months longer to show signs of good transplanting health while the trimmed root tree established in three months.
Even now the teased out tree struggles to pick up enough water and nutrition when compared to the root trimmed tree.

I started using this method in 1975 while planting part of a commercial orchard with peach trees, over the maintenance contract period I noticed the trees I planted were showing less signs of shock than the rest of the crew planted trees.
I repeated the observations over three other orchard plantings, one apple and one a private mixed fruit orchard of only 30 trees.
In both of those trials, the root trimmed trees showed less shock and began putting on new growth far earlier than the "normally" planted trees.
Our nursery (since then no longer in the family) then adopted the root trimming method for all deciduous trees.
We did an in-house trial of conifers and that did not work out quite as well as I had expected, leading to holding to the tease out or just plant and go style.
 
Robert Kourik
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EXCELLENT, Bryant
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1320
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Although they are not in the same ground, I can compare 2 applestrees I planted. The 1st one was just a "plant it as you find it", though I always suppress roots that have some rusted color on the utside.

The one I planted 2 years after is much nicer. It was deceptive when I took it out of the pot. It was full of roots, little soil left.

It lost all its leaves with shock, and then recovered with power: I had decided I did not want a weak tree and prefered that it would not eventually survive. So I de-twisted all I could, and cut all that was bad, all that I broke too much. I did leave a big half-split root.... I forced all the root in an extended posture, and let it do with by best wishes.... Was I lucky?
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1320
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I could not find the pic, so will take another one....
I AM ANGRY AT NURSERIES THAT SELL ROOT-BOUND TREES!
When we make a mistake, ok.... but would you sell your mistake?

It should be prohibited to sell plants that are taller than their own pot.

I will show this pic of a black sapote.
I took it out because it did not grow.
The root was like a cork screw. It never grew.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Although they are not in the same ground, I can compare 2 applestrees I planted. The 1st one was just a "plant it as you find it", though I always suppress roots that have some rusted color on the utside.

The one I planted 2 years after is much nicer. It was deceptive when I took it out of the pot. It was full of roots, little soil left.

It lost all its leaves with shock, and then recovered with power: I had decided I did not want a weak tree and prefered that it would not eventually survive. So I de-twisted all I could, and cut all that was bad, all that I broke too much. I did leave a big half-split root.... I forced all the root in an extended posture, and let it do with by best wishes.... Was I lucky?


That was not luck, unless the luck was from using a little intuition which led you to root trimming of a sort. Goodonyou. I have found over the years that fruit trees benefit greatly from a yearly shot of Vitamin B-12 given by watering the roots at the drip line (where the actively transpirating hair roots live), I like to use a minimum of 2 gallons of B-12 then fully soak the soil so the vitamin water gets pushed into the upper 18 inches (where most roots live).
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1320
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Yes, a mix of knowledge leads to some intuition....

B12?? the one vegetarians miss? Isn't this expensive to buy? Any animal dung isn't enough to put this in the ground?
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Just as we (humans) are creatures of habit, so are plants.

If a potted plant has spent the growing season with its roots growing in circles, it will continue doing so if just stuck into the ground. By shaving off the circling roots before replanting, you have (hopefully) broken that bad habit.

In my wanderings of thrift shops & garage sales, if I find a used 'electric carving knife', I just may buy it. It would probably be a good tool for doing this root surgery...quick and clean.

As a side note, several years ago I was reading a Florida law written to curb lazy nurseries. I believe that it said if a plants were circling 1 1/2 times around the planter, they could NOT sell that plant. Many nurseries were selling too many plants that had little chance of surviving in the open. Customers were paying for plants that were already doomed.

 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
243
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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hau, Xisca, no dung is not enough for stimulating root growth, it is enough for maintenance of root health though.
B-12 tablets are not expensive, unless you are buying them labeled for plant use.
The B-12 you can get at your grocery store or pharmacy is the same B-12 and it is far cheaper.
I dissolve out of date B-12 tabs (ones I didn't take) and use this to stimulate root growth, it works a treat and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
I start with 4-5 tabs in a gallon (4L) of water then to use I dilute at a rate of .25L in 4L of water, this dilution will stimulate new root growth, if you are using it on an established tree you can dilute to .25L solution to 8L of water.

Use sterilized bypass type pruning shears to trim your roots, this forces you to pick and choose which roots to cut.
Using an electric knife has the opportunity to dislodge roots deeper in the ball, while using B-12 will help a lot, why invite possible trouble, unless you are planting hundreds of potted trees every day, the little extra time just lets you introduce yourself to that new tree.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1320
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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John Polk wrote:As a side note, several years ago I was reading a Florida law written to curb lazy nurseries. I believe that it said if a plants were circling 1 1/2 times around the planter, they could NOT sell that plant. Many nurseries were selling too many plants that had little chance of surviving in the open. Customers were paying for plants that were already doomed.

YES, they look alive, and they are not really.... Poor little things.
I hope this law is known by byers and that they complain and get the plant refund if....
 
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