Girdling Roots - Waterfall JM

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Lisa Harry, Jun 9, 2021 at 4:13 PM.

  1. Lisa Harry

    Lisa Harry Active Member

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    Hi Everyone
    So I purchased this Waterfall JM May 2020 and it was apparently up potted only a few months prior so I didn’t think I should repot and it again that summer however, it obviously grew very quickly and became pot bound. I missed my opportunity to do a proper root prune this past spring so I simply slip potted it a couple weeks ago and am using a grow bag. One thing I’ve notice in the very short time it’s been in the grow bag is the bag keeps cool and this tree is in full sun. This tree has given me some concern over the past year, as in it requires more attention than my other trees. As you can see I have girdling roots and I really want to cut them now, but from what I read online that seems like a bad idea during this season. Going forward would it be wise to root prune it this fall or coming spring of 2022 or just cut that root now? Thanks again for your support. (The root system was always prominent but the girdling root was not so obvious last year)
    Lisa
     

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  2. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    I suppose that's the root you want to remove :

    40D07A7A-6CAA-4BFC-B47D-5C950DC93543.jpeg

    If so, I think maybe you can remove it now.

    To me, your tree needs more soil on the roots, like adding a ring of plastic outside the pot to get 1 or 2 inches more, and fill the top of the soil with a suitable mix.
     
  3. Lisa Harry

    Lisa Harry Active Member

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    Thanks @AlainK i so wanna remove that root. The bag is rolled down I can easily roll it up and add more, I was afraid of what everyone says about covering too much to the trunk. Thanks so much
     
  4. Lisa Harry

    Lisa Harry Active Member

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    @AlainK to be totally honest I want to cut all 3 that are obvious in the picture. Do you think cut it to the trunk, then cover with soil mix or should I add a paste/ wax. I have really sharp bonsai tools so I can cut it nicely. I got the tools in hopes to try my hand at bonsai as well.
     
  5. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    My go-to garden authority (as many of you already know) is Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott of WSU. For many years, she has advocated root-washing tree and shrub roots before planting so as to better assess the condition of the roots and make corrections as necessary. See: Root Washing: Why and How to Wash Roots - FineGardening

    Although root-washing is best done in the spring or fall, our weather here on the BC west coast is forecast to be rather cool for the next week or more so maybe this wouldn't be a bad time to plop your Waterfall maple in a wheelbarrow full of water and take a really good look at the roots. I think it would be pretty obvious which ones need to go. It would also enable you to plant the tree in a proper soil mix by eliminating whatever it has been growing in up until now.

    Another very detailed article: Root Washing – An Excellent Way To Plant Trees – Wolbert's Plant Essentials
     
  6. Lisa Harry

    Lisa Harry Active Member

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    thanks @Margot i believe my waterfall would greatly benefit from this. I thought I missed my window but your right our climate may make it possible. I just slip pot it like 2 weeks ago so I don’t think it will hurt it to pull it out again. You feel trimming the roots in this season when root washing it is safe? thanks
    Lisa
     
  7. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    My feeling is that, if it has to be done, it has to be done. There is nothing to be gained by waiting. Hopefully there are enough other roots to take over - you will be in the best position to judge. Whatever else, I'm sure you will want to take extra care of the tree for the rest of the summer, keeping it out of the sun and giving it plenty of water. I hope it thrives for you - Waterfall maples are so-o-o beautiful!
     
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  8. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Lisa Harry good morning Lisa, I wasn't going to chip in as you have received a few replies. But I had to say I would not lift any maple now.
    I will not disturb any roots in the Summer when in full leaf. A few months is not going to make much difference to your Waterfall re the girdling roots. If it were me I would wait until it goes into dormancy. Then lift, wash and trim out the girdling roots, plus other roots for a repot and fresh soil.

    D
     
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  9. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    FWIW, I do root correction and potting up starting in late May and right through to late summer. I don't know that this is optimal but it works for me, and I usually have a lot of potting to do. The only time I don't mess with roots is when the tree is actively growing, that is during the first or second flush.

    But for certain, it won't suffer from waiting, as it isn't entirely girdled. So if you're worried and want to exercise caution, waiting would be a plan. -E
     
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  10. Lisa Harry

    Lisa Harry Active Member

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    @emery forgive me but I’m not sure if Od know when the first or second flush occur?
     
  11. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    The first flush is when the tree leafs out, and grows enthusiastically. Most maples then chill for a period and put on roots. We see this as the initial growth stopping. The second flush comes perhaps a month later, the top starts growing again and we see "summer growth".

    When all this happens depends on lots of factors, but I guess the bottom line is, I don't mess with roots while the top is actively putting on new growth. Cheers, -E
     
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  12. maf

    maf Rising Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    I agree with @emery here. There are some Japanese maple enthusiasts who advocate that the only time you should repot your JM's is the period immediately following the first or second flush of top growth. The reason being that during a "flush" energy stored within the roots in the form of sugars is being directed to the top and used to manufacture leaves. When the flush of top growth finishes the flow of energy is reversed and the maple starts to manufacture new roots. If you hit the sweet spot for repotting immediately after a flush of top growth the tree is naturally in a mode to enthusiastically make new roots and will establish in the new pot very well, and any roots pruned off will have already fulfilled their function as a fuel cell. This is a simplification but hopefully explains the logic behind the timing.

    In my part of England this equates to two repotting periods, first in May/June depending on earliness of cultivar and second roughly in September. In some of the warmer zones that Japanese maples are grown, such as California and parts of south eastern USA, there may be as many as three or four growth flushes in a growing season but presumably BC is similar to UK and Normandie with just two flushes.

    An example to support this point of view: This year my mother repotted a JM, approximately 1m tall by 1m wide, in her garden in very early spring, I can't remember the reason why but it had to be done then. It leafed out very well and put on a decent amount of top growth by mid to late May, nearing the end of the first flush and looking very healthy. In late May there was a storm that came with a fierce wind and this potted maple was blown over but remained undetected for a couple of days. When I discovered it I picked it up by the trunk and the original root mass just pulled out of the new soil as if it had been repotted yesterday. There were literally no new roots going into the new soil and it did not look as if there had been any root development this year at all, despite it being over two months since repotting. I repotted it a second time and the tree hasn't skipped a beat. If I pulled it from the pot again at the end of July I am sure new roots will have formed and the whole mass of the pot would come out as one. This tree is going to my brother's house to be planted in ground in September (after the second flush) so I will be able to assess the root development at that time.
     
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  13. dicky5ash

    dicky5ash Rising Contributor

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    Very interesting, I only slip pot after they have leafed out…so do you not repot immediately before spring?
     
  14. Lisa Harry

    Lisa Harry Active Member

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    Wow thanks everyone for the Information it is quite helpful
     
  15. maf

    maf Rising Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    I never touch anything before spring in pots. Obviously if I was digging up bare root trees from ground and shipping them I would do it while they were dormant by preference.

    Having said all that I once heard an esteemed gardener (can't remember who) say the best time of year to repot a plant is when you have the time to do it! The inference being that it is far better to repot a plant when you have time rather than not do it at all.

    Here is an extreme example of moving a JM after the spring flush and losing some of the roots. I am not proud of this btw, but showing it to illustrate a point of view. This potted tree was situated on a concrete slab just below a slightly higher level of slabs. It was not moved for several years and during that time leaf litter and debris built up between the pot and the step up from it. A root, and then several more, developed from the base of the pot horizontally along the slab and then into the ground under the upper slabs. This was not noticed at first. As the root grew the pot tipped and gradually leant over but was supported by the root under the slabs. Here is where I noticed something was wrong and realised what was going on with the roots. I knew it would be a big job to deal with it and didn't have much free time at that time so just left it... For two or three years. The root under the slabs was holding the tree up so in the short term was a bonus. This year I eventually dealt with this JM, pictures taken May 17th.
    IMG_20210517_152604.jpg IMG_20210517_154940.jpg

    I cut the roots off best as i could on the 17th May, retaining most of what you see in the pictures but losing much that was undergreound, and planted the tree in ground in my garden. So far it has been very healthy, nearly four weeks later. I have reduced the top by pruning about 10-20% of the top but have otherwise left it alone and it seems very healthy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021 at 4:13 PM
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  16. dicky5ash

    dicky5ash Rising Contributor

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    Speechless! That’s a tap root n’half!! I’m sure you would have investigated sooner if the tree looked ropey..clearly it was doing its own thing!
     
  17. maf

    maf Rising Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Yes, getting a root into the ground improved the health of the tree, if anything, so nothing initially seemed amiss. It is about 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide at a guess now and doing well in new location.
     
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  18. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    There are 2 factors that come into play for me when making a decision such as @Lisa Harry has to make about whether to remove problem roots now or later when the tree is dormant.

    #1. I must be willing to risk losing the plant if my interference ends up killing it.

    #2. All plants will do everything they can to stay alive.

    Choosing to take the risk is a gamble that is often successful.
     
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  19. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    I do the same R.
     
  20. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    I thought I'd share this story of my Acer 'Waterfall' which had a rough start in life. I didn't notice when I bought it about 3 years ago that, just below the soil, the trunk of the tree had bent over and then was straightened, creating 2 right angles in what should have been a straight trunk.

    I contacted the nursery (about an hour's drive away) and they credited me the purchase price. Even though I could have replaced it, I decided to leave it alone and see how it managed. Now, I'm happy to see that it's doing very well so far. There seem to be some roots growing from the horizontal bit; hope so anyway.

    A. p. 'Waterfall' 06-2021.JPG A. p. 'Waterfall' 06-2021 (2).JPG
     
  21. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    ... and you got a refund for that ?

    Seriously ?

    Oh my... ;0)
     
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  22. Lisa Harry

    Lisa Harry Active Member

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  23. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    What do you mean? I can assure you that the tree was a sorry sight when I first discovered the problem, hidden by the fact that it was potted so low in the pot.

    upload_2021-6-11_14-8-13.png
     
  24. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    Oh, I can see the problem now.

    Bad roots, bad roots...
     
  25. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    EXHIBIT A - in support of my argument that allowing plants the opportunity to fight for their lives is often met with success. See #18

    Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Waterfall'.jpg A. p. 'Waterfall' 06-2021.JPG
     
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