Monkey Puzzle tree in Michigan

Discussion in 'Araucariaceae' started by sjschrei, Aug 11, 2004.

  1. sjschrei

    sjschrei Member

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    Hello,
    While in Germany last year, we saw a huge Monkey Puzzle tree. I had to have one!
    Presently I have my tree inside as a house plant. It is about 12" tall. I was wondering if this tree would survive in Zone 5 ( S. W. Michigan USA) Would it be possible to adapt this tree to zone 5? I have had thoughts of planting it outside and building a small green house type structure around it for protecting it during our Michigan winters. Would it survive? Would it eventually adapt to this climate?
    Thanks,
    SJS
     
  2. Michigan

    Sorry, too cold in winter. These Andean trees aren't wild about the torrid eastern summers either, although some are being grown back there anyway.
     
  3. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
    I am currently growing a single, 8-yr-old araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree), 2 4-yr-old araucaria bidwilli (bunya-bunya), and 14 2-yr-old agathis robusta (Queensland kauri) seedlings at my home in Grand Rapids, Michigan (zone 5). They are container plants that are moved indoors around the end of October when the threat of snow or freezing weather arrives. I move them outdoors towards the end of May-beginning of June.

    Granted, these are small, immature trees, and time will tell how well they will tolerate things in the future. But for what it's worth, I am no expert, but this is what has worked so far:

    1. These trees, from what I have seen, do develop a deep tap root with relatively little lateral root development (as compared to many other trees). Pick your container accordingly.
    2. As with most container trees, bonsai, etc. The root systems need a quick draining potting mix. I have used a mix of bonsai soil, peat moss, ground bark, and perlite...about an even mix of each. I am not convinced that it really matters too much as long as it drains well and is of some materials known to inhibit the growth of soil-born fungi and organisms.
    3. I have several bonsai, and I will likely use some "growth-restricting" techniques common to this art for these trees, but I keep hearing about this precious tap root that may need to be preserved while doing some root trimming. I have not had to do this yet, as the trees are so young.
    4. I also have found that a granular systemic insectide mixed in with the potting mix has significantly reduced any soil-born insects from being carried into my home in the Fall.
    5. Humidity trays help reduce leaf drop with all my plants during their time indoors.
    6. Use a small fan to keep the air circulating, or place plants in an area where there is a fair amount of walking traffic (but not where you or the plant could get damaged). Air circulation and humidity help significantly as most homes in the U.S. use some type of forced-air heat that can be quite dry and will damage most indoor plants...not to mention, stagnant air encourages scale, mites, and other little critters.
    7. Use 1/4 strength fertilizer mixes. Whatever, the directions say on the container...use 1/4 of it, and only during the warm growing season outdoors. This will help reduce salt build-up in the soil, reduce leaf burn on the tips, and will slow/restrict growth.
    8. Grow the plant slow and healthy. Araucariacea are typically slow growers anyhow.
    9. When you move the plant outdoors, have it spend a good 2 weeks on the north side of the house. No direct sunlight. After a few weeks, you can then move it to the east or west side of the house where it can get a few hours of sun in the morning or late afternoon. I would not recommend full southern exposure during the hottest summer months.

    By the way, I recently viewed an internet advertisement for agathis robusta (Queensland Kauri) in Australia as a potted, interior plant. On the internet, I have also seen other araucariaceae family members, podocarps, and other tropical and temperate climate trees grown indoors during the cold winter months.

    I have quite a collection of other rare and unusual plants (much to my wife's dissappointment) that spend the warm weather outdoors and get moved indoors in the Fall. I've been doing this for nearly 20 years, but most recently with my araucariaceae trees, without any ill effects. My 3 cents worth...
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    She's disappointed, eh? Maybe you should sell all the plants and start sitting in bars instead, as do so many other men.
    I know or knew (last saw them a year ago, when he wasn't looking too good) a couple where the plant nut husband--if not both of them--was in his 70s (and they probably had been married for something like 45-50 years). Last time I was at their place the wife was STILL nagging him to not buy anymore shrubs! I also knew two elderly men, a sort of Felix and Oscar, where soon after the gardener (Oscar) died Felix leveled the garden, cutting down mature sasanqua camellias, giving away nearly all the potted plants as well as many of those in the ground, and so on. This was a place where other gardeners came and talked with the gardener about plants, gardening and numerous other topics for years. Apparently that whole time the other guy quietly endured, never developing an appreciation and ultimately springing into action when the opportunity came, as though almost seething all those years to have a nice, neat, normal nearly empty lot.
     
  5. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Welcome markinwestmich,
    Your first post here is full of great info for those in colder climates that like Araucaria. Too bad your first reply is filled with tales of sad relationships and advise about selling off your collection to start drinking.

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Agreed - you are to be complimented on your tenacity and techniques (and for sharing them!).

    I read Ron's post as anecdotes that suggest markinwestmich's devotion to his plants is a far better thing than sitting around or going to bars to drink.
     
  7. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    Location:
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    I do agree with a previous poster in that our winter temperatures are a bit too cold for these trees. Yes, in their native habitat they do get snowed upon from time to time, but I doubt that they get the deep freezes like we get in the "water, winter, wonderland" of Michigan. Most organisms, plant and animal, can temporarily adapt to certain conditions outside their natural environment or what they were genetically designed for, but until someone takes on the challenge of engineering a "cold hardy" cultivar...best to keep it protected from Michigan winters.

    They are beautiful trees when mature. Personally, I am going to try to keep my trees growing slow and allow them to mature to no more than 3-4ft. (1 m.) tall. I just want them to be nice "patio" plants from June to October, then nice house plants the rest of the year. You just have to find ways to not allow them to become too much to handle. Best laid plans...time will tell...but I think it's well worth the effort of trying. Enjoy your tree. ; )
     

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