Monkey puzzle tree post-transplant

Discussion in 'Araucariaceae' started by Daniel Mosquin, Sep 11, 2003.

  1. Daniel Mosquin

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

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    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    The following was received via email from Manchester, England:

    Hi there,

    I live in Manchester, England and I'm looking for some expert advice.

    I recently saved a 13 foot Monkey Puzzle Tree from the chop. It was located within the grounds of a local Old Folks home which has now been demolished.

    The tree was dug up with a mechanical digger and within 90 minutes it was transported half a mile to my house and planted in a pre prepared hole. The tree was planted in good rich soil to which I have since worked in a large mixture of Horse and Chicken Manure. The tree has now been in it's new location in my garden since 18 June 2003. The leaves have gone a darker green in colour and several of the tips have gone brown, most noticeably at the lower end of the trunk. However, most of the brown tips on the branches occurred several weeks ago and don't seem have have got any worse. The branches remain erect although one of the lowest branches has gone totally brown, which I note from other such trees in my area, is quite common.

    On the advice of a local garden centre I have watered (hosed) the branches virtually every day and have watered the tree to the point where the soil is very moist, although drainage is good. My advice was that I cannot over water it.

    1. Is this advice correct, do I need to stop watering the roots the tree for a while and will watering the branches help or should I stop this as well?

    2. Is there anything that I haven't done that I should at this stage?

    3. The tree is now in a semi shaded position whereas before it was in full sun. Will this have a bearing on it's survival chances?

    4 If the tree is going to die, would it have shown more significant symptoms than that outlined already?

    5. Do you have any advice for the forthcoming Northern English Winter.

    Thanks in advance for any help you might give me.
  2. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Vancouver, Canada
    Obviously, this advice is based upon knowledge of Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle) in Vancouver, British Columbia. The climate here is similar to that of Manchester, England, though we don't usually experience late spring frost and most of our precipitation occurs between November and March.

    In my experience, monkey puzzles transplant welll, as long as the plant is healthy, the new soil profile is not too different from the original. and the vast majority of roots (along with attached soil) are undisturbed. The larger the tree, the more difficult this is. Feeder roots at the root ball margin are likely to have been lopped off. This may cause some corresponding dieback of actively growing parts of the tree. This is probably the reason for the tip dieback you are seeing. In this area, the entire branch usually dies back when this happens.

    In horticulture, as in most other spheres, there are no absolutes. You can easily over-water a monkey puzzle tree, particularly one where the roots have been severed. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Watch the leader and the branch tips, if you see the damage spreading, this probably represents dead roots -- either killed initially in the transplanting or rotted after drowning. On the other hand, if there were significant air pockets created beside intact roots when the tree was settled into its new home, those roots could have died due to drought (i.e., even despite religious irrigation).

    To encourage new roots from old, you need both moisture and air (as well as adequate warmth and sunshine). Pay attention to the transition between your soil and the root ball. If there is a radical discontinuity (e.g., if your soil is clayey and the prepared hole has glazed sides), the roots may not penetrate into the new surroundings. Finally, if the soil textures are significantly different, water may accumulate (heavy soil = clay) or drain away (light soil = sand) on either side of the transition, and this will diminish the capacity of the roots to grow to the other side.

    Because monkey puzzle is only moderately frost-hardy (USDA Zone 8), there may be a tendency to "protect" the plant by piling mulch over the roots, but doing could reduce oxygen diffusion below the surface, so moderation is probably the key.

    Good luck!
  3. Monkey Tree

    Hi there. I was very interested in reading your questions - the reason being that I have just moved an 18 foot monkey tree from a slope at the rear woodlands to the front of my house - in Manchester!!!!! Like you I have noticed some browning of lower branches and happened on this site whilst looking for a probable cause? How is your tree doing and have you any advice to pass on? If so then please email me at
    many thanks NICK
    Last edited by a moderator: May 30, 2004
  4. Post-transplant

    If your tree's rootball was too small, a likely occurrence with a specimen that big, its crown may show some deterioration while it begins to regrow the lost roots. All you can do is keep it moist (but not wet) and propped up, hope it pulls through - something that will soon become evident, as the whole tree will fairly quickly brown off if the moving operation was a failure.

    In future, do not amend individual planting holes, as it does not produce improved results - quite the opposite, in fact - due to how it affects the movement of water through the planting hole, as Mr. Justice has already indicated. And in this particular case, I'd wonder if the salts in the manure you used might actually be increasing the water stress on an already partially de-rooted specimen.

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