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Moving Conifer from Ground to Container (6 Replies)

Posted July 15, 2017 at 8:28 am

Hi purchased two tiny Pinus lambertiana ‘Secret Sugar’ from Conifer Kingdom. They are in a loamy sand in the east end of Long Island zone 7A. They are about 2 years old and are about 6″ wide by 10″ high and have been in the ground for about 18 months. I think I would like to move them to cedar containers so I can move them to better locations and, eventually, take them with me if I sell my property.

Assuming it’s OK to move them, what soil mixture would I use in the containers and what can I expect to see in terms of root growth? The containers should allow them several years of growth.

Here are some pictures (and yes, those are Agave, Trachycarpus fortunei and Sabals in the background).

http://www.coniferkingdom.com/pinus-lambertiana-secret-sugar/

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Posted July 15, 2017 at 8:30 am

For the heck of it, this is how they looked in February 2016 at Silverton, Oregon.

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Posted July 15, 2017 at 10:48 am

First, congratulations on your acquisitions! Yes, you can move them and the wooden boxes are great because they allow for good airflow and great drainage. They also don’t heat up in the summer sun the way those black plastic cans do. You want to use a mix that is very well-draining. I’m going to see if someone else opines since I don’t do a lot of container conifers. The growers use a mix that is largely bark; that also has the advantage of being lightweight if you need to move them around. I tend to add drainage to my soil by using 1/4″ lava rock, something that I suspect is not readily available on Long Island! Let’s see what others have to say.

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Posted July 15, 2017 at 11:06 am

Personally, I wouldn’t touch those plants until they are dormant in late winter. While doing so, I’d be concerned over how deep the roots have gone over the past 18 months. If they’ve spread, no problem; if it’s tap-rooted, we may have a problem.

It would be helpful to know what was used for understock. The first pics look like strobus, but I would still confirm with Conifer Kingdom. They are known to use exotic rootstocks. If the rooting is more lateral than deep, it would be helpful to “root prune” the plant over the next two late summers (August 2017 and 2018) and next early spring (March 2018). This involves driving a narrow spade straight downward along the drip line. Root pruning promotes more fibrous root growth around the plant base. This technique is used by the guys who produce balled and burlap trees.

Once you’re ready to get them into boxes, I really can’t comment on potting mix because every region has specific mix to match specific climates. I recommend contacting a local grower and ask what they use. I echo Sara’s call for good drainage. Given, the top growth is native to California; we just don’t know about the roots.

good luck!

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Posted July 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Thank you all, I will heed your advice. I sent Brent Markus a note to ask about the root stock. I agree, it looks like Pinus strobus. I’m looking forward to seeing how these turn out, as they’re pretty unusual an I think I got some of the first grafts. Anyway, I hail originally from Oregon and I actually buy red lava gravel to use here on Long Island! Oh and i’m planning on coming to the conference in Syracuse in August.

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Posted July 15, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Hi Mike,
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Are you attending our Syracuse Conifer College? I’m giving a PowerPoint on growing conifers in glazed, ceramic containers that can be left out all winter. So many advantages for rare & unusual specimens. First the larger containers can be a landscape, architectural, or sculptural statement! They can be moved. And, you can grow conifers in impossible soil locations such as root competition from maples. (Your cedar containers qualify as works of art.) To be frost proof the clay (terra cotta) containers have to be specially fired taking as long as 6 weeks so that they are “vitrified”- will not absorb water like regular terra cotta. Not many pottery manufacturers take the time. Most “vitrified” clay comes from Viet Nam.
I “bare root” all container conifers up to 1 Gal. This can be done at any time (I just did a demo container at one of our featured gardens in Syracuse in Mid-July). I use lava stone (available here at Home Depot) that is used for barbecue grills. I use the larger size for 1/3 and the pebble size for 1/3 on top of that as container fill. Many advantages…light weight, porous so holds water without freezing expansion and the drainage is perfect. Very, very important to keep the drain holes at least 1/2″ above the surface. I also imbed 1 Gal. or 1 Liter plastic jugs with caps tightly secured. This further reduces weight and the amount of lava stone needed but most importantly will absorb the freezing pressure from any liquid water (air compresses). Not being exposed to UV light they should last at least a hundred years. I then use rock garden soil (90% small gravel and coarse sand- 10% organic matter). I then place the bare-rooted conifer at the correct depth for the container and add the rock garden mix slowly with constant watering-in to make sure all the roots have soil contact. I’ve never lost a plant (or a container) even when the temp. here hit -8 degrees F. last winter. Much more detail in Syracuse at our Conifer College.
Jerry Kral
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Posted July 15, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Thank you, Jerry, inwas too late to take your course. I wish there were more room.

bobby

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