transplant shock

jimmy21May 10, 2014

At the advise of the nursery I was at, I bought some bare root trees, even though the trees were covered in leaves and had fruit starting to form. At the nursery they were growing in mounds of loose sawdust and easily came out of ground. He told me to cut 90% of the growth off, so that's what I did. They were about 5 feet tall and I cut all the branches so they were about 6 inches from the main trunk. That was 3 weeks ago. All the leaves that i left are still very green they just look wilted. No new growth has formed at all. I'm just wondering what I should be expecting

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Sounds like the trees are doing as well as could be expected at this point. Once the roots catch up to the current top the leaves will quit wilting. Then if conditions are favorable the tops will start to grow. That will likely take a month or more.
You will need to apply small amounts of water every few days gradually increasing to once a week by summers end if all goes well. No fertilizer until they are growing well and then small amounts with liberal water.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Sounds good. That's pretty much what I have been doing. Trying not to drown them but just making sure the ground never dries out very much.

I've heard people say that trees can be stunted forever if the transplant shock is bad enough. That's what I've been worried about. I'm hoping they will flush back out by the end of summer.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Either they will pick up here or they will die. Don't worry about stunting forever.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 7:16PM
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well it seems like a long time to me, but the trees are now going crazy with growth. I was 100% sure they were dead. Seems weird to me that they both started sprouting leaves at almost exactly the same time

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 1:09AM
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alan haigh

That is great news. What zone (or better, location) are you in? I'm very surprised that they actually became vigorous this year, I expected you'd need to wait a year to get that kind of growth, which is always my experience with late transplants here, although mine are never coddled with precise irrigation.

Next time I will experiment with more radical pruning, although in hort school I was taught that the benefits of balancing top to root during transplanting was a myth, based on Carl Whitcomb's studies. It wouldn't be the first time that I've placed false trust in hort research. Species can vary greatly on their response to treatments.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 5:45AM
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I've heard that balancing the tree is a total myth. The guy at the nursery definitely wrong. His words were "if you leave all that growth on there, it will all just wilt and die, but if you prune them hard, it will take about 2 weeks and then it will flush out again and be huge in no time.". That 2 weeks took 3 months. 3 months with absolutely nothing and then it was like all of the sudden they broke dormancy and are going gangbusters

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 12:25AM
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alan haigh

The one thing I know of that complicates the balancing thing is fruit buds. Peaches develop them almost as soon as they begin growing and are one species that have been shown to be capable of increasing in actual total size at the end of a season from being pruned more (in at least one study). Most other species will be invigorated at the point of cuts but the overall size of a tree will be reduced at the end of the season the more they are pruned.

I'm pretty sure from experience that with mature trees Whitcomb's analysis can fall short regarding species like apples and pears whose vigor can be greatly slowed when they've developed a surplus of spur wood. Removing this wood certainly can invigorate a tree to the point where growth exceeds the removal. All branch parts aren't equal and spur wood is a major sink for energy.

Your peaches may well have surged regardless of pruning treatment, of course, but you'll never know as they all received the same treatment.

I'm guessing you live in CA where the long season allowed the trees to recover and grow again, but I wish you'd say.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 5:40AM
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Portland, Oregon. I guess I never really mentioned what these trees were. A multi graft Asian pear and a multi graft European pear. Those are the only ones that I bought bare root that late

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 9:00AM
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My experience with various kinds of transplants has been that sunlight is a big factor, in that too much sun too soon will result in wilted leaves. If by chance, you had a run of overcast weather, typical weather in Portland, about 10 months out of 12, this would have given the tree a chance to grow some fresh roots, and support the growth above ground that you are seeing. When mother nature does not cooperate, it is possible to save a stressed transplant by providing some shade, mainly during the middle of the day, 10 am to 3 pm.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 4:27PM
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alan haigh

I also find pears to be the most problematic of any species I deal with and are often very sluggish coming out of transplant- the older they get the more the problem to the point where I can't reliably transplant bearing trees bare root more than about 2" in caliber and I mean when completely dormant.

I've had dormant transplanted pears that didn't leaf out until summer and the young trees I buy wholesale sometimes barely grow the first season I put them in the ground, even when planted in March.

The mysterious thing is that plants of the same age transplanted with the same careful effort to save as much root as possible sometimes respond completely differently.

I suspect a 3 in 1 pear would be a year older than an average bare root so that might have been part of the problem. Were they skinny with good root or were they like an inch in diameter without much root?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 5:57PM
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Pretty skinny trees. Half inch diameter or so

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 5:09PM
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