an extra year in pots?

cousinfloydSeptember 28, 2012

I'd be very interested in your thoughts on how long to keep all sorts of trees in pots versus how soon to set them out, but currently I'm thinking about 2-3' Asian persimmon whips that were grafted this spring. I just purchased and received three. I expect they'd have to grow better in pots next year where I could keep them better watered and better weeded, but they have to go in the ground at some point and maybe that transition would be easier the younger they are? Is it almost always best to keep trees in pots as long as possible, so long as I have a big enough pot that I can still move? Are there factors that play into the answer to this question that I'm maybe not considering?

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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Trees adapt to transplanting more easily when they are smaller. So I would move them this winter. Also even if they are not getting root-bound the roots are growing too closely in the pot and they will get major root material further from the crown when transplanted earlier.

Scott

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 8:19AM
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trianglejohn

I like to plant container grown trees while they are dormant or just starting to sprout. If they are in full leaf I tend to keep them in pots. I have lost so many things in the past - they made it through winter, sprouted in the spring and bloomed and died - I am now scared of fall planting. I do prep the hole where they will be planted though, just to make things easier in the spring. I also baby the heck out of them all winter and their first year in the ground.

I will say that the persimmons I've planted didn't grow much their first year no matter how much I babied them. They did fine in pots before that but they didn't get bigger.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 9:14AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

This question is all about the roots. The longer they are in pots the worse shape the roots are in. Whereas the longer in the ground the bigger the root system. It's an easy decision for me. My trees in pots are basically shot after 4-5 years. The root system is in such bad shape it is difficult to transplant and keep them alive.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 11:31AM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

Are you using American persimmon rootstock? If so, I'd recommend planting in the ground ASAP. They grow a lot in their second year, sending roots out several feet in my limited experience. I really think growing them in a pot will limit their growth.

I've planted a few Asian persimmons from seed, and they do not grow nearly as fast. Maybe you could get away with it if that's what you're using, but think of it this way: If the roots reach the edge of the container, their growth has been altered, almost certainly not for the better.

Alex

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 12:49PM
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cousinfloyd

Thanks everyone for the advice. It sounds like I definitely want to plant the persimmons sometime between now and next spring. They are on native rootstock.

John, what about fall planting do you think could lead to trees dying in the spring after an initial growth? I've been more fearful of summer than winter. In other words, I've been afraid to put trees in the ground in the spring, especially late spring for fear that summer drought stress would come too soon. I've bought into the theory that fall planting gives the roots more time to establish themselves before they have to fight their first real drought.

You all have me wondering if I should try to avoid transplanting altogether. Would I have better success and a quicker start if I planted persimmon or jujube or pecan seeds in their permanent locations and then grafted onto them? A couple years in pots seems especially useful for pawpaws insofar as it makes the transition for early shade to subsequent full sun easier.

Just generally, I was under the impression that the bigger the root system I could grow in a pot first, the better the tree would be able to make the transition to the field, especially if the tree wasn't going to get watered or weeded especially well in the field. Is that not true in any way?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 6:08PM
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trianglejohn

The trees I've lost defied all logic. They appeared to be doing so well (even blooming!) but before the drought really hit they were gone. The last few summers have been so hot and so dry that I'm surprised I haven't lost more trees. I kinda think that part of my problem is that I have no control over stresses these trees have been put through before I bought them. If I order something and it ends up being a fragile tiny wisp of a plant I keep it in a pot for one full year before it goes in the ground.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 8:17PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

American persimmons grow fast enough that I would say to plant seeds in their permanent location. Plant a few in each spot to increase your chances of success.

Pawpaws are much slower to get started, and IMO will be better off if you can start them in pots. You can get a much longer first season that way. If you put the seeds in the fridge now, they will be ready to plant by late January. Some if them will germinate in a couple weeks if you keep them warm, and will have shoots emerging by March. If you plant directly, it will be well into summer before the shoots emerge. If you can keep the pots inside by a sunny window or greenhouse in the fall, you can extend the season even more.

In 2010 I started several pawpaw seeds in containers. In 2011 I planted some of them in the ground (shaded them with window screen) and left some in pots (3 liter soda bottles). There was no contest, the ones in the ground grew much more.

Now, I was able to really baby those seedlings. If you won't be able to water them in the field when it's dry, Maybe they would be better off spending their second year in a pot as well, but make sure it's a big pot.

Alex

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 10:39PM
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