Topping container trees at knee length?

brownmolaNovember 3, 2012

Hello, recently I made a bareroot tree order and was planning on chopping them down to knee length (as recommended by many) and waiting for them to branch out during the spring. I recently found a nursery that sells the exact trees I wanted but already in containers. The trees have 3 or 4 nice looking low branches. Could I cut off/head the main trunk and just keep those branches? Would that basically be the same thing as chopping down the bareroot tree (except not having to wait as long for growth/fruit)? They are pluots on citation. Or does it even matter with the container trees since I can probably prune to control size?

I can try and explain it better if this is confusing. Thanks!

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


I've been able to get pluot to fruit the second leaf, the year after planting, if I get good growth the first year. Any branches the trees have at planting don't make much difference in the first fruit. Growth the first year is more important.

My only concern with the potted trees is how long have they already been potted. Because you really need to repot at least every 2-3 years unless you want to fruit them about 4 years and start over with new trees. They won't last longer than 4-5 crops max without repotting. If you leave them more than a couple years without repotting the rootball gets so dense as to be a real mess.

If you buy bare root they can be cut off low unless the trees are over 3/4 to 1 inch caliper. Then they may not resprout that low. In pots I like branches starting at 12 inches or less because overall tree height, with pot, is best for me at ~6ft, 7 max.

I'd start bare root if the trees are less than 3/4 inch. One half to 5/8 inch even better.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 3:40PM
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Let me clarify that these potted trees from the nursery will be going into the ground or a large raised bed immediately after purchase. Does that change your advice?

Thanks Fruitnut!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 3:53PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Doesn't really change anything except I do top in-ground trees a little higher. I lost one of those this year that I topped at 18 inches. Only sprouts were from the rootstock.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Yes, chop 'em off at the knee just like the What Is Backyard Orchard Culture? document recommends. Too easy, and works great.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 12:05AM
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