Rootbound Rhododendrons

sue36(Z5 Maine)June 18, 2007

I purchased two rhododendrons about 1 month ago and for a variety of reasons they haven't been put in the ground yet. I've been keeping them watered, and they bloomed well and have a lot of new growth. Last week was lousy weather, and I didn't really water anything. Saturday I went out to water and the new growth (but not the old growth) on the rhodies were totally wilted.

I pressed the soil and one plant is totally root bound. Feels like a solid mass of roots. The other isn't as bad. I watered them well and then put the pots into 5 gallon buckets with some water in them and they perked back up.

These will hopefully get planted this week, and I am wondering what to do since they are so root bound? Do I just slash the sides of the root ball and hope for the best? Any suggestions are appreciated.

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

That is one way. You don't want to break the small hair like roots. It is best to try to straighten the roots out, but if it means ripping off some of the air like roots, then just make cuts down the sides with a box cutter or some other sharp tool so they don't strangle each other.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 12:51PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Sue, when you take them out of the pots, if you find they've been containerized so long the roots are completely dense and matted, you can root prune them.

This is generally successful if you use a sharp knife, emphasis on sharp. Cut away 1/2" matted roots from the edges of the root ball of a 1 gal plant, 1" from plants in larger containers.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 1:03PM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

I'm surprised these are so rootbound. I bought them from a good garden center (not big box) near us, and they don't overwinter stuff (they close in the winter). Anyway, I'll have to see how bad they are when I get them out.

What type of a knife is used for root pruning?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 5:05PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

I use a sturdy utility knife/box cutter or a flooring knife.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 7:48PM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

Thanks Rhodyman!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 1:26PM
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