Plant potted citrus now or next spring?

fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TXAugust 24, 2010

I want to plant three potted citrus in-ground inside my greenhouse. The soil temperature drops to about 50F for three months in the winter. Would I be better to plant now while soil temperatures are high or wait until next spring?

Also how much should I cut off the outside of the rootball when I plant? One of the trees has been in it's pot seven years. Any other pointers?

Thank you!!

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ashleysf(9 San Jose,CA)

Hi fruitnut, I asked a similar question last year and was told that it is best to plant right now as the roots will have the fall and winter season to grow and establish and that the plant would take off in the next sprint (and gain a season over spring planted trees). So, I planted 4 potted citrus in last Fall (2009) and they have performed very well for me this year with a lot of growth and fruiting and no visible impact from the transplanting process.

As for the tree in the pot for a long time - what I did in my case was to use a strong jet of water and wash away all the soil and bareroot it and then fit all the existing roots into the hole I dug. Will that work in your case? Or is the rootball too big?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 4:58PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Thanks for the input. I remember that conversation and that got me to thinking about moving ahead now. I think this is a good time as far as growing roots before it gets cold. But it is still hot in the greenhouse. Do you really think the tree will survive bare rooting it now? I'm most concerned about my old tree that's been in the same pot 7 yrs. It looks very good and has lots of foliage and fruit. But all that foliage just makes it harder to transplant.

I'm thinking that the outside roots need to be cut off but maintain some of the inner part of the rootball to supply water until new roots form. But maybe I need to just cut the top way back and forget the fruit that is on the tree now.

What do you think? Bare root and cut the top way back?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 5:58PM
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Hi fruitnut..

I am a bit concerned with temps that hot...What happens if your roots shut down to rest from such a shock? Will your tree draw up moisture in time to keep the plant hydrated? or without shedding tons of leaves to protect itself from dying?

I personally would wait till next spring, when the soil and air temps are cooler, sun lower in the sky, to allow for root regeneration and lack of dehydration...If you do decide to transplant now, is there a way you can drop the temps down in the house, or block the sun?

In ground is not my expertise, but to me, it just makes sense..I could be wrong...Container culture and ground are two different worlds I guess..

I hope it works out well for you:-)


    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 6:25PM
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One further though Fruitnut..

Why can't you wait till the best time of year to transplant, considering you have waited 7 years and the tree has such beautiful growth? The spring will be here before we know it and I can't wait already..:-)


    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 6:32PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Given that you're planting in a greenhouse, in-ground, you should have much more control over the tree.
As long as you keep the root-zone appropriately moist, you should get a nice heard-start on the season.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 10:47AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Today I took the tree out of it's pot for first time in 7 years. Was very pleased with what I saw. No roots wrapped around the outside of the rootball. Just a nice mass of small roots on the outside. Less roots in the bottom 3 inches or so. This plant has been doing very well without repotting for 7 years and looked like it would be happy in the same pot another 7 years. The soil looks and feels like a very rich, high-organic, garden soil with a fair amount of clay. Really makes me wonder about all this repotting every year and the expensive artificial soil mixes. After growing lots of citrus, blueberries, and fruit trees in pots for 7 years I think it's not necessary.

Sorry for the digression! I cut about two inches off the bottom of the rootball and a half inch off the outside. Planted it in the greenhouse and expect it to hardly miss a beat.

Thanks for your interest and input!!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 12:27PM
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I am glad you didn't have to "bareroot" ...

Hope it keeps it's leaves and does well for you:-)
It should do well since you only trimmed the roots back, and live in a room that gtes all that Texas sun through the year, most than most of us can give ours in the home..:-(



    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 12:44PM
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ashleysf(9 San Jose,CA)

Good to know that you made it work! Since your trees have all Fall and Winter to grow new roots, I bet that they will be off to the races come next spring!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 12:48PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The roots will continue to grow in cold temperatures. As a matter of fact, fall and winter planting is recommended over summer or spring, in most climates. Certainly yours. Remember, too, that the temperature of the soil is going to stay a lot warmer for a much longer time than the surrounding air.

As far as cutting the top off...NO NO NO! That is something that should never be done to compensate for root loss or prior to transplanting. It is absolutely counter productive for the plant. Not only will you eliminate the energy factories for making all those new roots by removing the leaves, but the plant will misinterpret your actions entirely! To a plant, pruning is a growth stimulating process. If you prune the top, the plant will redirect much of its resources back into foliage replacement at the expense of root regeneration.

Another thing that could work against the tree is fertilization at this time. Again, that is a top growth stimulating action, which is just what the tree does not need at this time.

What you should do now is direct frequent watering to your new transplant, especially right to where that little pitiful root ball is. Hopefully, the root pruning will help stimulate some good growth below ground.

We hope that the soil in the greenhouse is porous, not overly compacted and all of that good stuff. Keep us posted on the progress of your plant!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 4:19PM
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