2 or 5 gallon shrubs?

ostrich(3a AB)May 31, 2012

I was looking at some shrubs today, and I found these Sambucus Black Lace in 5 gallon pots. They looked quite nice and the crown was a decent size. Then I saw these 2 gallon pots and to my surprise, these 2 gallon Sambucus Black Lace actually had just as big crowns and even more growth at the top! Then I saw these 5 gallon Incrediballs which were OK, but when I saw the 2 gallon ones, they actually had again just as big a crown, and even more new growth on the top!

Why is it that these 2 gallon shrubs actually look bigger and healthier than the 5 gallon ones? In our zone 3 climate, do you always try to get shrubs and plants in a bigger pot, thinking that they would have a more established root system? Please advice! Thanks.

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don555(3a)

Tough call. Generally a bigger root system will make for much less transplant shock so in a few years the shrub from the 5 gallon pot might be bigger and better established than the shrub from the 2 gallon pot. If the 2 gallon shrub looks out of proportion (too much top for the root ball) then maybe the 5 gallon is the better choice. But the 5 gallon will cost more, so the 2 gallon might be better if it looks reasonably balanced roots vs crown. (And the rule of thumb is that plants typically have as much biomass below ground as they do above ground.)

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 3:02AM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

I agree with Don. Also, this time of year it's probably not as critical to buy a larger pot. The plant hasn't been sitting around all summer with random watering, and transplant conditions are better in May than in August. I sometimes buy bargain basement shrubs in the late summer and I really have to baby them with daily watering etc. But I'm only paying a couple of bucks so it's a good challenge.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 9:17AM
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shazam_z3

So what happens with the 5 gallons pots is that the plant was previously growing in a 2 gallon pot, and before the plant is shipped out for the season they put it into a 5 gallon pot and charge you more. The plant quickly fills the 5 gallon pot but I've had a few times where I'll get a bigger pot and most of the soil falls off and I have a smaller plant. Grr.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 4:07PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

don555, northspruce and shazam, thank you. Let me show you some photos now and see what you think! BTW, the 2 gallon and 5 gallon pots here don't have much of a price difference as I got the 5 gallon pot when they had a 25% off sale yesterday! What do you think now?

2 gallon crown:

5 gallon crown:

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 10:34PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Yeah, that 2 gallon might be kind of root bound, but I wouldn't be suprised if like Shazam said, the one in the larger pot was potted up just before being put on the market and it is just as root bound as the other one. I've had that happen quite a few times. That is probably why I usually dig through all the soil anyway to make sure there isn't a hard ball of roots inside the outer layer of soil. It may not look rootbound, but it may be further in, from when it was in a smaller pot size.

It'll probably be fine anyway, it would just need extra watering and careful teasing out of it's roots.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 8:59AM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

They both look nice & healthy to me. Like Weeper said, you should be gently pulling some roots out of the ball when you plant anyway.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 9:09AM
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