Are potted trees better than caliper trees?

ostrich(3a AB)July 19, 2014

I finally had my poor Showy Mountain Ash removed. It turned out to have fire blight, hence its demise... sigh!

Anyway, now I am going to replace it with an Ohio Buckeye - I am so excited!

I went to the nursery tonight and saw some 50mm caliper Ohio Buckeyes - they were OK but nothing to write home about. Some of them had minor branch damage and then the leaves were kind of small, at least from what I had expected of Ohio Buckeyes. Then I saw this 15G potted one which was tall and had a nice and straight trunk, and good branching pattern too. The leaves looked very big, nice and healthy. It was a nice looking little tree!

Then I got talking with the nursery folks. They actually encouraged me to consider the potted one, because they felt that the potted one will have a better chance of survival in our climate, since the roots were never disrupted like the balled and burlap caliper trees were. They told me that the potted tree will take about 2 years to establish itself in its new home, whereas the caliper tree will take up to 5 years!!!

So, is this true? The caliper tree would have an instant impact on my yard but then the potted one does look nicer, even though it is quite a bit smaller. But it will take years to get to the size of the 50mm caliper one.

I would very much appreciate your advice here. Thank you!

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I have 2 different Ohio Buckeye trees doing very good in my yard, both were in 2 gallon pots and about a foot tall. I also have some seedlings from local trees. One of the purchased trees is a cultivar but am not positive about which cultivar, it was just marked as a species Ohio Buckeye. The cultivar has a very nice orange/red fall color. The problem that I have with purchasing large trees, all have been potted, is that I have had to cut them back because they are not strong enough for the winds that I get or they die back the first couple of winters. I have not bought a B+B tree but in a protected spot and well cared for I can't see why they wouldn't take but should only be done in early spring or dormant in fall for best success.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:01AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Hi Wayne,

Thanks! That is a lovely specimen indeed!

Have you found that to be a very slow grower? How fast does it grow really in our climate? My area is in a corner of my backyard, between two fences so it will be fairly protected.

I would have got one of the caliper trees but then they just somehow have these small leaves and they don't look that great. The smaller potted one just looks more vigorous with larger leaves, which are very nice to look at.

One of the people at the nursery told me that the caliper trees eventually would have the larger leaves.... I am not sure about that.

Wayne, thanks for your input!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 1:06PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Buy both and SP the weaker one in a couple years :)


    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 2:31PM
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shillanorth Z4 AB

I think there is less transplant shock in potted trees, they are easier to handle, easier to dig the hole for and quite often will catch up and surpass the larger balled and burlap trees.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 2:51PM
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On average they have grown 6 to 8 inches a year, they grow early in the season here and stop growing when it gets into the high 20 C range. The tree in the picture is in heavy black gumbo, the species is on the south side of the building and has more mass and different soil. I find the species will start to grow on some tips in the fall and these don't harden off . Come spring it is the side buds that grow and so it branches out more. Both trees are about 12 years in the ground here and haven't had leaf scorch that they talk about. They are about 7 and 9 feet tall. Don't prune unless the tree is actively growing, I find the bark wants to pull away instead of healing in.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 4:33PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

SCG, you are BAD!!!!!!!!! LOL

Shillanorth, that is what I heard too, that planting a potted tree has less transplant shock than a balled and burlapped one. Since I already had one dead tree in this location, I was naturally worrying about planting yet another caliper tree and ending up having yet another dead tree here....

Wayne, thank you for the great info and I love your tree! I very much like how it has the multi-stem look. It's my favourite look for deciduous trees! Do you mind taking a shot of the leaves up close for me please? I would love to see that. The caliper trees I saw in the nursery just did not have really attractive leaves, which I thought were really one of the main attractions of Ohio Buckeye.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 12:52AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I always wanted one,..great looking tree!
Would say also, go with the potted one.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:10AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Hi konrad, thanks! Is there any particular reason why you would go with the potted one rather than the caliper one please? Would love to hear your reasoning. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:23AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Because I've planted many trees from the pot and had very good results. I never had a large caliper tree planted because I know,..first you pay big bucks, then the tree sits for a long long time before you see it grow,...most often they get sick and dwindle down to a slow death! Ohio Buckeye is NOT a tree like most others,...I mean, a little fussy for the first two years or so until it settled in. Smaller trees is ALWAYS better for a more successful take.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 9:04PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Am I the only one who suggests buying both then pruning the weak? I thought we did this all the time. My statement still stands and I think the best argument of the bunch; you wallet may disagree.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:12PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

konrad, thanks for the very useful information! Now I am glad that I decided to get the potted one. I must say that of the several caliper trees that I got, the Showy Mountain Ash obviously did not do well, then the builder's Schubert Chokecherry certainly is exactly what you described - it's just sitting in the front lawn not showing any growth or anything.... it is just THERE since it was planted 3 years ago. Then the Toba Hawthorn is slowly establishing itself, with one season without any blossom, and this past spring it finally bloomed moderately. On the other hand, my caliper Bacheri Spruce is doing quite well and is getting quite tall! What a surprise...

I can't wait to get this Ohio Buckeye delivered and planted next week!

SCG, I am not going to S.P. any more tree any time soon! LOL! Too damaging for my bank account to plant two trees like this.... LOL!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:56AM
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If you get a caliper then typically it should be installed by crane. That's the only way to assure a root ball big enough to prevent shock and dieback.

if you want to have a go at it yourself then put the caliper tree in late September or early October. Right now is the absolute worst time.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 4:19PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

shazam, thank you, but could you explain more about whhat you meant by installation by crane please? Do you mean the delivery, or actual installation of the tree by a crane? Sorry that I am not familiar with it, as all of my caliper trees were balled and burlapped and have not been installed by any machinery like that. They were all professionally installed but the landscaper did not use any crane at all. How would that protect the root ball please?

Also, why is it that it is the worst time to install them now? Does that just apply to the caliper trees only, or also to potted trees please?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 1:24AM
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Coming into this conversation late. I planted a buckeye in 1991, I think it was about 4' high then or so, potted. It is now maybe 15-20' tall and about the same across. My mistake was to buy one that split into two main trunks a couple feet above the ground. Made it look much fuller at the time, but 5 or 10 years ago a big windstorm split the tree in half. I was going to remove it but my daughter begged me not to. So I still have it, but have to do pruning each year to prevent it from becoming too lop-sided. I still think it's doomed, but it's made it this far...

As for the caliper trees having different leaves than potted plants... that's nothing to be concerned about. Same daughter worked in a tree nursery for two summers and said customers would always fuss over the calipers having smaller leaves than they were expecting. She could explain a thousand times over that this effect was only because the calipers had severe root pruning to go into their burlap root ball, and within two years or so of growing outdoors they would return to full-sized leaves. But it didn't matter, customers still fussed and didn't really believe her.

In the end, either should be fine. If you have the time and willingness to give the caliper tree the care it needs during the first 2 years or so to go from root ball to established tree, then it will establish well and be ahead of any potted tree. If you aren't willing and able to put in that effort than the caliper probably won't do well for you and the potted would be a better choice.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 2:07AM
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Cultivar first

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 6:59PM
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Species, neither one is fertilized but there has been no shortage of moisture.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 7:03PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Thank you, Wayne!

The first one (species) has nice and big leaves, just like the ones I saw on the potted tree.

The second one (cultivar) has smaller leaves, just like the caliper trees that I saw.

The thing is, neither the caliper or potted tree has a tag that tells me whether it is a cultivar or not.

Hmm... I really like the larger leaves better so I think I will just go with the potted tree then! Thank you so much for the helpful photos.

don, I really appreciate your helpful comments. This was the spot where my Mountain Ash did not survive. In fact, along the same area, some of my neighbours' trees did not make it either, so it must be a tough spot. Therefore, I probably will just go with the potted tree then, in order to increase its chance of survival.

Thank you everyone for your helpful posts!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 1:23AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Oops, sorry, wayne, I meant the first one was the cultivar, and the second was the species.... thanks!

Oh, and the cultivar was the one with the nice red/orange fall colour, right? Good! Then hopefully my potted tree will turn this same nice colour during fall too! Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 1:26AM
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