Tree Root Strangulation Redux

hostahillbilly(4)July 30, 2012

In the last week I found two more tree root strangulation examples.

Here's some pics of one of them: Hosta 'Dorothy':

Note a few of the previously mentioned symptoms;

The color of the affected leaves are waaaay different from the healthy, normal ones (see leaves down there from 7:00 o'clock to around 9:00 o'clock.

The symmetry from the center rib is off, as in uneven from one side to the other.

The effected leaves are lying down compared to the near-by healthy ones.

Last, note that the leaf edges are much more wavey than the parent plant (on some plants that may be a difficult distinction, huh?)

My wife, hostabevie, used a shovel to cut all around this in hopes of severing the invading tree roots but my past experience says this won't really work, as the tree roots are still there 'choking' the oxygen from the Hosta.

In any event, this will have to be dug out, be de-tree-rooted, and replaced, and given the size of this gal, that's going to be a real chore.

No adjacent plants show any signs of trouble, and that's not entirely uncommon, though in future years may, oddly enough, it's not always the case.

I hope the pics are good enough to show what's going on.

I've let a few other plants go beyond this early indication of trouble, even to the point of losing them.

This post is my attempt to keep you from losing some special plant. This is our only Hosta 'Dorothy' and is the parent of the sport of my wife's special Hosta 'Beauty Queen', so I'm very concerned about rescueing her.

That brings up another possible thread, 'Hostas You've Rescued'. I, somewhat recently, posted the rescue of Hosta 'Wylde Green Cream' that I'm so happy about. What about yours? New thread, methinks.

Lemme think, most popular threads here: HVX, Alphabet Hostas Lists, NOIDS, Slugs, New Orders Received, Weather, interesting pics,

but, as Alton Brown sez, that's another show (but I'm hoping this will cause y'all to start more fun, fast threads here.



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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Thanks for your post, HH. Interesting that there are signs of tree root strangulation besides the obvious one of inferior plant size. I will be checking the hostas under my spruce and pine trees.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 3:06AM
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HH, it's a good education we're getting.
I will be putting some in the ground fairly soon, maybe next spring....and tree roots will be something to deal with as the holes are dug. Keeping them out from the beginning is my wish, but don't know if I have the strength to deal with some of the roots...but we shall see. Thanks for the illustrated lessons.

I gather the guests are gone and you are back to it....

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 11:39PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

are you going to post pix.. when you get around to digging it up.. and proving yourself correct???


    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 7:39AM
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I don't feel any need at all to post pics to prove this. I have posted pics earlier of the tree roots removed from other plants that showed these and other symptoms and feel I've already done 'due diligence' as to accuracy of my information.

I respect that you have more experience than we do, but in this particular case,

For almost 15 years I've seen this, dug them up, raped tree roots from the more tender Hosta roots, re-planted them and thankfully (except in the cases of the more infamously sensitive ones to disturbance, rescued most all of them.

Chris from Cement City MI is the go-to man for HVX around this area of the country. We have a lot of tree root strangulation experience.

I guess I don't want to trade places, teehee . . .


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:16AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if you think.. for one second.. that i was questioning your diagnosis ... you are sadly mistaken ..

all i wanted.. was to see how bad it was.. to cause that specific damage ...

i dont understand why your reply sounds so defensive.. as if i insulted you... if that is how you feel.. that was not my intent .. and i apologize ...


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 7:30AM
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If I may take this thread slightly OT;

I recently moved my baby Empress Wu from a full sun spot to a spot underneath an oak tree (4 1/2' off from the trunk). My hope is that I will get fewer, but larger leaves, plus this particular spot worked better from a design perspective. While planting, I noted a few larger roots and some smaller feeder roots.

Why does this situation not impede hosta growth, but maple and pine roots do?

As always, your help and knowledge is appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 7:55AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey lav ...

because you will NEVER see this under an oak ... nor most nut trees .... below is the neighbors silver maple.. on a septic rebuild ... ken

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:00PM
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Ken, what is that blue and white thingy? I thought the septic rebuild you mentioned was the pile of sandy soil off to the left behind the tree. I see that impenetrable mass of fine roots. Now I know what you mean about that. Is this tree about to fall off an embankment? Or is that a hold dug to rebuild a septic?

Sorry but I am totally lost about the technology of septic systems. My experience goes from a two hole outhouse to city plumbing, no pause for septics.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:06PM
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Hiya Ken and thank you for the visual... unbelievable.

ML, I believe that blue and white thing is a cap, lol We've had the good fortune, not, of putting in 2 septic systems/leeching fields on our prior home. They're essentially big, expensive holes filled with rock and sand and perforated pvc pipes that run from the tank through the leeching field.

I may not be uber knowledgable on hosta, but if anyone has a question on septic systems, I'm your girl.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 7:27PM
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The reason I reacted the way I did was due to the, quote, "proving yourself correct" part of your post.

I hope you now understand, and am glad that we go on unimpeded, since you're reposted that so-cool pic of the cross-section view of just how dense these 'just sub-surface feeder root systems' are!

Someone else, since, asked why the big, tough (paraphrasing) Oak (et. al.) roots are not choking their Hostas.

The key, from what I can tell, is the intensely
DENSE nature of the Maple and Red Pine JUST sub-surface survival root system of so many fine roots. There's a good reason the CCC, back in the day, planted northern Michigan with Red Pine. That root system, I actually believe, could suck the dew from the needle bed under them.

So, a few issues: the intensely dense system is way more effective at gathering moisture and nutrients than Hosta roots, and besides, it becomes so dense that AIR is also in short supply in the soil.

If you cruise the rest of this Red Pine forest you'll find, for all intents and purposes, NO other underlying vegetation. Sometimes a monoculture works very well for itself ;-)

I'm glad that someone else mentioned that Oak and MOST nut trees are mostly trouble free in this regard. Ken, again you come through with vital details.

I sure hope we don't have any more spats !

In the end, continuing the communication often offers fixes to problems.

I sure hope all y'all can avoid having to start over with 'wrasskally wrabbit' tree root invasions!



    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 11:06PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

I too, would like to see pics of the hosta after it's dug up. Not for "proof," but out of curiosity as to what it looks like underground when above-ground looks like your pics.

Just like other types of plants, some trees have large tap roots, while others have surface roots. Oak tree - tap root. Maple tree - surface roots. Echinacea - tap root. Phlox paniculata - surface roots.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 11:31PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I sure hope we don't have any more spats !

==>> well.. just presume.. anything that bites at you.. is tongue in cheek .. and most likely poorly written ..... just do NOT presume otherwise. ..

frankly.. with your pix and posts.. you keep the forum going.. and for that.. i am eternally grateful ...

and if that is given.. then presume you are mis-reading some lame attempt at jocularity ...


ps: van wade told me nut trees tend toward deep rooted.. and ALL THAT MEANS is.. they are not surface rotted ... so deep rooted could be.. 6 inches.. lol ...

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 8:29AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I want to see a pic of the group hug.

Are folks having trouble with pine roots? Perhaps White Pine (Pinus strobus)? I've gardened with three mature Austrian Pines (Pinus nigra) for 25 years and have had no issues with invading roots so I'm guessing not all pines are "invaded equal", if you will.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 5:29PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

did moc ask this: I thought the septic rebuild you mentioned was the pile of sandy soil off to the left behind the tree.

the septic was a 4 foot hole which i was standing in.. when i snapped the pic .. the blue/white thing is my baseball cap for scale ...

you know what flows out of the house.. then.. there is a tank ... wherein.. you asked.. it all mixes.. and the microbes go to work.. and then the WATER goes out to the weep field.. which this hole is actually .. and the water is weeped back into mother earth ... and every few years.. you pump out the tank.. depending on how many peeps live in the house ... and its all gravity ... so the tank has to be below the house.. and then the field below the tank ...

maybe this pic will help... talk about beach sand.. lol ... we had a thing come thru MI called .. a glacier ... and boy did it drop sand ... and that period of global warming was not man made ....ken

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 7:02PM
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Okay, I think I got it. I was wondering if the image of that cut into the bank showed the septic, but I see now it is the invasive dense roots. YOU were standing in the pit, and the pit was the leach field for the septic system. And it all runs downhill. Gotcha.

I have a true story here about a plugged up septic leaching field at the U of New Hampshire. My DH was with a consulting firm and got a call to find out what the problem was with the U of NH's sewage system. Dorms and all, not working so good. He and his boss drive up there (frm Massachusetts not far.) DH takes one look at the leach field and laughs, says the problem is solved. What he saw was the prettiest 4 foot tall growth all over the leach field---marijuana---seeds flushed down the johns of the dorms, you see. Beaucoup nutrients, and the U had its system plugged up. That was some years back. Love that story though. Never thought I'd have a chance to share it.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 9:19PM
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First, for tj, it seems apparent that not all pine trees have the extensive surface feeder strangulation root system. Red Pine most certainly do. When I did a database from my wife's garden winter before last I did some queries and found that we'd lost over a hundred plants, most likely to that problem. Once we recognized the problem and began fixing it, the loss rate dropped to almost zero.

We have one lone, odd, Jack Pine tree at the periphery of all the CCC Red Pines, and have one bed under and one bed adjacent and both of us remarked, when we first 'broke dirt' with shovels that WOW, no tree roots, and so far no signs or symptoms, woo-hoo.

So, Red Pines bad, Jack Pines, seems O.K. As for White Pines, no knowledge there, since even though our last domicile was a yard of virgin 120' White Pine, we weren't doing Hosta then. They do make most excellent ham radio high gain directional antenna supports, but (as Alton Brown would say), that's another episode, errr, forum.

I'm so glad Ken mentioned that Oak and (most) nut trees don't seem to be a problem, as that's a common question from visitors here, thanks!

Another foto example post follows.



    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 10:26PM
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I recently found another victim, H. 'Niagara Falls':

The leaves from 5:30 to 11:30 show the before mentioned lighter color (compare to the leaf at the top of foto), asymmetry (wider from one side to the other of the center leaf rib), and droop.

Another pic:

Now this plant is in a place where I will be able to git it outa there soon, and I intend to foto-document that process here for all-y'all to see.

Stay tuned and, as always, fwiw,


    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 10:34PM
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jan_on zone 5b

Thanks for this hh - I swear I learn something interesting (and useful) about hostas every day from reading this forum. This is today's gem.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:33PM
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bernd ny zone5

I have hosta growing under Eastern White Pines, do not see a lot of surface roots when I dig a hole. Other Maples (Sugar Maple?) have red leaves in fall and do not have a lot of surface roots, no mats of roots when I dig a hole 10 ft away.

I have one Silver Maple which has surface roots. One Francee, bloodroot, grass and hellebores survive there well. I water everything evenly with sprinklers.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 8:30AM
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thanks so much for contributing your experience to this thread!

And Hey, howz the Bressingham Blue we sent you doing?


    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 9:43PM
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Thanks for bringing up the watering issue regarding tree root invasion issues.

There have been discussions here and on other forums about the concept of watering wisdom using drip or similar systems.

Whilst the whole idea of this type of system 'saving water', there is a lot of previous evidence that this is not wise regarding Hosta gardening in an area prone to tree root problems.

The tree roots are remarkably smart and notice the nearby well-watered and/or fertilized areas and GO THERE.

nuff sed,


    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 10:39PM
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bernd ny zone5

Hi HH, your Bressingham Blue is doing great, has 3 eyes this year, no slug holes, leaves are thick and sturdy, is spreading. Thanks for that! I am looking forward to have those large blue corrugated leaves yours have, in a few years though. It looks like I have to give it more space, will be a big one.

Frank was showing on this forum how to grow hostas under silver maples, that is do not treat hostas special, but broadcast water and fertilizer. Forever I do that with water via the only watering system I have, the rugged overhead sprinklers, will probably go to automatic sprinklers in the future. But then, I seem to have only one silver maple, so not so bad. Have a lot of rain, and keep up your posting, thanks!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 8:56AM
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