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Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

Posted by gardenweb88 none (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 19, 13 at 18:33

My front yard needs some fixing. There's an area of my front yard that used to house a 10 foot tall tree. Of what variety, I'm not sure. We actually had to remove the tree because the roots were regularly interfering with our mainline plumbing. The roots had basically grown into the plumbing pipe.

Now that the spot is just dirt, would it be possible for me to plant a tall growing shrub and prune it to grow as a tree? My understanding is shrubs have root systems that wouldn't interfere with the plumbing system.

I live in So Cal, sunset 20. The planting spot is about 5 feet from the edge of the front door walkway and about 15 feet from the nearest part of the roof.

I was hoping to find something attractive for year around bright color. Pink would be ideal if possible.


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 19, 13 at 19:15

A 10 foot tree isn't very big as trees go, so the root system of that tree may be comparable to the root system of a medium shrub. What kind of tree was it?

Many shrubs sold as shrubs eventually can become small trees--good old Ligustrum japonicum comes to mind--it's usually seen as a clipped hedge 4-6' tall but will become a 25' tree given time and opportunity.

You might consider a citrus on true dwarf rootstock. They'll usually range between 6-10' at maturity, but the real solution would probably be to put your height somewhere else in the area, away from the pipeline.

Simply not planting anything near your main line pipe larger than a lavender or some other sub-shrub might be best. Or what about some kind of structure to provide height without a root system, such as a decorative freestanding trellis or tuteur with a mannerly flowering vine growing on it? Plumbing repair is expensive!


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

Can you recommend a lavender sub-shrub?

What about planting a California lilac, like the Dark Star variety?

Citrus is actually prohibited in my area for now because of a spreading citrus virus.

This post was edited by gardenweb88 on Sat, Apr 20, 13 at 0:29


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

It is a shame that the pipe could not be replaced with a modern one that is not prone to root incursion. We lived once in San Francisco sand dune area where Joint Grass was a constant problem in the drain pipe. The real solution is to replace the pipe. Al


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

Any kind of shrub will have roots that will invade your pipe, I think. Maybe you should consider cactus of some sort, or you could put a draping plant up on a pillar there for height.


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

There is a barrier you can install between the plant and your pipe made by Villa Root Barrier, Inc. It comes as a set of thick plastic panels 18x24 or 24x24. There are little raised deflectors to turn back the roots and the thick plastic keeps roots from getting into pipes, bricks and cement work.


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 26, 13 at 10:54

I'm going to second what Al said, the only real solution is to rip the clay pipe up and install a modern sanitary line. Personally, I would have done that before ripping out an established tree unless of course the tree is directly above the line.


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 27, 13 at 19:01

Any lavender would work, they don't have much of a root system. When I said "sub shrub" I meant a shrub-like plant that grows and looks good for a few years then has to come out and be replaced. Usually a very modest root system in comparison with a woody shrub. Lavender is an example. As opposed to a long-lived shrub like Boxwood, Myrtle, or Ligustrum.


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

  • Posted by jkom51 Z9 CA/Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 28, 13 at 14:52

Check with a nursery and see if any dwarf palms are recommended in your area with your particular site requirements. Palms have very shallow root systems.


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RE: Prune a shrub to grow as a tree?

I do have Garrya 'James Roof' I grew as a small tree. It has never really looked like a tree. Suckers a lot and looks unkempt if they are not constantly removed. A nearby Clematis has partially covered it now and we have just let it go. Al


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