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Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

Posted by CEFreeman DC/MD Burbs 7B (My Page) on
Thu, Nov 29, 12 at 1:35

So in the past few years I've learned a LOt about my maples. Better soil, root care, etc.

I've been slowly repotting my 91 Japanese Maples since I learned about girdling and other dangerous conditions. I also used what I thought was good soil, but now I know it was to dense and thick. It's a wonder I didn't kill all of these.

I thought I'd share a picture of my Karasugara roots. I repotted this 2 years ago, just moving it from smaller to bigger container. Didn't know about combing out the roots or anything.

I cut out some of the braided roots you'll see, and definitely clipped the twisting and binding, hard dark roots. I've also done this with a Green Mist and Green Cascade and a few others. These 3 are now in the ground, vs. pots. I have this in store for a few more this year. I have a lot of hosta to divide and plant actually in the ground now, and many, many more JMs to address. Makes me sad/sick.

Enough talk. On to the picture. Parental discretion advised:

Either they'll live or not. Either way, these maples would have choked to death after a while in the pots.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 29, 12 at 12:45

Left too long in a small pot early in the game at the production facility, before you bought it. A pandemic problem, it is hard to find woody nursery stock that is not rootbound.

RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

I would love to blame the "production facility" but even if it started out that way, I usually get my maples at about a 2 year graft size. That means their tiny root bound status is easily addressed -- if you know what you're doing.

This probably 8 year old, 6' tall Karasugawa never had its roots addressed because I didn't know any better. I just changed pots and worried that someday I'll not be able to lift them into pots too big too move.

Now I know this difference. This puppy has been dramatically addressed and is in the ground. If it makes it, like I said, FABULOUS. If it doesn't, it was short-lived anyway because of my ignorance.

RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

I have a question.
I'm now unwinding a Omuryama. Probably 6 years old? Maybe.
It's roots are just as bad.
I understand about clipping the little roots that would grow to be big and thick in a root ball, but what about big, tree-thickness roots?

This Omuryama is almost braided. Would it will eventually choke itself. Should I, or would it be better to take out a thick root that goes roughly straight down, or the thick root that goes down and around. Either one is probably more than an inch around.

Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Now I'm sick when I think about my Red Dragon, Emperor 1, Burgundy and Chantilly Lace, Voliube, Autrolinear (sp!), Kiru Jisho, Shania, Fireglow, Trombpenburg, Baldsmith, Okagami and a couple others I finally put in the ground. I just didn't know.

RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

  • Posted by xman 7/8 (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 1, 12 at 21:41


I have all my 45 maple trees in containers, and some of them have been in containers over 12 years. One of the most important tasks for container growth is address the root problems. I repot my trees every 2 years, weeding out any circled roots everytime, and once all circling is removed, I move the repotting to every 4 to 5 years.
So any excessive girdling would have to be done over multiple repots, do not remove too much in one repot.
In your case, I would remove the circling root(s) first leaving the straight roots as they are not your main problem. You can go back in later repots and remove or shorten the straight roots, which may not be neccessary if you are planting it in the ground.


RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

I appreciate the response!
I am trying to repot all but probably 11 or 12 of my maples. The ones I got last year, when I learned about root care are fine until next year.

Given my lack of shade, some will need to be in pots for quite some time. Actually, until some trees grow large enough to provide that shade! Now that I know, I won't let this happen again. I'm even making an Excel spread sheet for what I have and when.

This Omuryama I'm working on. Even though this wrapping, twisting root is extremely thick, you feel I should still remove it? As you said, leaving the straight root in place. It's just so big! I understand about the little feeders and I'm careful. The size of this twist of roots intimidates me.

I've put the Karasugawa in the ground, along with a Green Cascade and Green mist. A few others have proved themselves sun-hardy (not those) which will also be (hopefully) permanently planted. If the weather holds today as warm as it's supposed to be, I'll be out there repotting and planting.

Thanks for your input. I read and read, but I'm still doing this on my own!

RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

Oh, man.
In the last few warm days I've done my Omuryama, Beni Shienehenge, Orangeola, Shigarimi, Berrima Bridge, Tana, Crispa, Japanese Sunrise, Aoba jo, Sanzanami, Verdis and Pink Lace.

I realized after untwisting and clipping what I could, that I probably have killed my Pink Lace. It is lovely, too, so I have hope it'll survive.

It's amazing how a huge knot of root when rinsed will reveal a horrible twisting and looped root. That Karasugawa is mild compared to some of the horrors I'm uncovering.

The positive news is I'm getting them out of thick, wet mud into some of the soil mix I've read about here. That's what started this whole thing. I realized I'd been potting them in probably anaerobic soil. In the ground, at least there's room. In the pots? ARRRRRghghhhh

Well, in the spring, I'll let you know what comes back and how they do. I still have about 20 to go -- and frankly, I'm considering digging up or around some of the in-ground plants just to clip the twists. But I'm taking a breath.

RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

  • Posted by xman 7/8 (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 5, 12 at 19:40


"Even though this wrapping, twisting root is extremely thick, you feel I should still remove it?"

It all depends on how the root is wrapping and twisting. Twisting roots usually end up one of two ways;

1) Twisting and wraping around the lower stem, cutting into the bark and choking of the tree (happened to one of my trees, not maple, but I was able to catch it in time before it fully cut into the tree.

2) Wraping and twisting around so much that they form a tight ball that keeps tightning as the roots thicken preventing other roots from growing to their full potential. Like the photo in your first post.

So if you look at the twisted roots, you can see how the twisting is going to affect the tree. From what I have seen twisted and wrapped roots will eventually kill the tree, if not in a couple of years, in 5 or 10 years.

Since I keep all my tree in containers, I like to get my trees really young so I can work the roots, but you will be surprised how much twisting and wrapping can happen in a 4" container since the growers keep them in there so long.


RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

  • Posted by xman 7/8 (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 5, 12 at 20:11


You may have seen this link before, we all hope that with root pruning and repotting our tree roots would look like this. :)


Here is a link that might be useful: repotting-of-the-big-maple

RE: Karasugawa roots, or how not to repot

Since I also buy mine very young, 1 - 2 year grafts, I am not surprised at how twisted they can become. Sadly, I just didn't know and it never occurred to me. Xman, it's both scenarios for some of these little babies.

I'll check out the video. I don't think I've seen it.

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