branch growth but no trunk growth?

JudyB

Queen of the Nuts
Messages
12,642
Reaction score
18,888
Location
South East of Cols. OH
USDA Zone
5b
Here is a 1 gallon nursery stock Crape Myrtle that I have had for 3 years. I had it in a smaller ceramic pot for a year, then decided to grow it in a box to get some girth. The box has proved to grow the tree dramatically as far as branching and foliage, but the trunk remains the same basic size as when I put it in this box. I chopped all the branches back to the main trunk last spring, and have not cut it since then. This spring it took off, and the branches are getting almost as large as the trunk. This is in a 70/30 turface/pine mix for soil, with some rough lava chunks. I have a healthy dose of osmocote plus in it, and use a balanced liquid fert every week on this tree. What if anything can I do to direct the growth to the trunk? Thanks.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1213.jpg
    IMG_1213.jpg
    68.3 KB · Views: 66
  • IMG_1214.jpg
    IMG_1214.jpg
    75.6 KB · Views: 65

Zach Smith

Omono
Messages
1,374
Reaction score
2,337
Location
St. Francisville, LA
USDA Zone
8
Here is a 1 gallon nursery stock Crape Myrtle that I have had for 3 years. I had it in a smaller ceramic pot for a year, then decided to grow it in a box to get some girth. The box has proved to grow the tree dramatically as far as branching and foliage, but the trunk remains the same basic size as when I put it in this box. I chopped all the branches back to the main trunk last spring, and have not cut it since then. This spring it took off, and the branches are getting almost as large as the trunk. This is in a 70/30 turface/pine mix for soil, with some rough lava chunks. I have a healthy dose of osmocote plus in it, and use a balanced liquid fert every week on this tree. What if anything can I do to direct the growth to the trunk? Thanks.

Think about what you're visualizing with this tree. I assume you want a tree with a trunk diameter of 2-3". Your grow box is roughly as big as your final bonsai container will be. So in order to grow this whip to that size, you just don't have the right conditions.

Put the tree in the ground for a few years or in a much, much bigger grow box or container. Then give it plenty of food, water and sunshine.

Zach
 

JudyB

Queen of the Nuts
Messages
12,642
Reaction score
18,888
Location
South East of Cols. OH
USDA Zone
5b
Hmmmm, now I'm confused. Yesterday I posted a hawthorn with the exact opposite problem, very slow growth of any kind, and was advised that I had it in a grow box that was too big... If I could put this tree in the ground here I would, but it will not overwinter here. I have to move it into my cold greenhouse in this climate, or it will die back to the ground. It's growing just fine, just not in the right places.
 

Zach Smith

Omono
Messages
1,374
Reaction score
2,337
Location
St. Francisville, LA
USDA Zone
8
Hmmmm, now I'm confused. Yesterday I posted a hawthorn with the exact opposite problem, very slow growth of any kind, and was advised that I had it in a grow box that was too big... If I could put this tree in the ground here I would, but it will not overwinter here. I have to move it into my cold greenhouse in this climate, or it will die back to the ground. It's growing just fine, just not in the right places.

Well, I don't know about the hawthorn advice of putting the tree in a smaller container. I do know that hawthorns are sometimes reluctant to put out lots of feeder roots on the schedule we'd like. I also know that a hawthorn I collected back in the 2001-2003 timeframe and planted in the ground around 2004, grew very slowly for several years and has finally surged in growth just in the past couple of years. They take time most of the time, in other words. At least that's been my experience down here in the Deep South with the species I collect (mostly Mayhaw and green hawthorn). Maybe others have had different experiences elsewhere and with other species.

There's one thing I'm very certain of. If you plant two identical crape myrtles side by side, one in a grow box and one in the ground and treat them the same way in terms of food, water and sunshine, the tree in the ground will outgrow the one in the box. Period.

I guess my point in the original post is that you have to know what size tree you want and in what timeframe, then give it enough room and nutrients to grow accordingly. Nature will do the rest.

Zach
 

JudyB

Queen of the Nuts
Messages
12,642
Reaction score
18,888
Location
South East of Cols. OH
USDA Zone
5b
Thanks for the replies. I do wish I could ground plant this one, but not so much up here. I have some larger training boxes, if the roots are near filling this one, I'll send it to the larger size next spring. That is the case with the hawthorn btw, it's just being sluggish after being put in a box from the in ground spot it had after collection. I'm moving it to a smaller box, the idea is that the roots are staying too wet with the weather pattern up here, and because the box is too large, it is not drying out enough to keep what roots it has healthy. Thanks again!
 

rockm

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
9,684
Reaction score
12,395
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
You have confused purposes of grow boxes and in ground growing. They are NOT the same thing and don't produce similar results. You asked for advice on increasing root development on the Hawthorn and about trunk development on this tree. Those are really two separate (but related) issues.

In-ground growing is the first step in trunk development. Putting ANY tree in ANY container slows trunk development to a crawl. The trunk on the Hawthorn was relatively well developed. It didn't need any more development diameter-wise.

This trunk does. A large container is still a container. It restricts growth and even if it's relatively large, it still won't provide enough room to put any noticeable girth on a trunk. It may even slow roots, as it has with the hawthorn.

In-grount growth allows mostly maximum drainage--unless you plant it in a swamp and maximum root run. It is that root run that, over time, increases trunk diameter. The more root mass, the more the tree grows. the more growth, the more diameter.
 

jk_lewis

Masterpiece
Messages
3,820
Reaction score
1,109
Location
Western NC
USDA Zone
7-8
Yeahbut . . . she cannot grow crape myrtles in the ground year round.

It is possible, however, to plant them outside in early spring and dig them in late fall -- then repeat that over the course of a couple of years.
 
Messages
954
Reaction score
2
Location
HELL
Compromise... why don't you next spring bury the tree, pot in all, in the ground and leave it there till winter. I often do this with my tropicals, even though I live in florida, just so I am able to move them inside if it gets to cold. I also do something simillar with my very small trees, I rest my trees in their pots on a large drip tray type container filled with coarse sand, the tray I use does have drainage holes. I allow the roots to grow down trough the pots and into the sand. This allows them to stay healthy and vigorous in very small pots. Lift them up when you need to and trim the roots.
 

JudyB

Queen of the Nuts
Messages
12,642
Reaction score
18,888
Location
South East of Cols. OH
USDA Zone
5b
If I do take a plant and dig approach, what would the best timing to frost dates be do you suppose? A few weeks on each side? I'm game to try it, would I put it in a nursery container over the winter? I'd assume that I'd want to keep as many roots as possible... Sounds like a fun plan.
 
Messages
954
Reaction score
2
Location
HELL
I would not have the slightest clue about your wheather, sorry...
When I worked at some of the nurseries around here, we used to put our very large "actual" trees in the ground while in their pots. Now obviously it is not the same as really potting it in the ground, but it allowed the tree to continue to grow strong and us to easily remove them when they were purchased.
As far as what type of pot... I would use a relatively simillar size pot as what you would eventually want the tree as a "bonsai" to be in. Yes, keep the roots that you have.
 

JudyB

Queen of the Nuts
Messages
12,642
Reaction score
18,888
Location
South East of Cols. OH
USDA Zone
5b
I would not have the slightest clue about your wheather, sorry...
When I worked at some of the nurseries around here, we used to put our very large "actual" trees in the ground while in their pots. Now obviously it is not the same as really potting it in the ground, but it allowed the tree to continue to grow strong and us to easily remove them when they were purchased.
As far as what type of pot... I would use a relatively simillar size pot as what you would eventually want the tree as a "bonsai" to be in. Yes, keep the roots that you have.

I get that you don't understand my weather, that's cool, but putting it in a pot that I'd want the finished tree to be in doesn't make sense to me for the growth that I'm putting it in the ground to produce. It would make more sense if I'm going to try to grow it out in the ground not to restrain it in any way. (Except for a tile, as I have a tile area for ground growth trees) Thank you for your thoughts.
Judy
 

Smoke

Ignore-Amus
Messages
11,563
Reaction score
19,745
Location
Fresno, CA
USDA Zone
9
There's one thing I'm very certain of. If you plant two identical crape myrtles side by side, one in a grow box and one in the ground and treat them the same way in terms of food, water and sunshine, the tree in the ground will outgrow the one in the box. Period.

Zach

That is true if the species is one that will grow to mammoth size with unrestricted growth.

Crape myrtle is not a species know for its trunk size anyway. It tends to grow like a shrub and will elongate but does not grow really large trunks. This is why it is known the nation over as a perfect tree for parking strips because trunk size does not cause excessive damage to sidewalks.

Walk along many urban strees with parking strips full of crapes decades old. The tree will be 8 feet tall, have a three inch trunk, but have branches almost as large. It just does not get any bigger.

While your post above is partly true, it will grow faster in the ground than the tree in a box, it probably won't really grow larger. It will just take a longer time to get there in the box vice the ground.
 
Messages
954
Reaction score
2
Location
HELL
judy, when I do this with my plants as soon as the roots exit the pot and start to grow in the ground, the trees take off !!! Even more so it seems, if they have been grown in a container all of their life. The reason why I said to plant them in a container the size you eventually want it to be in, is because not only will it allow you to retain the finer roots in tight by the base of the trunk, but it will also allow you to remove the pot from the ground with very little stress to the tree, verus digging it up right before winter. I have said that this is in no way as good as actually planting in the ground, but it is the next best thing... believe me, the roots of your plant will find their way out of their container, and when it does you will definitely notice the change.
 

rockm

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
9,684
Reaction score
12,395
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
"Yeahbut . . . she cannot grow crape myrtles in the ground year round.

Yeah, but she probably can with some precautions. Apparently, she's in 6a, which isn't horrible as far as winter temps go. I'm in 7a and crape myrtles are a standard landscape plant here. They tend to grow like weeds (And some varieties make substantial outrunks--this is all really due to pruning--leave a number of trunks and none dominates. Remove most, the remaining one or two will thicken...There are crapes along the street next to me that have trunks as big as my thigh and they're less than 15 years old). If this is a hardier variety, planting it in a sunnier location out of the wind would probably be fine...

FWIW, you won't get much trunk development repeatedly planting and re-planting the tree ever year. It takes sustained in-ground time to develop a trunk, the roots have to become established enough to push new top growth, which thickens the trunk.
 

JudyB

Queen of the Nuts
Messages
12,642
Reaction score
18,888
Location
South East of Cols. OH
USDA Zone
5b
Thanks to everyone for all the varied input. rockM, I'm actually in zone 5B. And live on a hilltop, so we get very strong winds, especially in the winter when the trees are bare. I had a landscape crape myrtle that I've done straw bales, burlap, and other protection around, and sometimes it lived and sometimes it would have to start all over again. I got tired of dealing with the shrubby mess every year, and gave up on it. So I don't think I'll want to go there with this tree. Perhaps a hybrid of approaches will work. Larger box, cut some holes in the bottom, let it sit on the ground to give it some root run out the bottom...And lots more time. I'll have all winter to decide what to do, I'll post up on it next season. Thanks!
 

rockm

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
9,684
Reaction score
12,395
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
FWIW, if you go to that amount of effort, perhaps a crape myrtle isn't a very good plant for you to work with. There are many other trees that wouldn't require such a hassle. Wasting time on a species that is questionable in your climate is a real headache. I learned that the hard way over the years. If a tree can't make a go of it in my backyard year round, it is rarely worth my time and effort...
Just sayin'...
 

jk_lewis

Masterpiece
Messages
3,820
Reaction score
1,109
Location
Western NC
USDA Zone
7-8
If I do take a plant and dig approach, what would the best timing to frost dates be do you suppose? A few weeks on each side? I'm game to try it, would I put it in a nursery container over the winter? I'd assume that I'd want to keep as many roots as possible... Sounds like a fun plan.

Check with your county agricultural extension agent (EVERY county in the USA has -- or shares with a neighbor county -- an agricultural extension office). They are storehouses of information on first and last frost dates, bug ID, plant ID, etc. They're one of the last (thanks to Ronald Reagan) and best free uses of your tax money.

For your tree, however, you will want to repot 2-3 weeks before the expected first frost.
 

jk_lewis

Masterpiece
Messages
3,820
Reaction score
1,109
Location
Western NC
USDA Zone
7-8
I would really advise against planting it with its pot. I'd plant it in the ground, with a large tile or plywood slab 2-3 inches under it,so the roots will be forced to grow laterally, and not crowd inside a pot except for those that manage to escape through drainage hole.

Digging it each fall will trim the roots (about at the edges of the tile or plywood) and help increase ramification of the rootball into finer rootlets.

Crape myrtle will, with only a small amount of work, develop nice single trunks and spectacular bases (nebari, if you insist).
 

grouper52

Masterpiece
Messages
2,371
Reaction score
3,585
Location
Port Orchard, WA
USDA Zone
8
Hi Judy,

Great topic, and the replies are quite good.

Let me take a different approach, however, that may not be to your liking, but may help things along for you.

You said elsewhere that you have recently re-assessed your collection, and weeded out the ones that were going nowhere. At your stage in the hobby, that's a real sign of a maturing practitioner.

This tree is probably going nowhere, given its growth habits and your situation/climate. It is far below the level of your other, impressive crape myrtle posts, and probably always will be. It is really a rather unimpressive tree compared to your others, and not one I would exert much energy on.

One thing I learned well in this hobby, the hard way and much to my benefit, was not to trouble myself with species or individual trees that wouldn't grow well where I live, especially if there was not some REALLY good reason to bother. It's a matter of triage based on prognosis. You are capable of so much more in this hobby than this particular tree is ever likely to bring you. Save your energy and time and resources for really good material.

If it were mine, I'd get rid of it, and look around for a nice, big crape myrtle stump online that someone can ship to you. Life's too short for Quixotic quests. :)
 

coh

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
5,504
Reaction score
6,115
Location
Rochester, NY
USDA Zone
6
Here are a couple of thoughts, coming from someone in a similar zone who is also growing a crepe myrtle for future use.

You say you had the tree in a (small, I assume) ceramic pot for a year, then in a grow box but you cut back all the branches last year. So this is the first year that you've allowed it unrestricted growth in a larger pot/box. I'm not surprised that the trunk hasn't thickened much yet. I think the tree needs some unrestrained growth, both root (which you've got with the larger box) and top. So, let those branches grow for a while without pruning. The tree may eventually need to go into an even larger grow box once it fills this one.

The trunk will thicken, it may just take a lot longer then you (or I in my case) would like. I wouldn't get rid of the tree, but just let it do its thing and see what happens.

Also, I have found that some trees tend to put on trunk girth rather late in the growing season, while others thicken more gradually. Not sure which category crepe myrtle is in.

Anyway, those are my few cents...love crepe myrtle, wish it was hardy this far north.

Chris
 

Similar threads

Top