Collecting Mountain Laurel

Gabler

Shohin
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I've identified a cluster of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) on my parents' property, and this spring I plan to collect a couple of them. Information on them is limited. The extent of the information I've gleaned is that they like moist, well-drained soil, high acidity, and a high organic content. Gardening websites recommend tilling peat into the soil before planting them in the ground. They seem to like part shade, but not full sun nor full shade. It's also recommended to dead-head the flowers to promote better flowering the following season. While certainly helpful, that information isn't nearly complete enough for bonsai cultivation.

How do they handle collecting/transplanting? Is it safe to chop the trunk, or do they take after coniferous evergreens, refusing to back bud if all the foliage is removed? Are there any other considerations to keep in mind for bonsai cultivation? I've noticed a few members here have collected mountain laurel in the past, and I'm hoping for some insight into my questions. If not, are there any sources you'd recommend that I check? Thanks in advance!
 

mrcasey

Mame
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Several years ago, I read (don't recall where) that most mountain laurel neither transplants well nor thrives in a container situation once dug. I've got some beautiful mountain laurel I'd like to collect, but I've been scared off by all the rumors. That, and I kind of suck at collecting yamadori.
 

Dav4

Drop Branch Murphy
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Several years ago, I read (don't recall where) that most mountain laurel neither transplants well nor thrives in a container situation once dug. I've got some beautiful mountain laurel I'd like to collect, but I've been scared off by all the rumors. That, and I kind of suck at collecting yamadori.
Agreed... when I lived in MA, I had limited success transplanting them, never mind collecting them and having them survive in a pot. One other negative would be the extremely large leaves and overall coarse growth habit.
 

Gabler

Shohin
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Agreed... when I lived in MA, I had limited success transplanting them, never mind collecting them and having them survive in a pot. One other negative would be the extremely large leaves and overall coarse growth habit.

I'm not scared off by the coarse growth habit. I can just grow more of a literati style tree with minimalist branching. I am concerned about killing a nice specimen. As an alternative, I've already taken some hardwood cuttings, and hopefully they root this spring or summer. I think I will try to collect one this spring and baby it to help it recover.

IMG_20201223_154153.jpg

This particular specimen has a tuft of leaves growing low on the trunk, so I can eventually chop it back to lower growth. There's also a few little sprouts I could collect. It'll just take a while to get them to thicken up.

IMG_20201223_154302.jpg
 

Forsoothe!

Masterpiece
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I can't claim any real skill with them, but I have one that did poorly in my yard that I put its remnants in a pot and it lived. I concur with everything said about them, but I love the foliage. This is a dwarf and is smaller than it looks...
ML 060320.JPG
I'll be heading it back next summer, but have been timid with it because I was unsure how it would do. I has shown a lot more vigor last summer than the previous ~3 or 4?.
 

Tall Guy

Sapling
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I have collected very neat clumps of mountain laurel several times. When collected with tons of undisturbed roots and put in a large grow box they initially did well. However, as soon as any root reduction was done to get them anywhere near to being in a bonsai pot they all died. I have tried probably 5-6 times. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are very intolerant of any kind of root work... at least for me. These were clumps where the roots were large mats and I left most of the foliage on. I tried trunk chopping a few larger plants, and couldn’t get these to live either. Difficult material for sure.
 

Gabler

Shohin
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It sounds like I'll need to do some experimenting and figure out what works and what doesn't.
 

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