How to handle nursery spruce roots

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#1
Ok, so I've killed every single spruce I've ever owned. Probably 8 or so. I'm getting them from nurseries, and they are very healthy when I get them. They range from Colorado blue spruce, to bird's nest spruce, Norway spruce, and others. Clearly, I'm doing something wrong with the root systems. Who can advise me on the best way to handle new nursery spruce trees? I love the way spruces look, and I really want to get a handle on them.
 
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#2
Maybe it would help to know what you are doing to them. Describe your repotting process and your aftercare.
 

0soyoung

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#3
Repot in summer (between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox) = in or about August. All new foliage should be hardened (don't remove any until the next season at the earliest). I've never had trouble digging them, fully bare rooting them to remove nursery soil and/or B&B mud, or routine repotting then. And there is also the standard trick of HBR if the tree is weak because of decomposed organic soil, say.
 
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#4
I've had good experiences plating spruce trees on colanders. They resppnd really well and develop a nice fibrous rootball
 

GrimLore

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#5
Ok, so I've killed every single spruce I've ever owned. Probably 8 or so. I'm getting them from nurseries, and they are very healthy when I get them. They range from Colorado blue spruce, to bird's nest spruce, Norway spruce, and others. Clearly, I'm doing something wrong with the root systems. Who can advise me on the best way to handle new nursery spruce trees? I love the way spruces look, and I really want to get a handle on them.
Follow what @0soyoung stated on post #3 - it works. I believe the problem your having is they are potted being sold as landscape so the heavy decomposed peat is hurting them long term. Buy in Spring(now) repot in Mid-Summer, flush the roots good with a hose, repot in fresh substrate. It can be organic but use little to no peat and just ensure good drainage. Here they guzzle water potted, all types so that is another consideration. :)

Grimmy
 

sorce

Nonsense Rascal
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#6
Yes to repotting after growth..preferably at the full moon directly after.

When digging DoWN to find good flare...
Beyond the "Uppotted" high roots...
I have noticed on Alberta, Colorado Blue, and Black Hills...
A set Of vertical ridges just above where the thickest roots lay. I believe this is the original spread. Not that it's always good, but if you don't like the first plane, or the second...you're "safe" to keep digging down till you see those ridges.

I been trying to find em at the nursery...

I'd say about half or more of spruce have severe undercuts and should be avoided straight away.

The reason I had success with my BHS was because I kept the top of the nursery pot soaked soaked soaked...
You CAN create a great root system you can Cut UP to this way...

Takes some time and is dangerous.

Cuz I feel like that OG spread has the most to sustain rough work.

Sorce
 
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#7
Repot as oso says or in spring when buds start to swell. Never let them dry out
And don’t remove a lot of foliage at once.
If they don’t have a lot of roots, misting will help when it’s warm or dry
 
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#8
I re-potted one late in spring (fresh, green, tender buds already mostly open)....and it bought the farm. Looked very unhappy right away. Seems like those tender delicious new needles need to do their thing.

Tried another one this year, but more like in very late winter before any growth, and now this one is obviously much happier.
 
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#9
Repot in summer (between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox) = in or about August. All new foliage should be hardened (don't remove any until the next season at the earliest). I've never had trouble digging them, fully bare rooting them to remove nursery soil and/or B&B mud, or routine repotting then. And there is also the standard trick of HBR if the tree is weak because of decomposed organic soil, say.
Do you leave all the foliage intact using this full bare root method?
 
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#10
Follow what @0soyoung stated on post #3 - it works. I believe the problem your having is they are potted being sold as landscape so the heavy decomposed peat is hurting them long term. Buy in Spring(now) repot in Mid-Summer, flush the roots good with a hose, repot in fresh substrate. It can be organic but use little to no peat and just ensure good drainage. Here they guzzle water potted, all types so that is another consideration. :)

Grimmy
I tend to buy larger spruces, and they often have a core of clay, which really sucks. So it's ok to use a hose on the roots? Thanks to all for your responses.
 
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#11
Ok, so I've killed every single spruce I've ever owned. Probably 8 or so. I'm getting them from nurseries, and they are very healthy when I get them. They range from Colorado blue spruce, to bird's nest spruce, Norway spruce, and others. Clearly, I'm doing something wrong with the root systems. Who can advise me on the best way to handle new nursery spruce trees? I love the way spruces look, and I really want to get a handle on them.
When i purchased my first EZO spruce it was in a 10 gallon nursery pot. I was advised by the seller a professional Bonsai artist to repot in the spring before buds swelling and to stage the process as follows. For the first repot i removed the excess soil from the top,( not disturbing the finer roots closer to the surface too much) and then reduced from the bottom, reducing the overall height asdesired. Cut off downward roots. Cut the bottom flat. I then excavated the centre of the root ball partway creating a hollow about halfway through the remaining root ball. Next i lightly combed the soil out of the edge around the outside. Cutting away circling roots that were too long. Keeping as many roots as possible to fit in the flat. Placed and secured in an anderson flat. When placing the tree, the usual mound of bonsai soil in the centre and twisting gently to fill the centre concave area. Then using a chopstick, work the new soil between the side roots gently to ensure no air pockets. I believe it is always important to wire the tree in securely. Mist the tree and roots when working every 10 minutes or so.
Waited a year, then performed 1/2 HBR on one side.
Waited a year then performed 1/2 HBR on the other side.
This removed all the nursery soil over two complete growing seasons and replaced with Bonsai Mix. The tree never skipped a beat from repotting. I was advised that the tree was to be very healthy at the beginning of each stage or I was to delay until recovery was complete. The suggestion was that spruce were not as easy to repot as pines. One should not be as aggressive with the roots and misting during the process and for the aftercare was important.
Since that time i have used the same process for Sitka and Engleman spruce with no problems.
I have collected in the late summer early fall and repotted successfully. However, the caveat is that i provide a greenhouse ( frost protection) and extra humidity for aftercare. So artificially, i provide a longer root recovery period before dormancy. And I live in an area that has milder winters, longer falls. Zone 8b, lots of natural humidity as well.
The other extra consideration beyond humidity for spruce aftercare is the transition from shade to full sun after collection and repotting. It should be slower and much more gradual. Nick Lena made a point of this in his book Bonsai from the Wild.
 

0soyoung

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#13

GrimLore

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#16
@osoyoung @GrimLore Also, I assume we're not pruning any roots, correct?
Myself I let them grow a anywhere from 2 - 5 seasons and Up pot width wise so I need to cut off a layer of the base roots to keep fitting it in the same depth pot(s). I have cut off up to 6 inches on the larger 3 - 4 foot stock though with no problems in the Summer.

Grimmy
 
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#17
Myself I let them grow a anywhere from 2 - 5 seasons and Up pot width wise so I need to cut off a layer of the base roots to keep fitting it in the same depth pot(s). I have cut off up to 6 inches on the larger 3 - 4 foot stock though with no problems in the Summer.

Grimmy
do you put them back in the sun, or provide shade for a few weeks after bare rooting?
 

GrimLore

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#18
do you put them back in the sun, or provide shade for a few weeks after bare rooting?
I let all of the Conifers receive West light exposure from roughly 1 PM until evening here. Kept watered with an occasional blast of the foliage they do fine. If your area gets that two week hell spell of heat move them to dappled Sun for that as it is usually a couple of weeks after repot here and the light with the heat stops growth for a couple weeks as is. You will become an expert on time of day and exposure if you are not already on your property. :p

In Spring They all get full East/West exposure until potting if needed.

Grimmy
 

sorce

Nonsense Rascal
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#19
A set Of vertical ridges just above where the thickest roots lay.
Black Hills
20180512_085319.jpg

Colorado Blue. Slight. 20180512_085339.jpg

Dwarf Alberta...in an odd way due to the odd growth... 20180512_085409.jpg

Seeing a lot of these in one gallon pots where the little seed starting net coir sacks are visible....making these have a better, less twisted root spread than the mugos started in the square plastic pots for x years.

This allow for a possible 6in root spread before downward or twisting roots ...where the Mugos twist at 2-3 inches.

Makes me like these better from nursery.

But I'm also starting to believe trying to save this few years of growth with no good root work is foolish. I'm gonna start em from seed soon.

And Work with collected material good enough to make up for, with a righteous tale, any lack of good root spread.

But the drive to hunt the Nursery is so great....
More trips. Less Purchases!

Sorce
 
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#20
Myself I let them grow a anywhere from 2 - 5 seasons and Up pot width wise so I need to cut off a layer of the base roots to keep fitting it in the same depth pot(s). I have cut off up to 6 inches on the larger 3 - 4 foot stock though with no problems in the Summer.

Grimmy
I was reading this over and am not sure what you mean. So you bare root, pot up in bonsai soil, leave it alone for 2-5 seasons, then I get lost...