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David_Sweden

Phoenix roebelenii roots

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David_Sweden

The inner pot of my ~2' pygmy date palm has round holes in the bottom with diameter around 4 mm. I recently discovered they are perfect for roots to get stuck in.. :crying: I wonder how you guys do with roots that stick out of the inner pot when repotting?

Here is a description of repotting which I follow (search for the text "Repotting palms"). It says not to mess with the roots, just add soil all around. I used a razor blade and a small sidecutter and misted the roots every couple of minutes since it took me 20 minutes (and a blood sample) to cut the plastic pot.

This also got me thinking: The winding roots at the bottom, are they alive or dead? I've read about "air pruning" which essentially means that roots that find their way outside the pot die, and branch inside the pot, although I don't know if palm's roots do that? I read that palm roots generally don't branch but they can do it if cut. Could it be that they stay alive if at the bottom due to fairly high moisture level, or are they dead by air pruning? If dead then why not cut them, could it cause a fungal attack or what?

And specifically for the pygmy date palm I wonder a bit about the roots sticking out from the top soil (this palm type seems very eager to produce roots everywhere in excess). I found this very scientific investigation of planting pygmy date palms at various depths from which I can conclude that original depth or a few centimeters lower is best. This is an illustration of what my palm's soil looked like when newly bought - I couldn't really water it without repotting since there was roots and soil to the brim:
post-10152-0-25602600-1412523240_thumb.j
And after that I had to repot it again after only 2 months since it was full to the brim again. It's the fastest grower in my apartment, with one new frond per month.

(I found this related thread but it is on transplanting much bigger specimens outdoors - but it seems to indicate the roots aren't that fragile.)

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Dave-Vero

Palms are great potted plants because the roots don't expand, and it doesn't hurt if they circle the pot. Tree growers have to resort to all sorts of precautions to prevent or trim circling roots.

So just keep repotting. If you don't want a larger pot, it won't hurt, much, to let the palm stay in its current pot.

They can get fairly large, maybe 3 m tall with leaves to match.

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Flow

Hi David

I'm not sure about P. roebelenii but P. canariensis is among the least root-sensitive palms I know. I had one who was becoming too large for its pot. I did some research on the internet and came across a post from a guy who just chopped off the lower third of his phoenix' rootball with a saw.

Well, since P. canariensis are everything other than rare I thought I'd give it a try. The palm didn't even stop growing. It slowed down a bit but the next spring it continued as if nothing had happened. However, many other palms will just die if you do that and I think it shouldn't be done with phoenix either if it can be avoided.

It's just to tell you that I think you don't have to worry, phoenix and ther roots are as tough as nails.

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Palmdude

I find the Roebelinis do this with their roots however you plant them, they shoot roots out of the trunk and the roots mound up like Bamboo does.

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David_Sweden

Thanks. I guess I can cut a few roots of this one if I have to, but in the future I will avoid pots with that silly hole size.

I had a look under the pot of my ~10 year old Kentia now, it also has a few roots under the pot which weren't that long 3 months ago, the longest is ~2 dm, they all look mostly beige (with a few small brown parts of 1-2 mm here and there), as did the ones of the Date palm. The fact that they are (almost completely) light beige, and that they apparently get longer, doesn't that indicate they are actually alive?

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David_Sweden

I've repotted it 3 times now (!), because it keeps outgrowing its pot. This is was it looked like just before the last repot, Oct 31st - it was impossible to water it with soil to the brim:
post-10152-0-09452400-1423400143_thumb.j
The inner pot is 24cm (9,5") since then and I would have thought it would be happy there until it's a few feet taller!!! But since a couple of weeks it's required watering every 2 days, which I think is mainly due to that apparently roots at the bottom have pushed it up, so that the roots both at the top and bottom dry up quickly. This is what it looked like 10 days after last repot:

post-10152-0-35250200-1423400157_thumb.j

And this is what it looks like today:

post-10152-0-50813300-1423400167_thumb.j

It hasn't risen much the last 1½ month though.

I had to water it every 2 days in the summer, but only every 3 days in fall/spring before, which means I will probably have to water it every day from spring on... It does have a grow light which gives most leaves 2-20 klx (a few get 1-40 klx) and is close to a southern window, but that's nothing compared to being in almost full sun all summer with no problems. So due to how often it needs water (I can't stay home every day to water it) and that the pot is getting so full again that there's not much room for watering, I would consider repotting it AGAIN.. except I think the pot is so big now it's silly for that size of palm. So I'm wondering: Is this normal, and is there any reason to think it will be happy in a slightly bigger pot if I repot it a 4th time?

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Palmdude

You can keep it in the current pot for quite sometime, it might slow it down a little bit but it won't mind being root bound

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Brad Mondel

I agree, this Palm doesnt mind being root bound and should be fine in its current pot for some time.

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David_Sweden

Thanks. But if I don't want to have to water it so often it seems I have to do something about the pot. I think I'll put a fine meshed net in the bottom and remove the inner pot without adding more soil than necessary, that way I get an extra 12 millimeters. When time comes to repot it (hopefully years from now) I will gently smash the pot with a hammer. That's my plan anyways.

Pity no one sells inner pots that are "oblong" (tall and narrow). I checked all of Europe I think, and all I find are those small ones for very young palms. If anyone has tips for the US they are welcome, but I also checked Amazon and e-bay. Meanwhile I discovered it's easy to drill holes with a drill for ceramic, and it's much easier to find outer pots that are tall, so with the net and hammer I might skip the inner pot.

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Phoenikakias

There is always also the possibility that with the help of a sharp knife and charcoal for disinfection you reduce rootball's size now and then and replace removed part with fresh soil. Phoenix spss are easy (re)rooters.

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Ben in Norcal

I've heard that Pygmy Dates are actually very difficult transplants, unlike other Phoenix. If that's true, I would not mess with the rootball.

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Phoenikakias

Never had such experience!

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Phoenikakias

Ben very interesting article, I am grateful :greenthumb: But I am not sure what is the portion of roots left left in the ground and consecuently the portion of total rootball destroyed by a tranplant of a fully grown adult plant, already growing in the ground. To my experience Phoenix roebelenii is pretty drought tolerant in contrast to the common belief and to its soft foliage. This means further an extensive root system, more extended than overall aerial dimensions would let conclude. This is imo what Phil tries to point out. The situation however of a potted plant is different, because one can calculate with accuracy how much of the existing root ball can and should be removed. Besides, when I wrote about Phoenix plants as easy, I had in mind desert palms (Hyphaena, Medemia) or Sabal!

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tjwalters

I grew this one from a wispy little grass-like seedling. There were three in the pot when I bought them many years ago, and I split them into separate pots. Two of three survived, and they've been repotted many times. I never worried about the roots and never gave them special attention when repotting. It has sent out flowers the last couple years. I think it's a female. Hope the other is male when/if it starts flowering.

P.roebelenii.20090905-01.jpg

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David_Sweden

Thanks, very interesting. Regarding drought I have something to add though:

When I got this palm in spring I googled credible advice, and I found the Junglemusic thread above plus this that say it's drought tolerant. But I found this by PalmBob which says the opposite: "This is a water-loving species and it is very difficult to overwater this one.". And in my book PalmBob's advice is more credible than 5 other sources put together (except PalmTalk of course)! And I can confirm this myself, because based on what I read about drought tolerance and surface roots being ok, I decided to keep watering it every 3 days as usual since about a month even though it was quite dry after 2 days. And because of that, several leaves are more or less brown on a few middle-level fronds. Sure with even more humidity and less light they would probably not have dried out but it's had 65%RH every morning, slowly decaying to 40% after 5 hours and then about 35% until next morning, and light on those fronds 10-20 klx so it's not been very hard on it, it must mainly be the dry soil that did it. Maybe it is drough tolerant outdoors because of its ability to grow an abundance of roots which maybe reach some moist spot even though most of the garden is dry? Definitely not very drought tolerant inside my apartment.

Regarding chopping the root ball I read some mixed experiences, won't try that if it stays small enough to be in the present pot but might have to try it later. BTW PalmBob also says here "it is nearly impossible for these palms to be in too small a pot unless there literally was no soil in the pot". So a small pot in itself isn't necessarily a problem I suppose. But he doesn't mention the possible problems of soil to the brim or very frequent watering when the pot is small.

Edited by David_Sweden

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Ben in Norcal

Regarding drought tolerance, I think both sources are right. Relatively speaking, for a Phoenix, it is water hungry (it's from Laos/thereabouts, after all!) However, in comparison to other genus, e.g. Archontophoenix, I don't think it's anywhere near as water hungry. I irrigate my Pygmy Dates far less than I have to irrigate my Archies to keep them looking good.

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Phoenikakias

I grow three home grown (meaning from seeds of my own adult plant) little plants in one pot (plus a little Arenga in the same pot lol!) and sometimes I forgot pot for over a week unwatered. Little robs may shrink their foliage but not one single frond died ever, in contrast to Arenga! And after watering leaves become perky again within hours. In comparison to Microcoelum for example under same conditions, it is like day and night...

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David_Sweden

I understand now why the roots grow so aggresively and why it's so water hungry: It is one of few palms that are "rheophytic" says Palmpedia, i e it actually grows in rivers. So it needs wide spread roots to stay put.

Rarepalmseeds.com say much of its natural habitat will be completely destroyed over the next few years by the construction of eight dams that will flood large areas. Sure it's extremely common in cultivation but those are usually solitaire and to survive in a river, clustering comes in handy. If I had a garden (with a river!) I would plant a "real", clustering Phoenix roebelenii.

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_Keith

Is it just me, or does that look like a CIDP and not a P. robellini?

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Pando

I've repotted it 3 times now (!), because it keeps outgrowing its pot. This is was it looked like just before the last repot, Oct 31st - it was impossible to water it with soil to the brim:

attachicon.gif141031 half.jpg

except I think the pot is so big now it's silly for that size of palm. So I'm wondering: Is this normal, and is there any reason to think it will be happy in a slightly bigger pot if I repot it a 4th time?

As Keith says, I also think this looks like CIDP. It's definitely NOT a roebelenii.

Forget about the pot. You're gonna need a bigger house.

20-misquoted-movie-lines-07-440-75.jpg

Edited by Pando

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Alcibiades

Hello David,

i also think it looks like a CIDP.

You water this palm way to often. No potted palm needs water every tow days ore even more often in our climate. Overwatering is the most common mistake. Those palms may live in a river in habitat but they behave differently when potted. None of my palms including outdoors needs water more often then once a week and i think our climates are rather comparable. You may need to change your potting soil. Use a perlite, pumice and lava heavy mix. This really helps to reduce watering.

A CIDP is not a good choice though. This palm will be to big for bringing it inside in about 4 years. Mine reached this point now after only 2 years and i`m already asking myself what to do next winter.

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