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Can potted palms be root pruned?


GTClover
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Hi all, it's been a while since I've posted, but I've been checking in often. My VT palms have had a nice summer outdoors, but it's getting near the time I have to bring them in and I like to re-pot as many as need it before bringing them in, so I have to face the big question about my Rhapidophyllum hystrix. It's in a 24" pot which is close to the max I can get into our house. I could maybe find a 30" pot, but I don't even know where to find one. I potted it up from a 22" last year because it was root bound.

But after being on this forum for a while, it seemed to me that people had big palms in what I thought were proportionally a much smaller pots than I would have thought healthy. Granted this palm is a clumper and I've never pruned these back, so it's about 36" wide and tall. The question I have is can it be pruned, root & off-shoots, to fit it back into the same pot? Can the off shoots be separated and potted separately? That's usually what I do with other plants when they've out-grown my house (or root a cutting), but I have no idea if this can be done with this palm. In general, it seems in good health, but it has not actually pushed a central spear for a long time (~6mo). This was my first palm & I got it as a 2 g. in '01, so I am really reluctant to consign it to the compost pile. Can anyone advise me. I will soon face this with my T. fortunei 'Naini Tal' which is looking gorgeous & has pushed at least 4 new fronds in the last 4 months it's in a 22" pot!

Thanks!

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post a picture, please

I might help us suggest a way to divide it

That is, by the way, an expletively AWESOME specimen.

Not easy to come by

Too far north in Vermont, but take it to Cleveland and give it my bud in Wobbly Hills

Let's keep our forum fun and friendly.

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I'm not sure about that particular species, but I root prune my chamaedorea house plants with great success. One c. Tepijilote in particular I kept lopping off the bottom 1/4 of the root ball in order to keep lowering it into the pot so the new adventitious roots could be buried. It was very healthy.

Matt Bradford

"Manambe Lavaka"

Spring Valley, CA (8.5 miles inland from San Diego Bay)

10B on the hill (635 ft. elevation)

9B in the canyon (520 ft. elevation)

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Howdy from another New Englander - FINALLY - I think you and I are the only ones! I grow approx 24,000 plants in a garage I converted into a plant house up here in Northern Mass. I've pruned the roots of quite a few without issue. I also want to offer you some large pots - I'm not sure what is left on the extra large pots, but if you are talking about plastic, I am happy to share what I have with you, if you ever come to the coast.

Best, Jude

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Here's some photos Dave. My husband brought them in while I was at work thinking they'd be hurt by the threatened frost last night. Hurrying us all into winter mode, but we'll bring them out again as we hopefully have a lot of nice fall weather ahead!

Wow Jude that's a heck of a lot of plants in the garage! It must be a huge garage. I'm dreaming of a solar heated greenhouse attached to the house.

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That is a beautiful Palm !

The garage really isn't HUGE, but it gets the job done - I rebuilt an old post and beam barn/garage (20x25) and built an addition onto that - I'm sure you'll appreciate this, being from Vermont - if you have a little rough carpentry skill, you can do the same for very little money.

As for the Palm - it definitely WANTS a bigger pot - but I hear you - about size :)

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I would not repot that needle palm right now, I think the pot is big enough to last at least another year, and because we are going into winter where the light levels are lower and the temps are lower, it is going to slow down growth. I definitely would not try to separate it, I think that maybe some of shoots may survive, but touch and go at best, and you may damage the mother plant and slow down growth for a long time. I think it looks great the way it is, its not showing any stress from being rootbound (if it even is root bound-have you tried to lift the palm out to see?). If you were to try to separate them, I would wait until late spring/early summer when you have warmer weather and more sunlight to help with root growth.

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I would never repot that palm. What you can do from time to time is wash the soil with dolimite to get out the excess salts built up from fertilizer but I suspect you have done that from how perfect the palm looks. That thing is unbelievable for Vermont! Keep up the good work!

I DIG PALMS

Call me anytime to chat about transplanting palms.

305-345-8918

https://www.facebook...KenJohnsonPalms

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Wow, lovely palms indeed, agree with Ken (that's unusual :lol: ).

Happy Gardening

Cheers,

Wal

Queensland, Australia.

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Where I cannot give any definitive advice relational to root pruning palms for an extended period, perhaps this may help….

One of the main constraints in having a ‘root bound’ plant is the eventual lack of substrate remaining to hold moisture and also to briefly ‘hold’ elements and minerals (some call these nutrients, but that is incorrect)…… one (of perhaps many ) detriments is that the roots may not receive enough moisture when pot bound….

...so what?!?!?!?

WATER MORE!!!!! OK, I became overly demonstrative, but for one season treat those large palms as if your situation was hydroponic…(boy did I mangle that spelling????)

Anyway, pour a prescribed amount of water on the palm….come back at set time later , like a couple of hours, and measure the run off…

..if at least 50% of the water is passed through, then increase your watering schedule, and add a small amount of water soluble fertilizer….. very lightly, since the light and temp levels will be less during the winter.

Look, growing plants, any plants, isn’t rocket science…it’s windage. Windage is where you get a FEEL for what works and what doesn’t…..

My guess is that you are already 99% there :)

BTW, when it comes to Rhapidophyllum hystrix, where there may be a point when they succumb to anaerobic conditions, I don’t see how you could over water…they are a palm that LOVES to be inundated….albeit during the growing season, but nevertheless……

Best wishes

Rusty

BTW, you are a REAL palm grower...any danged fool can grow a palm where the conditions are optimal...your plants look beautiful!!! KUDOS to you!!! :D

Rusty Bell

Pine Island - the Ex-Pat part of Lee County, Fl , USA

Zone 10b, life in the subs!...except when it isn't....

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If you want/need to get salts out of a container plant, the easiest way is to just leach out the salts by watering the crap out of the palm to the point where water is running out of the holes in the bottom of the pot for maybe 5-10 mins. Wait and repeat watering in a few hours and that should take care of any salt buildup. But rarely is that needed. Consistent normal watering where the water comes out the bottom will usually wash out any excess salt. It looks to me like you have your fert program perfect.

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Salts are most effectively removed with humic acid or another chelating agent like lignin, though distilled water would also work given more time. Do not underestimate the power of chelating agents, from Ca, Na to heavy metals humates/humic acid can remove them the soil pretty quickly. this is how nature works, as the final decomposition product from mulch is humic acid/humates(though it takes several hundred of pounds of mulch to get a cup of humates in one year). Call it chelation therapy for potted plants. :D

Formerly in Gilbert AZ, zone 9a/9b. Now in Palmetto, Florida Zone 9b/10a??

 

Tom Blank

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Wow, thank you all for the praise. It really means a lot coming from this group! It's been great fun growing these guys and they have benefited greatly from the growing tips I've read here. Fortunately they have been thoroughly desalted from our torrential late summer rains including the notorious Irene. We got the double whammy from that one. A cat 3 in Abaco and a mere tropical storm here in VT, but as many probably heard the flood waters wreaked havoc on homes roads and bridges like something out of the history books. Nothing like the scale of the floods in Australia last year, but for little mountainous Vermont it was terrible. We are up on a hill above the White River and were cut off for a day, but we have friends who lost everything, very sad. Our house on Green Turtle was built for a cat 4 and we were pleased it came out of it like a champ. We apparently had two Coconuts blow over, but our caretaker said that since the tap roots were intact he thinks he can save them. I hope so as one of them was my favorite!

Ahh back to my NE palms... I also have a lot of young ones waiting for bigger pots, so it's helpful that it's best I leave the Old Gal in her current pot. I'm afraid it's going to be pretty crowded in here in the winter in a few years. Fortunately they are mostly slow growers. I also had a great surprise when cleaning up the indoor plant area which is mostly the hall you see beyond the Needle. Actually we have ~50 feet of south facing glass, so they aren't light starved around here in the winter! But my great surprise is I have 2 germinating Bismarckias! I picked up 3 ripe fruits from a most extraordinary Palm. It had to be 60ft tall, an incredible crown & 25ft of clear trunk. Alas I didn't have my camera, but I'll be sure to get a photo the next time we go to Abaco. These seeds germinated in 5 mo. and I was prepared to wait the full 18. I have no idea how I'll deal with these guys as they get older; I'm sure they'll outgrow their pots pretty quickly. I put them singly in 2 g pots so I imagine I have some time to work out the logistics, but I'm going to have figure out a way to get them to Green Turtle.

Cheers

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Tom, I suggested water because its cheap, fast ( an hr at most), easy (no rates to figure out) and readily available. All commercial growers that I know use water to leach out salts, it works well.

GtClover, I sympathize with you on the flooding. There are parts of NC that have suffered incredible flooding from past hurricanes also. Floyd really did a lot of damage. I hope all gets back to normal soon.

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Tom, I suggested water because its cheap, fast ( an hr at most), easy (no rates to figure out) and readily available. All commercial growers that I know use water to leach out salts, it works well.

Yup water is cheap, though not quite as fast on the moderately soluble salts as humic acid/humates. Sodium is quite soluble, some calcium and Mg salts(hardness) are less so and will not come out with a single rinse of water that has some hardness(solubility is less). Humates dissolve hardness much faster. The biggest advantage of humates over water is that they trap and retain micronutrients in the soil at the same time and provide some N, while water, especially lots of rain will deplete the soil of micros. I have found over the years that humic acid(in liquid form w/fulvates) makes for better potted plants. However these two specimens look quite happy. :D

Edited by sonoranfans

Formerly in Gilbert AZ, zone 9a/9b. Now in Palmetto, Florida Zone 9b/10a??

 

Tom Blank

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how much humic acid is there already in a peat based soiless mix? I looked at the cost of drenching my crop with humic acid and it was about $ 7-8,000

not sure if you saw in my post, but the proper way to leach is to water to the point of runoff and then an hour later come back and repeat-so its really two rinses.

Also, most of the time that you want to leach is because there is too much liquid fert applied and you can leach out the salts from that pretty quick. You don't have to get all the salts out-just enough so that the roots won't burn and two rinses will do that.

Edited by kahili
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The needle palm is an excellant palm for growing in containers. I have a clumper growing in a 22" X 11" shallow clay pot for the past 15 years with out ever re-potting it. I started it by pulling off a rootless shoot from a wild clumper. It's now over 5 feet tall excluding the pot, and over 6 feet wide. It's potted in mostly fine grained native sand and some peat. I might fertilize it once every few years, and really don't water it since it gets runoff from the roof.

post-436-060612700 1316373975_thumb.jpg

Central Florida, 28.42N 81.18W, Elev. 14m

Zone 9b

Summers 33/22C, Winters 22/10C Record Low -7C

Rain 6cm - 17cm/month with wet summers 122cm annually

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how much humic acid is there already in a peat based soiless mix? I looked at the cost of drenching my crop with humic acid and it was about $ 7-8,000

not sure if you saw in my post, but the proper way to leach is to water to the point of runoff and then an hour later come back and repeat-so its really two rinses.

Also, most of the time that you want to leach is because there is too much liquid fert applied and you can leach out the salts from that pretty quick. You don't have to get all the salts out-just enough so that the roots won't burn and two rinses will do that.

Wow, you either have an incredibly large crop or you are waaaaaay overdoing the humic. I pay $65 for 2 1/2 gallons of 17% wet humic/humates with fulvic acid and kelp(only wet solns have fulvic acid). And with 40 palms in the ground(2'to 25' overall) and 30 containers from 2 gallon to 20 gallon, I have treated 2x this year and have almost 1/2 gallon left... I dilute 2 oz per 2 1/2 gallons of water. So my 2 1/2 gallons(320 oz) gives me 160*2.5=400 gallons of dark looking "humic water". My understanding is that this 2 1/2 gallons of humic solution is equal to the humic generated from ~50 tons of compost in one year.

People who talk about "compost tea" are really talking about a weak humic acid solution, probably ~ at least 5x weaker than what I use. Another benefit of humic treatment for in ground palms is that it kills harmful nematodes that exist in our sandy soils here in florida. I may buy another $65 dollar container this year.... still brings my total humic investment to ~$100 for the year.

Formerly in Gilbert AZ, zone 9a/9b. Now in Palmetto, Florida Zone 9b/10a??

 

Tom Blank

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I just looked up humic acid for sale and came up with 20 lbs of powered humic acid- 80-86% for $ 110.00. The rate they said to use was 8 oz/gallon. http://www.kelp4less.com/sohuac20powi.html That is quite a bit stronger than what you are using, it seems-esp given that the percentage of what I used in my calculations is so much higher. Not sure which is right. I am assuming that you are drenching it? At any rate, it takes about 2400 gallons of water or maybe its more, to fertilize the crop each week, so I used that amt of water in my calculations of what I would need for a one time treatment. But getting back to my original question--since there already is humic acid in a peat based soiless mix, why would you apply it as well? Is there not enough? Most, or a lot of people use a peat based soiless mix when using containers, so are you saying that they should also drench with it? That there is not enough humic acid in the peat?

I am not growing palms commercially, I am a small commercial wholesale grower of bedding plants annuals, so I mostly deal in flats of 1801's and maybe a 1000 or so gallons of accent plants etc each season.

This is interesting to me-esp the rate difference and percentage difference. It should be where I would be using less than you. Are you diluting the amt or using what the label says? Waht are the effects of over applying it?

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I just looked up humic acid for sale and came up with 20 lbs of powered humic acid- 80-86% for $ 110.00. The rate they said to use was 8 oz/gallon. http://www.kelp4less.com/sohuac20powi.html That is quite a bit stronger than what you are using, it seems-esp given that the percentage of what I used in my calculations is so much higher. Not sure which is right. I am assuming that you are drenching it? At any rate, it takes about 2400 gallons of water or maybe its more, to fertilize the crop each week, so I used that amt of water in my calculations of what I would need for a one time treatment. But getting back to my original question--since there already is humic acid in a peat based soiless mix, why would you apply it as well? Is there not enough? Most, or a lot of people use a peat based soiless mix when using containers, so are you saying that they should also drench with it? That there is not enough humic acid in the peat?

I am not growing palms commercially, I am a small commercial wholesale grower of bedding plants annuals, so I mostly deal in flats of 1801's and maybe a 1000 or so gallons of accent plants etc each season.

This is interesting to me-esp the rate difference and percentage difference. It should be where I would be using less than you. Are you diluting the amt or using what the label says? Waht are the effects of over applying it?

Where I buy my wet humic soln:

http://www.natureslawn.com/magic.php

fulvates are the chelators:

http://www.humichealth.info/effects.html

I have read that dry powered humic is not as effective as the wet because it typically doesnt have the fulvic acid/fulvates, which are even more important to chelation, developing soil bacteria, and stimulating plant root growth. Fulvates are the smaller chain molecular humates, they have breater bioactivity. As I recall, fulvic acids and fulvates are not stable being stored at room temp in dry form. I use a wet mix with kelp, 17% humates/fulvates, and I apply it only 3-4 times a year. I never have salt buildup, even though I have hard water and water overhead on most potted palms. I am not a commercial grower, and my palms are not annuals, not sure how that differs in application conc, the long term approach vs short term. The concentrations you talk of would be far higher than necessary to remove salts or provide chelation of micros. If one assumes roughly that the humic and salts are of equal weight you are removing 8oz of salts per gallon of treated soil?? That is incredible, just not believable. It sounds like you have been sold on excess consumption, and Im sure its a great business model, but I doubt it is needed to get good growth, in my opinion. When I add 2-3oz( I add 1 capfull) per 2.5 gallon watering can the solution is very dark, like overbrewed tea, and it smells like a swamp. I may also add fish emulsion, a few teaspoons/gallon and then fertilize with it. I also use time release NPK from florikan( 6 month release,osmotic membrane) and lesco( 3 month release,dissolving coating). I am not a commercial grower, but I would say you are over applying the humic. The maker of the natureslawn product "bioactivate" directs 2oz per gallon for house plants, and not every watering event. My thoughts on compost is that I have that but it doesnt deliver the levels of humic/fulvic we are talking about. I can see the difference in potted plants after a few weeks post bioactivate application. 1 gallon of natures magic delivers ~ 7 tons of manure in decomposed nutrients. I am thinking I dont need too much per plant.

Formerly in Gilbert AZ, zone 9a/9b. Now in Palmetto, Florida Zone 9b/10a??

 

Tom Blank

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I am not using humic acid, not sure if you understand that. I only looked at the info this morning online and saw the powdered humic acid.

Peat moss is a source of humic acid, not sure if you saw my questions about whether humic acid was needed if one was already using a peat based soiless mix? Third time I am asking it! lol

I think that commercial growers would be using humic acid for other benefits than removing salts. Salt buildup is usually not an issue if you water in between fertilizing, not fertilize very dry plants as the salts tend to accumulate in heavier concentrations at the top and can more readily burn the roots, and of course watch the amts of fert that you use (ppm's) every time that you fertilize.

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I am not using humic acid, not sure if you understand that. I only looked at the info this morning online and saw the powdered humic acid.

Peat moss is a source of humic acid, not sure if you saw my questions about whether humic acid was needed if one was already using a peat based soiless mix? Third time I am asking it! lol

I think that commercial growers would be using humic acid for other benefits than removing salts. Salt buildup is usually not an issue if you water in between fertilizing, not fertilize very dry plants as the salts tend to accumulate in heavier concentrations at the top and can more readily burn the roots, and of course watch the amts of fert that you use (ppm's) every time that you fertilize.

1) yes I saw the comment on peat, which delivers a much lower fulvic acid content and thus does not stimulate growth as well. The final degradation product of peat moss or compost is of course humic acid, but it happens VERY SLOWLY and doesnt produce near the concentrations that I use, of humic and fulvic acids, probably more like 50x less at any point in time. I guess I was sure I said it and you didnt hear it , LOL! A really humic rich pete(which is the result in my pots) traps lots of micros, much more than pete itself.

2) yup, salt buildup is only one beneficial effect of humic, but that was the subject here inthis thread. Others include stimulation of bacteria and plant hormones for rapid root growth, killing of harmful nematodes in sandy soil, and chelation and holding of micros and trapping of heavy metals(they are made neutrals and cant be absorbed. LOTS of reading is possible on humic acid function on the internet.

3) I use engineered time release NPK formulated especially for palms except the fish emulsion. the fert sits int he pot waiting for water. ANd yes I water int he dry season, let them alone when the rains come.

I really cant emphasize enough that peat itself does not deliver substantially elevated levels of humates/fulvates.

But if I were growing annuals, I probably wouldnt use humic acid either... Why would one want expanded root growth in an annual??

Formerly in Gilbert AZ, zone 9a/9b. Now in Palmetto, Florida Zone 9b/10a??

 

Tom Blank

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thanks for the answer-I probably didn't see it...

There are times that you want to push root growth in an annual-but thats another story.

But I do think that if people follow what I said above about avoiding salt build ups-which isn't hard, that it should not be a problem. Just know how much fert you are using etc.

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Yup lots to learn here! Humates/fulvates sound like a good thing for large potted plants living in the same soil for several years. The added soil conditioning (especially if they are being watered a lot) with regard to salts and micro-nutrients make it seem like it would be very beneficial. I'm wondering about your last remark though, kahil, on "pushing root growth". I definitely want healthy roots, but I don't always want to continue potting up to accommodate them, which is the problem I started the thread with. Essentially that is the question; how can I keep the roots healthy without having to put it in a pot I can't get through my doorway?

Ron, it sure looks like you are is doing the right thing for your Needle Palm! Really gorgeous! It helps to see it can be kept happy in the same pot for a few years. Does it still shoot spears from the main plant?

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GT-I was referring to annuals in that statement, not palms. What I meant was that there were times when I have late orders, but they want them ready early-so I have to do things to speed up the roots like really grow on the dry side, make the soil temps warmer etc. The roots on annuals grow much quicker than palms, so the steps that I can take with annuals will show results much faster than with palms. I mean, you could do similar things with palms, but I mostly don't. I don't sell them so I am lazy in that respect. I just grow them in a soiless mix that I make up specifically for them, use slow release fert with minors and make sure that they get water when they need it, and watch the soil temps (bring them in when its too cold outside) etc. I think that palms do well when they are root bound-until they don't (if that makes sense) and that's when I move them up to a larger container. Just because there are roots growing out the bottom does not mean that they are root bound. Most of the time, those roots are trying to get into the soil. If you pull the palm out of the pot to look at just how root bound they are, a lot of times you will see lots of soil and they can stay in that pot. The roots that were coming out with not be anymore once you put the palm back in the pot. Hope that all makes sense!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks kahili! Sorry I just saw this and I appreciate the response.! suspected this was the case, because I often see knowledgeable growers with sizable palms in pots I would think too small for the average houseplants of the same size.

Susan

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