Can I repot in Winter

We have a lovely Acer, which we inherited when we bought our house 6 months ago.  It is in a pot. I have no idea when it was last repotted (I suspect never). It is quite tall, so it is probably a few years old.

There are two problems:

1. The root(s) have grown through the pot into the soil beneath.

2. The soil is waterlogged.

However, despite this the acer is going quite well.

Clearly it needs to be repotted. Can I do this now - in November?

I'm concerned the water will freeze and damage the plant if I just leave it.

Should I pull the root out of the ground or cut it?

Please help.


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,722

    How much root has grown into the soil below?  I think I'd try to ease the root out of the soil.

    I'm not an acer expert, but my instinct says raise the pot off the ground onto little pot feet or even a triangle of bricks to improve drainage, and wrap the pot itself in a few layers of bubble wrap.  

    You say the tree is doing quite well and it's obviously survived a few winters where it is.  Apart from raising and lagging the pot I would leave it as is for the moment and repot (using ericaceous compost) in March.

    But as I say, I'm not an acer expert - let's see what the others say image

    A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in - Greek proverb 
  • Hi Dovefromabove, thank you for your response. image 

    I'm not really sure how much root has grown into the soil. My instinct tells me not to repot at the moment either - but the drainage definitely needs improving. I'll see what others have to say.

  • FleurisaFleurisa Posts: 779

    When I bought an acer from a nursery at Tatton flower show, they told me to re pot in November. I used John Innes ericaceous compost with a bit of grit mixed in at the bottom.

  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener LeicsPosts: 6,348

    No problem in repotting into a slightly larger pot right now.  What you don't want to do (with any plant) is to re-pot it into a much larger pot at this time of year as the chances are all of that new extra compost will stay wet and cause the roots to rot before they start growing again in Spring.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Have potted two of my "Acer's" this very afternoon! Always do before they are wrapped n put to bed for the winter! image

  • AtillaAtilla Posts: 1,493

    I am worried about the soil being waterlogged. I would take it out the pot and improve the drainage and squeeze the roots to get rid of excess water. With the improved drainage (stones, vermiculite, gravel or whaterver) and put the Acer back in the same pot. It will not be growing until spring and a quick way to kill them is waterlogging.

  • GillyLGillyL Posts: 1,077

    I agree with Blairs,I suspect that when you lifr it from the pot a lot of the sodden soil will drop off,I would knock off as much of the remaining soil as possible and replant back in the same pot with a mixture of drainage material as suggested..

    Repot or plant direct in the garden in about March.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,722

    A little less insolence from you young man - any more cheek and there'll be no marmalade bread and butter pudding for you tomorrow imageimage

    A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in - Greek proverb 
  • GillyLGillyL Posts: 1,077

    Thats so cruel Dove.......image

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,722

    You obviously misunderstood the message Verdun - you were supposed to be putting new tyres on my convertible image

    A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in - Greek proverb 
  • Thanks everyone who has responded! I know what I'm going to be doing today! imageimage

  • Upon further investigation, it seems that the roots beneath the pot are quite well established and widely spread.  Which leads me to suspect that the tree is getting its nutrients and water from the soil beneath?

    Is there a short term solution? Could I protect the top of the pot to prevent a build up of water and therefore ice over the winter?

    Is there a long term solution? My other acer, which doesn't have a drainage problem also seems to have quite  well established root system beneath the pot.

  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener LeicsPosts: 6,348

    You could break the pot and remove the pieces then create a little raised bed (to the same height as the top of the soil in the pot) around the tree.  The problem is that the tree roots have grown through the holes in the bottom of the pot and blocked them, so the pot no longer has any drainage.  As the roots grow more, they will eventually strangle themselves at the point they pass through the holes in the pot.  Leaving it like that will likely kill the tree.  I strongly recommend sacrificing the pot and then either building the raised bed around it, or digging the whole thing out and planting it in the garden at the proper level.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Thanks for the reply Bob. image

  • You say that the soil is waterlogged beneath the pot? If the ground is not frozen are you able to dig down beside the pot, take out all the wet soil and replace with ericaceous mixed with gravel/stones etc to create better drainage.

    This might see it through the Winter and then if you have to cut the roots in the Spring the tree will have a better chance of making it through.

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