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potting and root growth

Hello again. Whilst researching putting small trees in pots (acers in my case), the advice seems to be not to over-pot and not start them off in a pot more than twice the size of the one you bought it in as the tree will simply put all it's effort into growing roots. This seems to make sense, however at what point can you take a tree out of a pot and plant it in the ground? Surely when you do this it has unlimited space to grow roots? Should a tree, such as an upright Acer be a certain size before planting in the ground?


  • The way I see it is that a tree planted in the ground is likely to make a bigger tree than one that is kept a pot, therefore it is important to develop a substantial root system early on in it's life, rather than encourage too much top growth at the beginning.  

    As for whether a small tree can be planted out in the ground, yes ... after all that's what happens in nature ... however it runs the risk of being damaged by animals, pests and unwary humans, whereas if it's in a container while it's at its most vulnerable it can hopefully be protected a bit better. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • As Dove says, they're best off in the ground where they can NATURALLY develop a strong and wide spreading root structure which will stand them in good stead for their future. Acers are great container subjects, provided the soil they are in is free draining and they are never allowed to stay waterlogged. Many plants hate being wet for too long, but the roots of acers (and a few others, such as daphne) can quickly succumb to rot, leading to the decline and probable death of the plant. that leads me on to say that acers shouldn't be potted on in the autumn because the danger is that they will sit in wet cold compost through the winter months when they aren't making root and leaf growth to soak up the excess moisture in the extra amount of soil.  Therefore, pot on in spring, but plant out in autumn.  


  • got it thanks. I had planned on one day having a Palmatum Osakazuki in the front garden. It would get full afternoon sunshine in summer and is westerly facing, so I wanted to grow it in pots first so it had the best chance of surviving.

  • One of the best for the autumn colour and it's got larger leaves than some so seems to withstand wind a bit better. I've had one here for several years - makes a superb show every time. 


  • Yes after seeing the one in the front garden round the corner this Autumn I decided I just have to have one. His is a little more sheltered by his house but there are a few around the houses that seem to be growing well. I can't wait!

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