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Making space

I am absolutely crazy about trees and now have a collection of approx. 80 of my favourite species. The majority of these are grown in pots, but they are never at their best with the confined root space. I can prune the trees to restrict their height, but I am now considering pruning the roots as well so that they can remain in the same size pots for as long as possible. It is the same principle as bonsai, and sounds theoretically possible, but I am nervous about experimenting on my beloved trees. Has anyone here ever tried this sort of tree root pruning? I would like to know how much I can take off, and if there are any particular trees that may not survive this drastic surgery. I specifically need to prune a few cherry trees, a silver birch, a large acer palmatum, a magnolia, and a sequoia. I desperately need to create some more space in my small garden, and would appreciate any advice on this subject. Alternatively, has anyone got any land for sale !!?


  • ForestedgeForestedge Posts: 3,650

    I have a bonsai apple tree that I grew from a pip for fun.  It germinated in 1981 and it has never produced fruit although it has blossomed.  I did it as a bonsai for a pleasant shape and not for fruit.  It is about 12 inches high.  I have also done a birch tree as a bonsai and an oak as well.  They can't be compared to a tree allowed to do what it is intended to do, so although possible to root prune, your trees will be stunted.          

  • Joyce21Joyce21 Posts: 15,489

    I root pruned an acer before transplanting it into a bigger pot.  It has done well since.

    SW Scotland
  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    How big are your trees?

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • cdsoutercdsouter Posts: 3

    Hi, The tallest trees are approx. 12ft, but most are only up to about 6-7ft. 

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    I would start with the silver birch as they are as common as muck so no huge loss if it goes wrong. But I think if you are careful and only do it lightly it should be ok. However, woodland trees like that I don't think will ever look good if they are top pruned As they really want to reach for the skies.

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • cdsoutercdsouter Posts: 3

    Thanks for that, Yes I wouldn't cut the top of the birch as it's a weeping one. And this is why I would rather trim the roots now instead.

    I'm not happy to describe the birch as "common as muck", as I did pay quite a bit for it many years ago, and wouldn't want to buy another at it's current size. It would cost a lot more now! I will risk one of the cherries though as they aren't so expensive to replace. Thank you so much for your help, but I suppose it's just a risk I'll have to take. 

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