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  • Root prune every 3 years?

    Just my own observation that led to this question....If I root prune around every 3 years, do I set back the ripening clock a bit? For example, I root pruned a ~4 yo Norella and a ~5yo Olympia this past spring. On the Norella, I kept it in the 15? gallon pot I bought it in. The Olympia was uppotted from a 5 gallon to a 20 gallon container. The production appears to be there but none have ripened yet. Should I just uppot in the future versus root pruning? I didn't take off a ton of roots. Maybe 3" off the bottom as well as the 4 sides. There were some pretty big roots in there when I sawzalled them(while dormant). No ill effects in the Spring or growing season. No figs have swollen as of today. Thanks for your input.

  • #2
    If only up potting eventually the container will get too big. Another option if root pruning is do some one year and some the next year. With a cycling method you will always have some figs the produce when expected.
    Tony, Toronto Canada USDA 4B now 5B apparently!!
    Yellow Neches, St Martain, Texas Peach.


    • PacNorWreck
      PacNorWreck commented
      Editing a comment
      WAY more manageable that way too. I couldn’t imagine doing all of my root pruning in one year.

    • shawnjames70
      shawnjames70 commented
      Editing a comment
      I have been uppotting instead of root pruning. My largest trees have been in 20 gal pots at the most being 3 years after this year. Never have root pruned being 5th year into figs. I may inspect roots this next spring on my oldest 20 gal potted figs to see if there root bound at all. Something to look into , nice topic.👍👍👍👍

    • venturabananas
      venturabananas commented
      Editing a comment
      shawnjames70 I'd be surprised if you don't have to root prune in 20 gallon containers. I do. They eventually get root bound. Maybe they can tolerate that indefinitely if you have a perfectly dialed in watering system, but I don't.

  • #3
    Root prune when it goes dormant (winter), it's the best time as it tends to suffer the least amount of shock (and maybe this might NOT set the tree fruiting schedule back so much).
    Inland Empire - Zone 9b


    • ginamcd
      ginamcd commented
      Editing a comment
      Best time for those of us in colder regions is actually late winter/early spring, right before they wake up.

    • Kid Fig
      Kid Fig commented
      Editing a comment
      ginamcd Interesting (see avatar pic).

      Logging that into my memory bank, aaand thanks.

  • #4
    Have you kept data confirming that both fruit set and ripening are later this year than last? I root pruned 22 trees at the start of this season, and so far RdB is the only variety that responded by setting few figs than last year, but timing of fruit set on all of them was pretty close to last year. I can't yet say if ripening is delayed as I have not yet passed the ripening anniversary of any varieties.
    “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
    – Source Unknown
    MA 5b/6a


    • #5
      ginamcd I picked up the norella August 31st last year from an elderly couple. At that time,they confirmed several ripe figs had already been picked. There were a few more almost ready to pick when I brought it home. She did keep it in her livingroom during the winter. I know the olympia ripened a bit later than that. While it may be necessary to root prune every 3 to 4 years, the baby roots that sprout may not be as strong as those which were cut. I would say that next year may be a better guage of performance compared to this year. In a weird way,it seemed counterproductive to root prune in relation to fruit ripening. What was lost in the short term may over perform in the future...next year. Maybe I'm just being impatient but I believe that there is some validity to it.


      • ginamcd
        ginamcd commented
        Editing a comment
        The timing difference on Norella might have to do with winter storage. I'm thinking that if the elderly couple kept it in the living room and you stored it someplace colder, it could have taken it longer to break dormancy and then set fruit this year. As I said, except for RdB, all those I rootpruned set as many or more figs than last year, set them at about the same time, and at this point ripening dates look like they won't be too far off... I hope!

        Continue keeping records going forward and look for clues as to when root pruning will be needed again, like Joe's Smith mentioned below.

    • #6
      I usually have gone from 1 gal rooted cutting to 15 gal same year. All those trees going into their 3rd year(before 3rd leaf) in the 15 gallon pots will need/could use root pruning.Quite a few of my trees will be at this stage and I’m not looking forward to the great root pruning of 2022…

      IME, Branch pruning habits impact fruiting far far more than root pruning. I actually find that less vigorous trees, like those that could use a root pruning can actually set fruit somewhat faster and at every node because they’re not in the sort of growth mode where you get like 6 inch node spacing.


      • #7
        Off point, I think you can reduce the need for root pruning by top pruning. As I understand it, roots grow when hormones produced by growth tips shout, "Feed Me!" With a smaller (well pruned) tree, there is less shouting -- less demand for root growth. Honestly, I can't prove this but I believe that a well-pruned tree in a big pot may never need to be root pruned. On the other hand, I've had over-grown trees in 15 gallon pots that needed root pruning after Year 2. This over-growth happened when I tried to get both brebas and main crops from a potted tree (i.e., less pruning!).

        On point: I knew I needed to root prune my mature Smith tree when productivity dropped from 165 to 130 to 65 to zero (figs dropped). I pruned the tree hard last summer, after the fruit drop. A friend looked at the mangled carcass of a rootball and asked, "What did that tree ever do to you?" This year the tree is loaded with fruit and I've ripened a tasty Smith fig at the earliest date ever.
        Last edited by jrdewhirst; 08-23-2021, 09:23 PM.
        Joe, Z6B, RI.


        • FIGSinGA
          FIGSinGA commented
          Editing a comment
          Good example. Thanks for sharing that.

      • #8
        On March 20th, I bare-rooted these trees, removed all feeder roots, and planted them in mostly clay soil infested with pill bugs. They do well and productive. I would think that they would do much better in pots. So far, my conclusion is that don't be afraid of root pruning. Your tree will reward you with ripe figs in 4.5 months.

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        Cleveland South - Zone 5B.