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  • How can I prevent roots circling around a pot and getting root bound?

    I wish to grow my figs in pots for a reasonably long time until I am able to have a place to put them in ground in the future.
    The problem is, I must figure out a way to stop the roots circling around the pot and becoming root bound catastrophes, so that I do not have to continuously prune and repot.
    Is their something I can place on the walls of the pot that will disrupt root tips? Any ideas are very much appreciated!!! 🙂
    Victoria
    Australia (Zone 9b)

  • #2
    If you're using a flat sided pot, it's pretty easy to pull the tree out of the pot to check the roots. If there's still room for more root growth, but you see a lot of circling, you can cut a few vertical lines through the root ball to disrupt the circling.

    If the pot is pretty packed, then root pruning is probably your best (only?) option if you don't want to up-pot. You need the roots to continue growing and they need room to do so. It's best done while trees are still dormant in the spring. Most recommend root pruning every two to three years.
    “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
    – Chinese Proverb
    MA 5b/6a

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    • #3
      Grow bags or maybe grow bag In pot with lots of holes like a laundry basket.

      You could fill pots around bottom and edges with couple inches of sand probably prolong it some.
      8a/8b = 86 In-ground trees (2011) & 30 in 25 Gallon Pots (2018)

      "It isn't over till I'm all figged out"

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      • #4
        I believe that if you can create an air space between the pot and the mix, the roots will stop growing when they hit the air. It's called "air pruning." There are some pots constructed to encourage air pruning. Usually there's lots of holes in the surface, especially the sides.

        As a side benefit, a recent thread on optimal pot shape includes research suggesting that greater aeration of the potting mix promotes growth. Good ventilation would also reduce the risk of overheating the roots in sting sunshine.

        To be honest, I've never tried air pruning. But I'm very interested in trying it. The real problem is how? I could just drill a billion holes in my pots. But I'd much rather find some flexible, porous, non-wicking material that I could wrap around the perimeter of the pot to encourage ventilation on the sides.
        Joe, Z6B, RI. Taking COVID-19 seriously. Self-quarantined, looking forward to next season.

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        • #5
          well theres great concern expressed here about roots circling around the edges of planting media in pots. Actually the nursery industry provides likely millions of plants annually that have roots circling around edges inside plastic pots. these get planted in yards etc .Look around your neighborhood at all the nice landscaping plants growing well. Likely these were once in a nursery container with roots circling the edge.
          Some advise simply using a knife to make shallow x shape cuts across bottoms of the rootball and mix after pulling plants out of plastic pots when planting them in ground, or likewise taking a few slices down sides of such rootballs. This apparently is a form of root pruning that stimulates plants to vigorously make more roots to invade the sides and bottoms of the planting hole.
          My yard work company has planted very many such managed plants.It appears that has not been a likely reason for plants we set out in ground to die,a rare incidence..Reason generally has to do with inadequate subsequent watering or overfertilizing by homeowners, using the horrid"weednfeed" crap on nearby grass lawns, etc.
          Z8A NC SANDHILLS

          WISH LIST BURGAN UNK, ZAFFIRO,

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          • #6
            Check out the pots sold here: https://rootmaker.com/retail-store
            Worcester, Massachusetts, Zone 6a - In containers 1 gal - 15 gal. Wish list: Dore' de Porquerolles

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            • #7
              Steuwe tree pots are designed to encourage downward root growth.
              https://www.stuewe.com/products/minitreepots.php
              Fruit crazed in Vista CA. http://tangentvectors.org

              Comment


              • UKE4U
                UKE4U commented
                Editing a comment
                Wish they made these in 10 gallon size, or do they? I have never seen them.

            • #8
              JamesB, Short answer.... IMO, just something we, that grow in pots, have to live with and address when it gets too bad. There are many ways to stop circling but most have a trade off of moisture loss as when using air pots or fabric pots and the like. Some methods have already been suggested and I am sure many more will follow so this should be an interesting thread. The main thing to consider about circling roots, when putting those plants in ground, is to tease them out or cut them to end the choke hold that those can cause when growth in ground starts. This is true of almost of any plant/tree I know of. I have stunted my share of them in the past by my neglect. Good Luck and TYFYT, Ed B.
              Ed B. West Coast of Michigan L.P. 6a/6b

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              • #9
                UKE4U -- The largest volume of the Steuwe brand treepots with ribbing is 8 gallons: #TP1124R on page 9:
                https://www.stuewe.com/products/treepots.php
                Fruit crazed in Vista CA. http://tangentvectors.org

                Comment


                • ginamcd
                  ginamcd commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Just make sure you have a way to anchor them or you'll be playing fig tree dominoes every breezy day.

                • Richard
                  Richard commented
                  Editing a comment
                  ginamcd -- yes, there's no offering for a compatible tray on that page.

                • UKE4U
                  UKE4U commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Good point ginamcd, Thank you! 👍 Being 24" tall and less than an 11" base they would be tipsy even without a tree in them.

              • #10
                Pot Pruners;
                https://treebag.com/potprunerdifference/

                I have been using DIY versions for several years, made from Spun Landscape Fabric (random fibers), woven fabric will not work...

                The random “ Spun” fibers capture the root tips, air prunes and prevent / reduce circling. There is a large enough air space between the wall of the pots and the fabric to eliminate the need for any additional side holes. You still need to root prune occasionally to keep the tree in the same pot, but it’s a much simpler job. Good luck.
                Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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                • AscPete
                  AscPete commented
                  Editing a comment
                  jrdewhirst ,
                  I have no idea, never tried it, but would guess no due to size / thickness and consistency.

                  The Spun Landscape Fabric is a similar material to the commercial product, is relatively inexpensive and readily available. Is also reusable and had worked for several years (over six).

                • JLB
                  JLB commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Jrdewhirst fiberglass bat material will absorb water like a sponge the best I've heard so far is what Pete said about using smaller grow bags inside a little larger pot. Air pots are available but pretty pricey imo

                • Tinnitus
                  Tinnitus commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Pretty sweet product, but I wonder how much net effect there is on effective root mass? It’s really a question of surface area of the feeder roots. It would be a cool study comparing a standard pot to an air pruning or rootmaker pot.

              • #11
                You can try spin-out. It is a chemical solution that you paint onto the inside of the pot and it chemically prunes the roots for you. Does the same thing as rootmaker pots but isn't as expensive.

                You can formulate it yourself if you want... I'll try and find the post about this product from another forum I participate in.

                -khaled

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                • #12
                  Copper hydroxide is the chemical. I believe I use this as a foliar spray as an antifungal (note, do not apply to fig leaves at full strength as it can burn them but half strength seems ok).

                  http://tropicalfruitforum.com/index....0523#msg310523

                  Spinout is one product
                  microkote is another.

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                  • Warrensburger
                    Warrensburger commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I’ve thought of trying this but was always worried I’d get the proportions wrong and kill my trees lol. Have you tried it and if so how much copper hydroxide did you use per gallon?

                  • KMH
                    KMH commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I have not tried it as I actually use this more for spraying mangoes to control for powdery mildew, but while reading about the proportions for spraying I came across the link above which described it as a chemical root pruner.

                    I believe you can buy ready made solutions (just add half water, something like that) as spinout or microkote. If you follow the link above, or you search that forum, there is a large avocado grower in Florida (CTMIAMI -- carlos) who uses the homemade version for all his potted avocados as he evaluates them and their grafts before planting them in his orchard. I believe he goes over the concentrations he uses, and he strongly vouches for the product.

                • #13
                  Rootmaker makes fabric pots that prune roots by constricting them. The root tips get caught in the fabric and cut themselves. You can put Roottrapper pots inside a regular pot, or they also sell the raw fabric, which you can cut to fit.

                  Roottrapper pots - https://rootmaker.com/retail/26
                  Fabric - https://rootmaker.com/retail/28 - at the bottom of the page

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                  • #14
                    Thanks for the ideas guys, im thinking a good method is to find some material that I can wrap around the internal perimeter of the pot, which will act as a root pruner. Any ideas on what material is best for this? I think that AscPete was onto something. Also, I would like to stay away from using chemicals to achieve this.
                    Victoria
                    Australia (Zone 9b)

                    Comment


                    • AscPete
                      AscPete commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Spun Landscape Fabric or Weed Barrier is usually readily available at Garden Centers and Nurseries (USA). I use it as a Liner for 5 gallon buckets and pots.

                      For a 5 gallon bucket; a 12 inch wide strip 4 feet long is cut from the 4 ft x 100 ft roll of Fabric. It’s rolled into a 6 in diameter cylinder, inserted into the bucket then expanded / unrolled out to the perimeter. It’s then filled with potting mix and planted normally.

                      Liners can be made for any sized container. It works surprisingly well and has most of the benefits of Fabric pots without the disadvantages of excessive drying of the mix.

                  • #15
                    If you are familiar with Hugelcultur I would say try that route, I would recommend using some old wood chunks or larger sticks placed upright around the inside of the pot... the older wood will breakdown and become like a sponge and many of the roots will just grow into it and stop for the most part.
                    Tucson AZ zone 9a

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                    • #16
                      I really wouldn’t worry about it much. If you are using a nice, loose, potting mix you should be able to tease out the majority of the lignified roots with the help of a sprayer. Any roots you break will trigger growth of smaller feeder roots very promptly. Fig roots are notoriously tough and vigorous. Just ask any foundation repair guy.
                      Wishlist: Empty? Seriously? I suppose I still need that land.
                      Round Rock, TX 8b

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                      • #17
                        https://air-pot.com/garden/

                        A local shop sells these. They grew a container garden of vegetables as a demonstration. The plants showed impressive growth.
                        Tom Hall
                        Sacramento, Ca / Zone 9b
                        W/L: Paraíso, CdDB, CdDR, Violeta, Dolce Cuore

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                        • #18
                          AscPete - I was reading some of these old posts where you mention using the spun landscape fabric to line a pot. Is this the type that is recommended? http://www.thedrainagesource.com/3_X...xoCz98QAvD_BwE

                          Is it worth it in your opinion vs standard root pruning every few years? Anyone else try a fabric liner in a plastic pot?
                          Travis - Zone 5a, Central WI
                          Wish list - Green Michurinska, Yellow Neches, Any good breba producers or early varieties

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                          • AscPete
                            AscPete commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Yes, that is the Spun (non-woven) Landscape Fabric.
                            Root Pruning is necessary with or without the Fabric Pot Liner, there is less circling roots and more feeder root mass with the fabric liners.

                        • #19
                          No pot or bag is forever. All require maintenance. I prefer pot as bags dry out ridiculously fast and are harder to move. Any suggestion of fabric or airprune is bs. The roots hit the wall, spread and create their own wall. Ever root in a clear pot? You see how fast the roots cover the wall. These solutions are laughable.
                          Volcano, 7a VA

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                          • JamesB
                            JamesB commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I respectfully disagree, air pruning is real and prevents roots from circling the pot and getting root bound. I use fabric grow bags and have seen for myself.

                        • #20
                          I agree it works short term. It’s not a one and done solution. You buy a year at most. Root growth is fast and explorative. Hit a wall, move on. Bags are a waste of time. I’v done a lot of root bags. Sewing my own for years. Not worth it. Too much water, too hard to move. Just my opinion. But an $8 resin pot is hard to beat. One lasts a decade. Bag a couple years. Great for cheap fix. But not for the long haul.
                          Last edited by Heavy2600; 04-08-2020, 08:57 PM.
                          Volcano, 7a VA

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                          • #21
                            Anyone, show me a picture of a fig tree in a five year old bag. One you have moved in and out of winter storage. Minimum 7 gallons. There is no way they survive a root ripping out of the ground without tearing. Might work in zone 8 or higher. Not for me in zone 7A.
                            Volcano, 7a VA

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                            • #22
                              Fabric pots
                              MJ
                              Chicago Zone 5a/5b

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                              • #23
                                Have you looked at air pots?
                                Guildwood Village - Toronto, Canada - Zone 6

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                                • #24
                                  I invested heavily in rootmaker pots. I love them, but for tree seedlings that move out in a year or two. Once a batch of growth fills the holes they form a root wall just like a pot wall. Next run of roots circles the pot. They are short-term. Not meant for permanent tree growth. Nothing is.
                                  Volcano, 7a VA

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                                  • hambones
                                    hambones commented
                                    Editing a comment
                                    I can't speak much to keeping plants in rootmaker (or any other) pots for multiple seasons but I got a few rooted cuttings from heavy2600 last spring that were well rooted in 1 gal rootmakers. They got uppotted into 5 gallon regular pots and went from small rooted cuttings to 7ft monsters with almost inch thick main trunks by the end of the summer. They made me a believer in the rootmsker capabilities. Easily my strongest trees by the end of summer. Even better than some at least a year older (first year with figs and got some craigslist trees of unknown age but at least a year+). If there weren't others to compare against i would ve thought it was chance but those three trees outgrew the other dozen from a smaller head start. He doesnt mince words and knows and tells the truth. Thanks again, Heavy!

                                  • Heavy2600
                                    Heavy2600 commented
                                    Editing a comment
                                    Thanks Hambones! The point of rootmakers is to take a single root lead and divide it. To make more roots for nutrient uptake. To make a huge rootball fast. That root ball is to be planted in a larger environment. Any plant left in any pot permanently will choke.

                                  • TorontoJoe
                                    TorontoJoe commented
                                    Editing a comment
                                    I've never tried them... Never heard they clogged..... Does it at least buy time?

                                • #25
                                  There is no easy solution for long-term potted trees. Even 300 year old bonsai must be repotted and root pruned every five years. Just the way it is.
                                  Volcano, 7a VA

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