Tree Pruning at Planting – Tips and Techniques

The below excerpt is taken from the book”Your Florida Landscape” a complete guide to planting and maintenance by Robert J Black and Kathleen Ruppert. I found this book very useful and informative. it talks about various aspects of planting like Pruning trees, different kinds of pruning, when is the best time to prune, different types of plants to select and plant and different kinds of soils to be used for different plants. This book is must for plant enthusiasts, arborists, tree doctors and for any tree lover

Pruning at Planting

Little if any pruning should be necessary at the time of transplant. Do not prune a field-grown tree to compensate for root loss. The latest research indicates that pruning does not help overcome transplant shock unless the plant is receiving insufficient irrigation. If you must prune because you can’t provide sufficient irrigation, you purchased stock too big for your site (see How to Select A Tree). When complied to prune, thin the canopy by drop crutching; do not head back or top the tree. (See Pruning Trees and Shrubs) 

Branches that are injured, diseased or dead may be pruned but are also indication of a poor-quality tree. You are better off exchanging it for a healthy one.

Trees with poor structure should be pruned at planting to correct the problem, especially if no further pruning is planned for the next year or two. Poor form should not be permitted to develop as it will become increasingly more difficult to correct. On trees with adequate form, begin pruning for structural development a year or two after planting.

 

Time of Year for Planting

In Florida, container-grown or hardened off balled-in-burlap trees may be planted year-round. Many nursery operators refrain from digging trees balled-in-burlap, especially live oak, in the hall when roots regenerate poorly unless the trees have been root pruned at least once. Roots on live oak regenerate best during the summer months when shoots are not growing. Some nurseries now dig live oaks in summer, other dig their oaks when the buds begin to swell in spring, and some dig in the dormant season.

Many nurseries and landscape contractors prefer not to dig trees while shoots are actively elongating. They wait until leaves have fully expanded.

 

SELECTING and Planting Palms

Palms are easier to transplant than similarly sized broad-leaved trees. The common sight of tractor trailers loaded with palms 20 or more feet tall is a testimonial to this fact. Nonetheless, transplant failure is not unknown, and replacement percentages can rise up to and beyond 30% on an installation. Such failures can be greatly minimized by paying close care to palms in the first critical months after installation.

 

Transplanting Age of a Palm and Transplant Success

Until visible trunk development has taken place, a palm is not very tolerant of the extreme root disturbance that accompanies digging. This fact is especially critical for species that characteristically complete a great deal of stem development deeply below ground (for example, Bismarck nobilis, Latania spp., Sabal spp.). Even if the palms are not killed by premature transplanting, growth setbacks and less than optimum trunk development may occur. Young palms (i.e. without visible trunk development) are best transplanted from containers only.

Time of Year to Transplant

Palms establish most quickly if transplanted during the spring and early summer when soil temperatures are on the increase. The higher rainfall normally experienced in Florida at this time provides the further advantage of reducing the need for supplemental irrigation during the first critical months of establishment. In south Florida, time of year is not as critical from the perspective of temperature, though mid-winter planting should be avoided if possible.

 

Root Ball Size

For single-stemmed palms less than 15 feet tall, a root ball that measures approximately 8 to 10 inches from any point at the base of the trunk is a common nursery industry average for size (Plate 1) and should provide for adequate root survival. For clustering palms or larger solitary specimens, an incrementally larger root ball may be advisable to ensure successful establishment when site conditions may be less than ideal.

 

Root Pruning

With the exception of the Bismarck palm (Bismarck IA nobilis), root pruning generally has not been considered necessary for palms. Nevertheless, most palms would benefit from root pruning 6 to 12 weeks before digging from the harvest site to encourage new root initiation. If the species is a particularly high value palm for which replacement costs would be expensive, the extra labor ad cost may be worthwhile. To root prune a valuable specimen palm in the home landscape prior to re-locating it, a sharp tree spade with a blade at least 1 foot long should be used. The spade is inserted vertically as far as it will penetrate in a circle 8 to 10 inches from the trunk. If two root pruning will be performed before moving the palm, each should complete only 1/2 of the circle around the palm. The first pruning should be performed 12 weeks before moving the palm, the second at 6 weeks. When the palm is finally dug, allowances should be made so that the root ball is several inches wider than the root pruning circle. This helps ensure that branch roots stimulated by the pruning are not damaged. The decline of a few leaves after root-pruning is not unusual. If extensive root pruning is performed before transplanting removal of a third of the palm’s leaves may be advisable.

Digging the Palm

Prior to digging, the soil around the root system should be thoroughly wetted to help keep the root ball together. Palms grown on sandy soils will usually need to have their roots balled-in-burlap after digging. Palms grown on soil with greater structural integrity may not require bur lapping.

If the dug palms will be held in storage in the field for some time before shipment, bur lapping may also be necessary, regardless of the soil type. In such a situation, the root ball as well as the trunk and foliage should be periodically moistened to keep them from drying out.

Preparation for Transport

When being moved from the field, a specimen-sized palm should be well supported to prevent injury to the tender growing point or ‘palm heart’ located within the stem between the youngest and oldest emerged leaves. Some palms (for example, King Alexander, Archontophoenix Alexandrea) are much more sensitive than other to heart injury due to rough handling and will require extra care in transport. For certain species with slender trunks (for example Senegal date, phoenix reclinate; Paurotis Palm, Acoelorrhaphe wright), a supporting splint should be tied to each trunk and extended into the foliage to protect the bud, Palms with very heavy crowns (for example, Canary Island date palm, Phoenix canariensis should be braced similarly to prevent the weight of the crown  from snapping the bud Stem of clustering palms should also be tied together for additional support.

A tree crane is usually required to lift large palm out of the field.  The pal trunks should be protected with burlap or other material wherever ropes, cables, chains or straps will be attached.

Leaf Removal

The greatest loss of water in newly dug palms occurs from transpiration through the leaves.  To minimize such loss, half or more of the older leaves should be removed at the time of digging.  The remaining leaves should be tied with biodegradable twine in a bundle around the bud.  Complete leaf removal at the time of digging appears to be the best method for transplanting sable palms (Sabal palmetto), which lose all their roots in the transplant operation (see “special Cases” section later in this chapter).

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