Defoliating/transplanting Oaks

(jeff_lahr) #1

Last year I lost a sweet shohin oak when I transferred it from the ground into a pot. I had worked the roots carefully so I was baffled why it died. Someone told me that it is necessary to defoilate oaks when repotting them. I have these two trees in the ground and would hate to lose either. I am looking for info about transplanting oaks from the field into a pot. PS Sorry about the fish eye images I had to use the fish eye GoPro to capture the image in tight quarters.

(Jonas Dupuich) #2

What time of year did you dig the oak that didn’t make it? Am also curious what kind of oak this is - it looks like it might be a live oak?

If you followed the basics of digging the tree when it was dormant and you were able to preserve a good amount of fine roots, nothing nothing obvious comes to mind. I’d be curious to hear from people who have a lot of experience with oaks. Does @eric have a suggestion?

(jeff_lahr) #3

The tree that died was a five year old live oak. The tree had started as a seedling in a pot and then moved to the ground for about half its life. It was transplanted in the Spring (and I live in a very mild climate) and as I said, I was careful of the roots. It didn’t languish, it was dead within 10 days.

(eric) #4

I’d say that Oaks can be particularly tricky to transplant, particularly if they are already stressed, unhealthy or in a bad mood.

John Thompson, among other collectors, advocates defoliation of evergreen oaks that are being dug out of the wild.

I’ve never done that myself.

I’ve ground grown both deciduous oaks (Q. lobata mostly) and evergreen oaks (Q. Agrifolia mostly) and have never lost one that I dug out of a bed. I would water them regularly while they’re in the ground to ensure good roots near the trunk. Digging in stages by cutting some roots and then backfilling for a month or two and then finishing the dig out may allow for less shock to the tree also.

Good luck!


I have dug a couple live oaks out of the ground that have sprouted in my yard (Northern California). I would prefer to take them out in early spring before any activity happens above ground. I have trenched on 3 sides about a foot from the trunk and about a foot deep a couple of months before being dug. Feel free to cut any large roots that are running. Go ahead and back fill the trenches. Keep the area close to the trunk well watered.

When you dig, take out as much of this root ball as you can, place it into your pot. I would defoliate at this point and seal any larger cuts on branches. I have also not defoliated and had all the leaves brown and drop off within 2-3 weeks. Just keep watering like normal, damp, but not soggy. I have had to wait 4+ months before buds swell and leaves come out. That has been mid-summer. If you have good growth that first year you could begin to replace half of the native soil with bonsai soil the next winter.

That is my best experience so far. Good Luck.

(John) #6

Good information Michael.

(Charlie Mosse) #7

I have never dug an Oak but while on vacation two old 5-gallon Live Oaks dried out severely and basically fried in July. Ugly site. Knowing they recover from drought and fire, I continued to water them to keep them moist, not wet. About 3-4 months later they both re-sprouted. Good recovery that fall and again excellent growth in the spring. On vacation again and…repeat. They are alive and well but did look very dead. Almost all side branching was dried out so almost all of the regrowth came from the trunk. In So Cal we transplant in the spring just the buds are just barley showing the red color of bud break. We did 10-3/5 gallon Live Oaks one year that were so root bound we had to remove 75-80% of the roots. All grew very nicely that spring and put out a second flush in the fall. Just keep watering to keep moist, not wet and be sure you are ins well drained soil.

(Tim Shea ) #8

In the Monterey area we are taught to transplant or gather in the coldest time of year & have done "Oak "gathering workshop/field-trips in February …& that seems to work 4 yamadori In April I did reduce the roots on a Oak in 3 gal by more than 2/3 & the d— thing is growing like crazy ,All best of luck & please post your results

(Tim Shea ) #9

Hi Y-all …I’ll have a few Agraifolia for sale late in the Fall ,abt. the size of a strong mans forearm …