Sunday, 15 November 2015

When Weeds Turn into Trees

15 November 2015

I recently wrote a post about a tree I acquired which was growing in a pot full of weeds. Only many of those weeds turned out to maple seedlings. My mission that day was to rescue those seedlings before they had time to establish themselves alongside the big tree. I'm happy to report that 23 of them have survived the move and are now happily growing in their own pots. Now I just hope I'll be able to keep them alive through the severe drought that's wreaking havoc across South Africa.

One of the problems with having a huge collection of trees is that I don't always find time to remove weeds timeously and once they've settled in, it can be quite difficult to get rid of them. And in some cases, before I know it I've got two trees of different species growing in the same pot. I've already separated a few pairs of trees this spring but haven't found time for all of them. Now, because of the drought, I'm contemplating leaving some of them together for another season. That will give me a few less pots that need watering every day.

But this week I discovered a problem with this trio.

Three trees growing in one pot

The tree I was originally growing in this pot is a Crassula, otherwise known as a Jade Plant. It's a succulent which doesn't need a lot of water and has been growing in a pot with excessive drainage holes - a re-purposed colander - for several years now. By the time I noticed that it had acquired two companions, a Melaleuca and a Mulberry, they were so well established that I've been terrified to remove them. But over the last few days I noticed that the Melaleuca was starting to take strain. Most of its leaves had turned yellow, making me uncertain how much longer it could survive where it was. Something had to be done.

Repotting trees is something that has always made me a bit nervous. Over the years I've learnt that certain species can take harsh treatment and I'm now reasonably comfortable working with those. But when I'm forced to step outside my comfort zone, I prefer to take trees that need repotting to one of my club's workshops so that I can get help if the need arises. I felt certain that I would need help with this lot.

Today was workshop day and sure enough I needed a little assistance in getting the three trees separated. As it turned out, most of the roots belonged to the two 'weeds', which probably explains why the Crassula's growth had slowed down drastically in recent times. Hopefully now that it's on its own in a slightly larger pot it will soon regain its strength and grow lots of new roots and leaves.

Crassula now in its own pot

The other two saplings are in smaller pots. I cut the Mulberry to a fraction of its height but was afraid to leave the Melaleuca without any foliage, so I will have to wait for back-budding before I reduce its height.

Now I have a nervous wait to see if my three trees survive this ordeal.

Three trees now in separate pots

Update 20 June 2016:

I'm pleased to say that all three trees are still alive.

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