Elm Root cuttings

If you remember, in the last elm post I had mentioned a form of propagation called “root cutting”.
This technique works well with elms, ficus salicaria, ficus burt-davii, crepe myrtle and others.
Basically, when you cut off the larger, unneeded roots to fit them into a smaller pot, you save those roots, put them in another pot, and, hopefully, they will grow. 20130202-154625.jpg
Which is where this tree came from. I got the raw stock from Schley’s Bonsai in Deland. It’s an American elm (believe it or not) root cutting. The American elm (ulmus Americana) has been decimated over the last century by Dutch Elm Disease and is not found much in the wild anymore.
I’m going to style two different root cuttings; one Chinese elm and one winged elm.

20130205-131309.jpg
Ulmas alatta, winged elm.

20130205-131413.jpg
And ulmus parviflora, Chinese elm
I’ll start with the Chinese elm.
20130205-131521.jpg
I’ve let it grow out (or on, as they say. which sounds weird to me; “grow it on”. Does it sound odd to you too?).
20130205-131713.jpg
Maybe a bit too much. The shoot might be a somewhat hard to bend
20130205-131816.jpg
Especially here. For one, it will probably just break off. And elm lignifies quicker closer to the trunk.
If we massage it a bit (whoever would have thought that massaging wood would make it softer and easier to bend?)
20130205-132124.jpg

That’s it without wire and not touching it.
20130205-132222.jpg

Now with wire
20130205-132250.jpg
Neat,eh?
Now just continue the bending down
20130205-185932.jpg
I’m going to make my bends where shoots are. As it grows it will look more natural.
20130205-190116.jpg
And I’m going to prune off some unneeded shoots.

20130205-190212.jpg
The bending is extreme on purpose. As the tree grows out the curves will soften and become less severe.

20130205-190343.jpg
Some pruning for taper.

20130205-190600.jpg
Don’t need this little root

20130205-190652.jpg
And some eagle eye views
20130205-205531.jpg
Side
20130205-205623.jpg
Top looking down.

Like I said, the bends will smooth over as time goes on. And I’m sure there will be at least 2 cuts for taper as the “trunk” thickens. This tree is, as they say in the trade, still in “production mode”. Therefore it stays in the nursery pot for a few more years. Maybe even getting bumped up once into a one gallon pot next year.
The thing about an elm, once the roots hit the edges of the pot, the growth slows considerably. The fastest growth, remarkably, is just after a repot.
So,it’s not just the Chinese elm we can do this to; here is that winged elm next.

20130206-083333.jpg20130206-083350.jpg20130206-083404.jpg
This one needs its attitude adjusted methinks
20130206-115133.jpg
And a de-pantsing
20130206-115226.jpg
And let’s geld him too
20130206-115300.jpg
Won’t need this sticking out here anymore.
20130206-115336.jpg
This will be an opportunity to actually demonstrate how to propagate in this way. I’m a clever blogger now, aren’t I?
It is technically a root cutting off of a root cutting.
20130206-115509.jpg
And Bob’s your uncle.
It’s as simple as that!
But wait!
There’s more!
We begin with the root

20130206-144424.jpg
As it shows, the new shoots grow from the edge. I think it’s because the auxin (that hormone which causes bud growth) has nowhere else to go. (Read this link for a complex discussion of meristem differentiation.)
20130206-144554.jpg
The problem is that you will get too many shoots.
20130206-144641.jpg
If you don’t prune out the excess until you have only one shoot.
20130206-144742.jpg
You’ll end up with a weird, knobby thing.
20130206-144822.jpg
If you prune to one, that one shoot will catch up with the trunk pretty quickly.
20130206-144928.jpg
As you see.
20130206-145011.jpg20130206-145030.jpg
But take note, you won’t get a shoot anywhere on the “root” part. Only from the original cut and above.
Back to the winged elm.
20130206-145203.jpg
While its out of the pot is the best time to dress the original cut.
20130206-145259.jpg
I make sure I seal the cut ends.
20130206-145343.jpg
I’ll bend where my pointer finger is pointing to and where my thumb is.
20130206-145504.jpg
A little wire
20130206-145531.jpg
Some bending.
20130206-145555.jpg
More wire, more bending and

20130206-145644.jpg
in the pot it goes. One more year of training in this pot. I’m using some good bonsai soil in it. I’ll have to check this one more often because of the faster draining mix but I should get better growth.
One more technique for root cuttings. I have a diagram:

20130206-153931.jpg
Got it?
Here is a result

20130206-154024.jpg
This is winged elm. One year’s growth!

20130206-154143.jpg
If I hadn’t topped it I believe it would have been six feet of growth. Amazing.

20130206-154250.jpg
My plans for it this year is to put some soil underneath and let it grow some more.
As you might be able to tell, I really like root cuttings.
Here are some examples

20130206-155843.jpg
This is a cute little one. Not much to it but a lot of fun. Chinese elm

20130206-160504.jpg
This is a winged elm. I’ve shown it before. The twist on that one can’t be duplicated.

20130206-160704.jpg
This exposed root elm is made up of a whole bunch of small roots tied in a knot

20130206-160946.jpg
I’ve never found another like it and I can’t seem to duplicate it.

And my favorite at the moment

20130206-161118.jpg
This sweet little tree is another one I stole ( I paid for both of them. Without dickering I might add. He was not happy selling them to me) from Schley’s Bonsai. It’s also an American elm. I see great things for this one. Definitely not for sale.

Not bad material for stuff usually thrown on the compost heap, huh?

20130206-161855.jpg
And since I haven’t done a sketch in a while, here’s one for the Chinese elm above.

20130206-162019.jpg

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in styling bonsai, tips and tricks and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Elm Root cuttings

  1. Nick Kapp says:

    How long do these types of cuttings generally take to bud?

    • adamaskwhy says:

      If you are doing them in the winter/ early spring then they should bud by the end of spring

      • Nick Kapp says:

        Thanks for the info! I took some root cuttings early January when most of my Elms were budding out (quite early this year, even for Los Angeles), and the cuttings have not done anything. Wasn’t sure how patient I should be. Sounds like I should keep waiting. Looking forward to seeing how they turn out. Great blog by the way! Thanks again

      • adamaskwhy says:

        Yes, be patient. There aren’t any buds on the root itself so the cells have to change and that takes a little time. Good luck and thanks!

  2. Cassi says:

    Its Treecycling o-o

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s