Thursday 7 March 2013

Re-potting Bay trees

The other day I wrote about pruning my big Bay tree. This reminded me of another long-overdue task - re-potting my two other Bay trees, which are grown as ornamentals, shaped in the "standard" form - that's to say the lollipop shape. Over the last few years, these two trees have been declining in vigour, and the difference between them and their parent tree is only too plain to see. Look at this. On the one hand there is the parent - big and healthy, with a mass of glossy dark green leaves.

The two small trees (children of of the big one) on the other hand, have sparse yellowish foliage, and look tired and unenthusiastic.

There was little doubt that they had outgrown their containers. I really can't remember how long they had been in those square 35cm terracotta tubs, but it must have been the best part of 10 years. Time for a change!

I had a good look round our local Garden Centre, where they have a wide range of different pots for sale. In view of my recent experiences with pots splitting because of frost I decided not to buy terracotta (which is expensive anyway), but to go with plastic. I found some quite stylish black 50cm pots, made by Stewarts. They were £15 apiece, as opposed to £50 for the same size in terracotta.

Getting the trees out of the old pots was not easy, I can tell you. I had to scrape away a mass of very tightly-packed roots and compost before they finally condescended to let me remove them. What a struggle! It took me upwards of half an hour to do each one. Anyway, I won in the end:

You can see here that the tree roots are incredibly tightly-packed.

Using an old kitchen knife, I trimmed off a fair bit of the rootball before re-planting the trees in the new tubs. The step up from 35cm to 50cm meant that there was plenty of room to add lots of fresh compost. I also put in a couple of handfuls of Growmore general-purpose fertiliser to give the trees a much-needed boost.

Well, it was hard work, but I expect it will pay off. I'm happy that the new pots look quite smart, and I'm hopeful that I have given the trees a new lease of life. Maybe by Summer-time they will be green and glossy again?? Look, I even swept the patio before taking this "After" photo!

This final photo shows very clearly the contrast between the trees. With a bit of luck they will soon be more-or-less the same colour.


  1. They're nice pots, and I think you've done the right thing avoiding terracotta, you wouldn't want to be repotting the trees every year. My cherry tree is in an old half barrel but it's starting to rot so I'm going to have to think about repotting that, not a job I'm going to enjoy.

  2. Now you have to decide what to put in the square terracotta pots.

    1. You're right. I could have just smashed the pots to get the trees out easily, but since I didn't I now have two large nicely weathered pots to play with. At present I'm thinking they might get planted-up with Aquilegias, but I'll think on it for a while more ...

  3. Terracotta is so pretty, but you are right it does crack. I elected to put a faux stone pot next to my front door instead. It is too big to pick up (at least by me) so I wanted something I could leave out in all weather.

  4. Those pots are terrific, I haven't seen ones quite as fancy. I also find that terracotta pots suck up the precious water you are often trying to give the plant especially when the weather is dry for a long while (not quite as often in the UK as Australia)

  5. You have been a busy bee Mark...but what a fantastic job ;D
    The pots looks great and I'm sure the bay trees will show they're appreciation for such a snazzy exchange later in the season.
    It'll be interesting to see how they get on.
    I think there might be fun and games when I come to repot some of my...seriously in need of more room...plants. I think a hammer will be the main impliment!
    I can get rid of any anx at the same time! :D
    Have a wonderful weekend ~ enjoy!

  6. You've reminded me I have some re-potting to do as well. I like the black containers you've used.

  7. I do hope the bay trees enjoy their new pots - bays seem to be very sensitive to their surroundings. I had one in a pot and put it in a corner on some soil the roots grew through the draining hole and I couldn't move it. With a bit of a struggle I finally freed it - the bay tree objected - and died. I have a camellia in the self-same pot as your new ones.

  8. A lot of work involved but worth every bit I'm sure.


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