Twisted roots!

by Roene

I live in southeast arizona. We moved into our house may last year and there was a tree i was unsure of. It looked pitiful about 7 feet tall, thin trunk, dead leaves, the branches and limbs looked tangled and well it looked like it was dying.

I started watering it at least once a week during the summer and fall months and i tried pruning it a bit, just cutting what i could tell was dead, since i didn't know what it was or how to prune.
Well almost a year has past and it still looks like a sorry tree.

I was at home depot and saw a plant similar to my tree; red brown bark that is starting to gray, small smooth narrow oval leaves. The plant was labled "wonderful pomegranate," so i believe that is what I have. I have reason to believe my tree was planted about three years ago.

It doesn't look much different than last year except maybe; a little taller, less tangled and it have some green leaves now. I started watering it again last week. I thought it was getting to much sun and the trunk is getting sun burned since it cannot shade its self, the trunk has small cracks and looks like it's splitting vertically. Or perhaps the soil may not be draining properly; I started watching how the water drained.

I made a decision i was going to transplant it. I read several web articles on transplanting and caring for pomegranate trees. I was suppose to prepare it in march to transplant in october by shoveling a spades depth about two feet radius around the tree (the tree is now 8 feet tall). Well, i did that and realized i was not cutting any roots off to prepare the tree to be moved. I was going to try to fertilizing with some manure and well a thought came to me that whoever planted this tree did not spread the roots out, but just pulled it out of the pot it was in when purchased and placed it in a hole and covered it. The result would be the roots are choking the tree, right?

Last night i prepared another hole in a slightly shaded area and filled it with water three times. Mean while i also set to work digging a foot radius around the tree. No roots! I dug a spade deep and started another spade deep then in toward the tree and lifting. I cut only one decent root to speak of. I pulled out a 8 foot tree, that had (supposed to have) been growing in the same spot for three years, in less than twenty minutes. This is my first tree transplant on my own. I have only watched my uncle plant a few trees when i was a teen.

The roots looked like a ball at the end of the tree. I started washing off the dirt (all potting soil) off the roots to find them tangled, obviously. I worked at untangleling them for three hours and gave up, i am not strong enough to get the largest roots untwisted. I have the roots (tree intact) soaking in water. What do i do?

Will i kill the tree if i cut two really thick roots? Will they continue to twist into another ball of roots and choke the tree again if i leave them? There are many fexiable roots to spread out away from the center but they are much smaller than those twisted in the center.

How do i successfully transplant this tree? 

Hi, Roene --

This is a good time of year to transplant trees.

I am not an arborist, but it seems to me that this plant (whatever it is -- I cannot tell without a photo) will benefit if you:

  • Dig a hole about two feet wide and deep
  • Fill the hole with water to the top and let it drain into the soil
  • Partially fill the hole with good compost or rotted manure
  • Place the tree at the level it was in its original spot (no deeper)
  • Fill the hole completely with more compost
  • Place stakes to keep the tree upright. With the poor root system the tree has, it will be vulnerable to winds knocking it over.
  • Water the tree again, adding more compost if necessary to keep the tree at the proper level.

It isn't necessary to cut the twisted roots -- now that you have provided plenty of nutrition and water, new, better roots will grow, because the tree has some incentive to grow them. :)

Please let us know how your tree does!


Any other advice for Roene?

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