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Wednesday - October 19, 2011

From: Lockhart, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Propagation, Soils, Transplants, Watering, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Baby mountain laurels are ready to move, in Lockhart Texas
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


I want to harvest the baby mountain laurel plants which are growing under a large bush. What height would be best for the young plants survival? Please recommend a soil mixture for the pots.


Mr Smarty plants isn't just a know-it-all, Mr Smarty plants is a gardener too! And as one, has dabbled a bit with replanting Texas mountain laurel. First off don't be too intimidated. If you are scared of making a mistake it will only cause you stress and no one needs that while gardening.

Mr Smarty Plants has rescued mountain laurel from demolition sites in a hurry, tearing out roots in haste. One in particular was of good size and was replanted in dappled shade, in the Central Texas Hill Country in practically, pure limestone. That one is doing fine. We have also transplanted various medium trees that needed a good home in full sun and a variety of locations and they too have done fine. We even have planted a tiny one probably less than two years old into the middle of a lawn in fairly deep shade. To date that little tree has grown faster than all the rest. 

None of these trees were planted into pots, however. Trees or larger woody shrubs do best when they are planted into a permanent home in the ground. If you are harvesting many tiny seedlings then make sure that you pot them in tall thin containers. You don't want to risk the roots growing wide and then hitting the wall of the pot. If that happens, then the roots will start to spiral in the pot and tangle up. All plants want to have room to grow roots either wide or deep or both. Mountain laurels grow deep tap roots, so even small ones need that extra depth in a pot. You don't want to plant tiny seedlings into pots that are too big either. Pots usually have a tendency to stay wet longer after watering and if the dirt around the seedling stays too wet too long then you risk rotting the new advantageous roots surrounding the tap root. In terms of the size for a good transplant; they should have at least a couple of rows of leaves after their first feeder leaves, which are the first set of leaves they produce. As these are trees and you don't want to have to repot them over and over, ideally you would transplant them to a permanent home in the ground as soon as you find spaces for them.

Transplanting small plants is easier than bigger ones. It will be easier for you to secure all of the roots without breakage when you dig them. If you look up Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) in the plants database, you will see that there is a section on propagation with information for the type of soil it requires. In the propagation mention, it indicates that this is a tough plant to transplant, so maybe Mr Smarty Plants is just lucky but we think this has more to do with monitoring and caring for the new transplants, making sure they are getting enough water and sunlight until new growth emerges. Once you have healthy new growth you can back off on fussing with them. 

If you have a space picked out for them to live permanently, go ahead and plant them in the ground. Or if you are still unsure if they are big enough try to replant a couple and leave a couple where they are until next spring. This would be a good experiment to see in which season was easier for them to handle the move. Protect the new transplants with a little tree screen ( small circular plastic or metal cage ) and water them twice a week if you can until you see new growth. You are lucky to have little ones at your disposal. They are more difficult to grow by seed, so have fun and good luck!


From the Image Gallery

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

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