Live oak from nursery - potting and pruning

I picked up a Live Oak yesterday and plan to repot and root prune this spring.

I have a couple of potted bonsai from a local nursery, but this is the first that I will be doing any major work for.

I have the substrate, soil, fertilizer, ive watched multiple repotting videos and feel comfortable enough to try the process.

The goal of the repot is to get it into a pond basket(the Anderson Flats are a bit too expensive for this stage of the hobby for me), do some minimal root pruning, and to thicken the trunk about 1/2 inch.

What I have not been able to find a lot of information on is when and how much it is safe to prune after the repotting.

The tree is about 8 foot tall, but it will need to be cut down to a point that all of the branches will be pruned to make it bonsai sized. I have read that it is good to wait a year after repotting from the nursery pot before any major pruning.

Should I indeed wait a year to allow the root structure to recover?
Should I do any pruning of the branches at all during that year or is it best to just let the tree do its thing? Will selective pruning help the tree direct its energy to growth of the roots and trunk?

A quick aside - this is an awesome community. Thank you all for being so open, helpful, and welcoming :slight_smile:


From what I understand through a similar post, for deciduous nursery stock, it is okay to prune and repot if done before the buds open in the spring. They have a ton of energy just waiting to explode.

What kind of live oak is it? California Coast Live Oak? Virginia Live Oak? Cork Oak? some other type?

If you are hoping to thicken up the trunk a bit more, then perhaps leaving it in the nursery container and leaving the growth on top would be the best.

But at the same time, you could put it into a pond basket and and start creating branches and foliage mass, which will also thicken the trunk, but maybe at a slightly slower rate. I’ve had success in the past with nursery stock California Coast Live Oak chopping the trunks and sticking it in a pond basket at the same time. I did minimal root pruning though. I’ve seen other people do much more drastic work though, and have success.

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I unfortunately am not sure which live oak it is(i am still learning a lot). Its from a nursery in Texas.

I appreciate all the advice and info!

It sounds like it may be a bit risky, but it was a purchase made to get experience this spring with as much as possible so it sounds like a good learning opportunity.

Thanks again!

Got a picture of the leaves? Maybe we can help id it.

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Thanks @nmhansen !

I found more info on it - quercus virginiana/southern live oak

Picture of its leaves:

Q. fusiformis is our native Texas live oak and the leaves look a lot like this, but virginiana is not that different either. My personal guess is that it is a fusiformis.

I tend to be pretty gentle with the roots on these and do not bare root them, but I don’t think you’ll have trouble with a gentle repot and hard prune in the same year.

What I know of oak, which isnt that much, is that they can be really fussy. I would hesitate to repot and style the tree at once

Thank you all so much for your assistance and thoughts on this!

It has been immensely helpful. I have a few more days before I am going to repot and plenty of time to think through what I will do. I will send an update picture for anyone interested in how it turns out.

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Attached is the result of the work today. Only cut the super large roots and left most of the rootball intact. Found it was quite gnarly below the surface.

Is the cut paste used in a situation like this or would it have been better to leave the wound open to the air?

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Definitely safer to use cut paste. The callus will (or should) form at the end if you trimmed it nicely. If you didn’t use the paste the top would dry out and die back would probably occur.