Repot or style nursery stock first?

I may have gotten this wrong, but I thought Ryan advocated for repotting nursery stock the first year and then styling the next. I was trying to explain this to members of my club, and they asked me what difference it made, and I couldn’t come up with an answer, tending to be the kind of person who remembers the dictum and not the reason.

Can anyone help with this?

I seem to recall that as well along with styling yamadori first (after they have recovered in the collection pot or box).

Nursery stock tends to have lots of roots and is often rootbound. Repotting first allows you to find the nebari and set a tentative angle. Since this can be a stressful repot to get it into a decent sized pot you want as much foliage as possible (within reason) to drive new root growth. I tend to be fairly aggressive when repotting most nursery stock and prefer to only have the repotting labor and cost of the tree expended instead of the time to style and develop for a year in case it does not survive or some branches did off.

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Thanks, Marty - that makes sense.


Would it not depend on the time of the year that you have bought the nursery stock. If you bought it during the warmer parts of the year then re-potting would not be the best thing for the tree. I’m actually not sure styling would even be a good idea.
I’ve killed two tree’s already since I started in July because I was just to keen to work on the tree’s. I have since started taking lessons with a pro and watching Mirai. I am now starting to think that it would have been better to rather remove the foliage that I really know I wasn’t going to use so that the energy can be put where I do and then wait for re-potting when the time is right in spring. So basically setting up the tree for the future.
I think these types of decisions I’ve learnt should always be tree dependent and not necessarily what we want to do.

I ask myself this question a lot. For junipers, you can do either but since their strength is in the foliage repotting first makes sense. I would still clean it up and remove dead branches, crotch growth, ect. For pines, the strength is in the roots so as long as the soil isn’t atrocious I’d tend to do the major cutbacks on pines first. My default usually is to prune and style the tree first because then I’ll know what angle to repot it at and I know that the tree will be able to move water.

You should also consider the height of the tree. You don’t want to repot a 4’+ nursery stock tree into a small container because it could blow over or put a lot of physical stress in the rootball. Also keep in mind that most nursery stock is going to be very vigorous, probably the most vigorous it will ever be, so they can handle some major work that yamadori probably could not. That is not an excuse for poor timing it technique however.