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I've grown some apple tree seedlings from a shop bought apple for the purpose of turning into a bonsai.

A high percentage of them have germinated and I've ended up with more than I bargained for (12 in total).

I've potted on the strongest ones into separate pots, and placed 3 into a single pot grouped together.

The three apple seedlings

My thinking behind this is that as they grow, they may fuse together to form one main trunk and I can train that tips of the plants into separate main branches.

My question is, now that I have done it, is it likely that this will indeed happen, or will they simply fight each other for resources and only the strongest will survive?

The seedlings are all roughly 2 weeks old from sprouting and have two true leaves each.

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If you leave them be the roots from the plants will become thoroughly enmeshed to make one solid root pad. This is how forest/group plantings are made. As they thicken over the years, the trunks will begin to fuse. How long this takes, of course will depend upon how far apart they are and how fast these particular trees' trunks thicken. In a bonsai pot or on a stone slab, the rate of stem thickening will be so low that the individual stems can remain individual stems for decades and more.

Another way you could fuse a group of trunks together is to thread branchless seedlings though the drainage hole of an old pot bottom or a hole you've drilled in a ceramic tile. As the stems thicken they will fuse and also ground layer themselves (i.e., your new 'keeper' root pad develops atop the tile). This method definitely will fuse the trunks together.

Again it depends on how tightly the seedlings are packed through the hole and how fast the stems thicken each year, but this method is likely to produce fused trunk more quickly than what you have done. Try it this way with a new group of seedlings before they leaf out next year.

There may be problems when mixing species, but there are no 'kill-my-neighbor' issues with groupings of the same specie.

Fun stuff!

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  • Thanks Jim - Yes I was aware of the 'threading' technique. I am currently trying that with a garden variety Hedera Helix using a piece of fired driftwood as a form to mould the trunks around. I just wondered out of curiosity if this would also work. The three seedlings are literally touching in the middle of the pot (I will upload a picture shortly to my question for reference). Do you think once the seedlings have matured a little, I.e become a little woody, I should bind them with raffia? – AvieRose Apr 24 '16 at 21:07
  • No, don't bind them with raffia. It is not strong enough to do anything. Once the roots are enmeshed (which happens in a season or two), the trunks won't move apart. Remember, just like branches, roots grow at the tips - they aren't extruded from the tree base. So, the thickening stems is the only thing that can push the trunks apart. – Jim Young Apr 24 '16 at 21:19
  • WOW - still have cotyledons?? You really meant seedlings not saplings (meaning a year or two old)! After this season you may need to lightly wire them so that each seedling gets light; plus, you may want to start making the stems more interesting than three nearly parallel straight lines. Light to all is the important issue. – Jim Young Apr 24 '16 at 21:28

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