Prowlgrin
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Chinese elm may be dying

Hi, my name is Abby
My boyfriend bought a chinese elm quite a while ago, and it looked really nice, so i got a bonsai as well. Mine is a ficus retusa and after having a tough period when the temperature in my house was quite low, and the leaves dropped, it is now doing extremely well.
Unfortunately my boyfriends bonsai is not doing as well. when he bought it, he repotted it into a huge pot and put it in a soil wasnt airating very well, it is the type of soil that you put regular housplants in, and therefore it wasnt drainign very well. He kept negleting to water it and feed it, so it eventually weekened until i persuaded him to feed it, to which it started growing new leaves. I was thrilled to see it live again lol. Then... before it had had enough time to recover he pruned it :O and it has never been the same. he went off to university and left it at his house. so i decided to travel all the way to london and pick it up in my little crate and carry it all the way back
i repotted it into its original pot and with soil that i had gotten whilst on holiday that said it was made for bonsais (fingers crossed). the roots were in a bad way, damp and dark coloured, im hoping it was just the soil though.
Is there any advice you can give me so that i don't put it under anymore stress. it has about three leaves which are green however they are wilting badly.
help please, i would really appreciate it.
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djlen
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Hi Abby and welcome to the forum.

First, your Ficus can be expected to drop leaves when it's environment is changed. When we bring ours in from outside for the winter it always drops leaves, then recovers and does fine. Same thing happens in the spring after we move it outside.
Now, a question or two for you with regard to your Elm. Has it always been in the house or a better way to put it is has it had an opportunity to go dormant and drop it's leaves since you've had it? They need a period of dormancy, IMO (some might say not) in order to rest a bit, each year.
If yours has not it probably needs a rest.
Do you know what your 'bonsai soil' is made up of? Did you root prune it when you re-potted it? From what you describe it could be that you may have had some rotting going on in the root system. Bonsai needs to be root pruned back a bit when being re-potted in order to refresh and maintain balance and vigorous growth. Healthy roots are generally much lighter than those you describe.
Please answer these questions and supply us a picture or two for reference when you reply.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
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Prowlgrin
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Thankyou

Thanks for taking the time to reply. i have only had the chinese elm for about 4 days lol, but it was in the house pretty much all the time when it was in the care of my boyfriend apart from a time when his mum decided to put it outside but that was for about 2 hours so im not sure if it made alot of difference. it was during summer as well, although thats not saying much for english summer.
if i put it outside i worry that it will just be too much stress for it?
my bonsai soil is made up of something called turba rubia which i can translate, and when i do it comes up with disturbed blonde lol, volcanic clay and akadama.
92% dry material
30% dry organic material
pH 5.5-6.2
thats all i can get from the packet, i got it from spain and i don't speak spainish :S
the maker is mistral bonsai if that helps
I didnt root prune it when i repotted it, i fear it may have had no roots left which doesnt seem like a good sign, i wouldnt be sure what to cut off either (noob)
here are some pictures, i didnt want to remove it from the pot so there are only top views.
https://img682.imageshack.us/i/trees020.jpg/
https://img28.imageshack.us/i/trees021.jpg/
https://img28.imageshack.us/i/trees023.jpg/

Then one of mine :p
https://img22.imageshack.us/i/trees022.jpg/
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djlen
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That is not a happy tree Abby. How long has it been leafless?

Your Ficus, btw, looks very nice. :)
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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djlen
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Abby, here is a nice link that may answer some of your Elm questions:
https://www.plantingarden.com/bonsai-care/bonsai-trees/21-chinese-elm-bonsai-ulmus-parvifolia.html
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Prowlgrin
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Thanks, i have read through the post you suggested and it was quite helpful, however, from seeing the photos, would you suggest that i put it outside or leave it inside? i has been leafless for quite some time, im not sure how long, however it has a few wrinkled mottled green leaves.
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djlen
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It could be so many things that are causing this.
Let me re-organize myself on this.

Please answer:
Your boyfriend has had the plant since?
Has it ever been fertilized?

An Elm is basically an outdoor tree. It should spend most of the months that maintain a consistent temp. of 7°C or higher in your back yard. It can be maintained inside but for only a limited time, IMO. It needs a period of dormancy.
The reason for the questions above is I'm trying to figure out if it's worn out from lack of dormancy/rest, fertilization, or from neglect (not on your part).
It also could be dying from a root system in bad shape.
If he's had it for more than a year or two it needs to go outside now so that it can 'harden off' in preparation for cold weather and get some rest.
It should not be too cold yet in UK to put it out. What are your avg. temps. now? I think keeping it inside this winter could kill it for sure.
It will need to stay out for Nov. and Dec. at least. Then you can bring it in, root prune it, and if the roots are OK it should pop for you with vigorous growth. This is how I would handle it if it were mine.
Can you give me the average temps. in your area for Nov., Dec., Jan., and Feb.?
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Prowlgrin
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he has had the plant about 6 months
it has been fertilised and that was quite recently by his aunt before i went to colelct it off her, i think it was on the day i collected it, which was also the day that i repotted it so im not sure it has had much affect, other than that it was fertilised 3 months ago.
Atm the temps range from 10-15 degrees c but it can get below 7 degrees at night near where i live
but winter temperatures can get alot colder than that
thanks
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djlen
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Well then your temps. are similar to what we're experiencing here at this time.
You will not harm the tree at all by putting it outside where it will experience cooler temps. and longer and longer dark periods which will put it to sleep for the winter.
Basically, what I do is let my trees acclimate to the cold and go dormant and later, about the end of Dec. I put them in my unheated garage or shed for a protected rest where they will stay dormant but still be protected from the bitter cold of Jan. and Feb. Then, around the second week in March I bring them into the house, give them good lighting and they break and bud out for the new season. You can do this or leave them to rest until April and then put them outside the garage again where they will open with the natural change of season. During the dormancy the need for watering is minimal. I check for dryness and water maybe every other week or even less according to how they feel.
I have left Elms outside all winter, on the south side of the house and against the house with no issues. They are more durable than you might think. I do the garage thing more to prevent the pots from breaking due to ice than fear of hurting the trees.

I was thinking that maybe your tree is losing leaves due to shorter and shorter periods of daylight. Could be going dormant on it's own. But it needs to be outside to experience the colder weather to rest.
Are you supplying additional light or just sitting it by a window in the house?
All of the things we've talked about could be a possibility. Bad root system, too little fertilization etc. But I'd leave it alone and put it out and hope that in the spring it will come back strong for you. Don't fertilize it now because it will push new growth and you don't want that at this time of year.
Then in the spring you will pull it out of it's pot and give it a root pruning while it's just coming out of dormancy. Hopefully the over-wintering will refresh it and it'll come back strong for you.
Abby, this is what I'd do if it were mine, based on the information you've given. Others might agree or not but this is what I'd do. I hope it works out for you.
One thing for sure. If this tree does recover tell your boyfriend that he may have visitation rights in the future but you will be it's main care-giver from now on. :)
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Prowlgrin
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LOL at the visitation rights comment.
im not suplying it with additional light, just a window, i chose a cold one after you last comment, thinking itll make the transition easier to outside.
when you put it in the garage, does your garage have a window or will they not need any light?
thanks
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Rosaelyn
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This is just my two cents, but if it has not had the chance to properly acclimate to outside temperatures and conditions, I would keep it inside (near a cold window sounds ideal) until spring. Besides, many times, once a Chinese Elm has lost all its leaves for the season, it is acceptable to bring them inside and winter them that way.

If you want to check and ensure it's still alive, you can scrape a small, inconspicuous area of bark just through the top layer and see if you see green. If it's still green under the bark, it's very likely it received the proper cues to go dormant.
Rosaelyn @}>---'---,---

If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees. ~ Hal Borland

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djlen
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There are multiple schools of thought regarding the care and feeding of U. parvifolia. The one that Rosaelyn mentions above is one and I guess it works for many. I am from the old school of thought, that Deciduous trees need a couple of months of down time to continue to do well for the long term. I have no experience at keeping them in summer and winter and so I'm giving you advice based on my experience. I guess you need to decide which course to take for your tree.

My thoughts:
It will need no light after all the leaves are gone. Just a bit of water on occasion. Please don't over-water it out there. The roots are already in a suspicious state. If you have a window in the garage you could put it near it if it'll make you feel better but the plant won't care once the leaves are gone.
I would get it out of the house as soon as possible while the weather is still relatively mild, so it can harden off for the cold to come. Abby, you're not torturing the tree by doing this. This is what deciduous trees are meant to go through, IMO.
I have a feeling that it's started dormancy because of lack of light now that I know you are not supplying any additional light inside. These trees respond more to light changes in the fall to go dormant than anything else. People think it's the cold, which does play a part, but the leaves cannot photosynthesize when they lose their light and lose their green and fall.
We will have to talk further about light in the spring before you bring it in.
Unless it's a south facing window with no shading from outdoors, you will need auxiliary light to keep it happy inside.

And I would make his visitations 'supervised'!!! He does not know how to take care of the plant and so needs to be watched in it's presence.
I call this 'Tree Endangerment' and it needs to stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I really hope that after all this the poor thing is going to come 'round in the spring. :roll:
Last edited by djlen on Mon Nov 02, 2009 6:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Prowlgrin
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lol len very good, ill put it out tomorrow morning before i go to college (yes yes young adult) and ill check it. i might get a bit parnoid but illl cope lol i just don't wannt kill it.
thanks for all your help and ill post again during december sometime :D
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djlen
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Abby, has this tree ever been outside in the fall? What I mean by that is has it been continuously inside the house since you and your boyfriend have had it?
The reason I'm asking is that I'm hearing something that I've never tried myself about these elms and it might be that you can keep it indoors indefinitely if it's never been subjected to a frost or winter cold.
I'm going to post a question on the forum regarding this and the answers I get might change all that we've talked about in this thread if what I'm hearing is true.
My post will be "Ulmus parvifolia - Indoor all year 'round?" Look for it and see what kind of response it gets.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Prowlgrin
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it mayll have been before we bought it, but not since its been in our care no, sorry.
thanks , i shall look out for that :D
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Prowlgrin
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I think that it may be best if i just put it outside for the winter, since i don't know how it has been conducted before?
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djlen
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Yes, you can't go wrong by doing that. Set it out, under an eave or a tree so that when the first frosts occur it will get a very light coat. Then it can harden off gradually.
Just before the bitter cold starts to set in (here it's around Christmas time to first week in Jan.) you can move it to it's sheltered place for the balance.
It will get rained on outside so no need to worry about water until it's been under shelter for 2 or 3 weeks and then only water when it feels dryish.

We are always here if you have questions. Good luck with it Abby.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Prowlgrin
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Thankyou for all you help, i really appreciate it :D
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