kamka
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Indoor Zelkova (Chinese Elm) Bonsai Losing Leaves in Summer

Hi to all.Firs of all I am new at this forum so pls forgive me for any mistake.
I have zelkova bonsai which I bought it as indoor. I am confused by outdoor indoor opinions, however I have it for a year and a half indoor in Macedonia where winters are cold and summers very very hot up to 40 or even 43 celzius degree, at this time its loosing his leafs rapidly eventhough I think I am watering as it should. I am not sure I gavew him a proper food during the spring, can anyone tell me if I should try to put it on a balcony in order to survive but I am very scared couse of the high temperature. And should I gave him food onse weekly if the leafs are gone??
thanks
Kamka

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Welcome, Kamka. Let's see if we can help your tree. First off, pictures will help us see what we're dealing with.

Basics on Zelkova can be [url=https://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Zelkova.html]found here[/url].

As I understand you, it's been inside for a year and a half. Have you changed the location of the tree recently? Is the soil damp all the time? (Don't over-water it!) Has the tree been repotted in the last year?

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kamka,

I'm not aware of anyone who has kept a Zelkova indoors, they are temperate trees. This means that it requires a dormant period over the winter. I could be that it simply 'wore itself out'

Often Chinese Elms are deliberately misidentified as Zelkova and if that is the case they are somewhat more suited to indoor culture. Pictures certainly won't hurt but if it is leafless we still may not be able to make a positive ID.

Norm

kamka
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indoor zelkova loosing leafs in summer !!!

Thanks to all to your fast feedback.
Breef history of my Zelkova bonsai : yes I have it about a year and a half maybe two, indoor as the man said where I bought it from a bazaar in Amsterdam. It was growing indoor as he said and it should be like that although i have read many sites for basic instructions as the one Marsman sent it to me. It survive the traveling shock with airplane and it was going fine till now but never fresh and rich with leafs as the day I bought it. Last spring I reported and cut his roots sinse the roots were going little bit out of the pot, but carefully without cutting the big and the main roots. With little crises but still going fine. I made leaf pruning this spring for the first time (as we know we don't do cutting roots and leafs in the same year/season) and it responded real good with coming new leafs. Maybe it was mistake but after a week a cut I little bit more of the leafs. I think I do not over water it as I said down here its 40 degree Celsius during the day in a summer, and if it was maybe it happened few times (can this really be the reason??? ) , I usually wait for the soil to dry on a top , make check with a stick if the bottom is still a little bit wet than water him on a standard way from the top, without putting the pot in a water for 15 min.as the old school says. Never changed his position, which is near the window with a lot of light but never on a direct sun. I took it to the direct sun few times for a 5 or 10 min when it started to dry and brought it back.
Further I feed him with a Pokon nutrition mixed with water maybe not often as it says ones weekly during the summer, somehow I lost order.
I use soil same for all plants I have, cause don't have special one for bonsai in Macedonia. I put a little bit sand to be drained but maybe not enough. As you can see on a picture I gave moist to the leafs from water which is in the pot below with stones, but sometimes also directly on the leafs. Here are two pic before and after made this season so my questions despite you opinions are:
Should I put him on a balcony instantly with a little bit direct morning sun now when he didn't made dormation out??? Wouldn't that be bigger shock now when he is loosing his leafs??? And should I still nutrition him ones weekly cause of the same problem leaf loosing? And not to forget to mention that the temperature here this summer went up and down with crazy swings.
Wait for you respond in order to save my zelkova bonsai.

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kamka,

First, let's continue with the proper identification of your tree. After seeing your pictures I am leaning strongly toward this actually being a Chinese Elm or Ulmus parvifolia. These two species are superficially similar and are often confused, sometimes deliberately so. Apparently the restrictions on importation of Zelkova are less stringent than those placed on Chinese Elm. See below for a side by side comparison of the two.

https://img255.imageshack.us/img255/2258/zelelmzz6.th.jpg

Zelkova, on the left, has larger leaves and are arranged in a more 'zig-zag' pattern. If you look in our Bonsai Gallery area you will see examples of each of them that I am growing.

It sounds as though you have done your research and have attempted to meet its needs as best you can, so I commend you for that. Unfortunately the biggest problem is one not of your making. Simply put, many trees are ill suited for indoor culture. Chinese Elms are often promoted as indoor bonsai, and they are more adaptable than many other species, but really won't be at their best indoors.

If it were closer to winter I would suggest allowing dormancy and repotting with proper bonsai soil afterward. Since you still have some time to go and August is not really the best time to repot you probably just have to wait it out and hope for the best. Manage the moisture in the soil carefully as a tree without much foliage will not use as much water. Feeding should not be necessary in the short term since you have fertilized it recently.

A few more questions. Are your living quarters air conditioned? If so this dries the air and is a problem for many species. Do you have any options for keeping it outside? How about winter storage? And how cold are your winters?

Sorry I can't offer more. Does anyone else have any other suggestions?

Norm

kamka
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Dear Norm

I really want to do my best ,cause I am very attach to it emotionally.
After a year of doubt thank you for helping me to make conclusion that my zelkova is chinese elm. According to your picture and this one I found

https://www.dallasbonsai.com/bonsai_tree_care_TomM_ChineseElm2.html

my leaves are more oval,gentle and do not have sharp edges as Zelkova one. Airconditioner was a very good point, I have it but almost never use it as I considerate it unhealthy but remind me that someone here few weeks ago switch it on 13 C degree and left it for 4hours. Do you think maybe the bonsai received a winter signal?? And can this situation be deadly? Do you think that the natural mineral watter might be good for bonsai or?
Winters here can be very cold during the day -5 C and the nights even -12 so I think its very riscy unless I make some bunker for it. I have a balcony so my last question for now would be is it ok to put him out now when out of almost every leav or should I wait for some signal ?? Cant find any new buds.

I really appreciate your help !!
best Kamka

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kamka,
After a year of doubt thank you for helping me to make conclusion that my zelkova is chinese elm.
You're welcome. I have seen this misidentification so many times now that when I see a thread about Zelkova I immediately get suspicious. Here are two more links that should offer some more insight.

https://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Ulmus.html
https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicsdevelopingmallsai.htm
Airconditioner was a very good point, I have it but almost never use it as I considerate it unhealthy but remind me that someone here few weeks ago switch it on 13 C degree and left it for 4hours. Do you think maybe the bonsai received a winter signal??
It is not a 'winter signal' that concerns me as much as the lack of moisture in the air. Chinese Elms will hold their leaves late in the season, even well into winter, so I don't imagine a few cooler hours effected it at all.

Dry air is much more of a problem for all trees kept indoors and running air conditioning makes the situation worse. Low humidity indoors, in general, can very well be a part of your problem, but again, I doubt a few hours is the issue here.
Do you think that the natural mineral watter might be good for bonsai or?
I water all of my trees with well water that is rather high in mineral content and don't have a problem. I almost always water from above though, which helps to flush out any accumulated salts or minerals.
Winters here can be very cold during the day -5 C and the nights even -12 so I think its very riscy unless I make some bunker for it.
An acclimated Chinese Elm is able to overwinter without issue although some precautions must be taken. By acclimated I mean that it must be allowed to remain outside from about midsummer on. Dormancy is a process that begins after the summer solstice with the shortening of days. The tree should experience progressively cooler nights and frosts. Even a few good freezes will not harm it providing temps don't get too low.

By the time winter really sets in I move mine into an unheated garage that is attached to my home. In this way it stays slightly above freezing for most of the winter. If we get a really cold period it will again freeze, even in the garage, but will be fine as temperatures never really get extreme in this location. To recap, freezing is OK if acclimated but protect it from really low temperatures and cold, drying winds. This means that your balcony is going to be a problem.

But wait, all of this applies to a healthy tree entering dormancy outside. What you do right now is more of an emergency situation. Unfortunately I don't have any great insights to offer you. For now try this, snip off the end of a shoot or two and look for green, living tissue. Start with just the tip and see what you find. If there is no sign of life try cutting back just a little fatrther. Also, with your fingernail just barely nick the bark on the trunk and look for the same green. If you get past this step with positive results you may be able to save it. I await your response.

Norm

kamka
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indoor chinese elm loosing leaves in summer !!!

Dear Norm

Zelkova is alive :D the trunk is green the brunches are white and elastic , I am trying at this moment to make moisture air ,wet towels all around the place and I guess I ll have to wait and hope for the best. I ll do my best to order proper bonsai soil and wait for the right moment to re-pot it. For now I am in big dilemma if I should dislocate him on a balcony in a shadow but scared of a high temperatures and its bad condition !

Best Kamka

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kamka,
Dear Norm

Zelkova is alive the trunk is green
OK, that's the first test.
the brunches are white and elastic
I'm a little unsure what you mean by this but if the trunk is alive that's the main thing.

There are probably several factors at play in the decline of your tree. Using conventional potting soil is not the best way to repot but if you manage the watering properly that should not be a 'life or death' issue. Low light and low humidity are probably more to blame.

Not many trees will be at their best indoors, it can be done but requires a greater effort on the part of the grower. I find it much easier to keep all my trees outside allowing nature to do the hard work for me. I only bring tender plants inside when fall tempearatures drop too low. We usually suggest that growers who are forced, by circumstace, to grow indoors to stick with tropical species.
For now I am in big dilemma if I should dislocate him on a balcony in a shadow but scared of a high temperatures and its bad condition !
I understand, the temperatures you cited earlier and the fact that you would be using a balcony add up to a very harsh environment. You are truly facing a dilema. Your tree is obviously not happy inside and outside may kill it.

This may sound a bit odd but do you have room in your refrigerator to keep the tree for 6 or 8 weeks?

Please read this, in fact that site is very good in many areas so take a look at the other articles as well.
https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/dormancy.htm

Norm

kamka
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Uh I don't think there is a place in a refrigerator , it sounds like a radical way but It makes sense after all. I can menage to transport him to another town in Macedonia where the days are cooler ,humidity higher and the nights colder...Would that be helpful at this moment??

Kamka

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kamka,
Uh I don't think there is a place in a refrigerator , it sounds like a radical way but It makes sense after all.
Just a thought, one possibility and perhaps not even the best, just thinking out loud really.
I can menage to transport him to another town in Macedonia where the days are cooler ,humidity higher and the nights colder...Would that be helpful at this moment??
Yes, that sounds like a plan. Would you leave it there to experience dormancy? Can you trust the person to manage it properly?

Norm

kamka
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Dear Norm,

I guess I can trust :) I ll do my best to train the people and I ll be visiting him very often.
I can leave it for month or two but in a winter I ll have to bring him back so till than I ll figure out something for my balcony.
But if you are asking me if the bonsai can have dormancy NOW I am not sure (?), the temperature here is approximately 37 C during the day and there it would be 30 C, the humidity here is 17% and there double more. The town is surrounded with mountains so the nights would be fresh.

Best Kamka

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kamka,
But if you are asking me if the bonsai can have dormancy NOW I am not sure (?)
No, that was not my meaning. It will not enter dormancy for months.

I'm not sure moving it about so much is wise but unless it recovers I suppose it is a moot point anyway.

There are other trees, such as Ficus or Schefflera that make better indoor bonsai. Also, perhaps it is time for you to look into supplemental lighting. Even a bright window is borderline for trees to do well inside.

Have a look at this site to get some ideas for indoor bonsai.
https://www.bonsaihunk.us/cultural.html

Norm

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Dear Norm

I am almost certain that the biggest problem here is the bad soil. I ve noticed few times that after watering the begging of the trunk gets wet which makes me think that the soil is not drained as I believed and when I put a tooth pick inside the soil looks pretty clayey on the bottom. Its possible that the roots are choked in to the soil without any air space inside. I found this site which makes me even more suspicious about my soil.

https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm

What do you think about cat litter? However I transfer it in another town and I put it on a balcony in a full shadow. I feel like preventing things may kill him also but staying indoor in a summer heat without any humidity means the same. I guess the reppoting now after dislocation may be big shock now when it is very week but I don't know what else to do. Do you think that I should try reppoting now or what I have on my mind like a less harm plan is to pull out gently the bonsai with all the soil, further put little stones on the bottom of a pot providing air area and after try to put as much as I can ,without stressing the roots, a cat litter which will absorb the water till comes the spring?? Or I am paranoid and crazy :D

thank you very much
Kamka

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kamka,
I am almost certain that the biggest problem here is the bad soil...Its possible that the roots are choked in to the soil without any air space inside...Do you think that I should try reppoting now
It's not that I doubt that the soil is inferior but you should have researched that aspect before you repotted it. As things stand right now midsummer is just about the worst time you can repot a temperate/sub-tropical tree. You have a choice to make, repot now or try to wait it out for a more appropriate time. Frankly, it's a judgement call, and what I might risk is not necessarily what I might suggest to you.
What do you think about cat litter?
I have not used Cat litter as such but as I mentioned I have used D.E. which is often the ingredient in appropriate litters. Notice I said appropriate, not all litters are mad from the same materials. Here in the States the litters I have investigated are simply not appropriate. They are not made from the same materials as Harry H. seems to find in the U.K. Be carefull and test a sample first. if it holds up in water for several days it may OK, but only a long term test can say for sure if any particular brand is a good choice.
I feel like preventing things may kill him also but staying indoor in a summer heat without any humidity means the same.
Not sure what you mean by this.

More later, dinner time.

Norm

kamka
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Dear Norm

I wanted to say that there is no much to do about it at this moment and that any changes might kill him also like reppoting, transporting etc. Unfortunately yesterday i took off few layers of the soil from the top to see if the soil is to much clayed, and I found not so many small white worms in it. And small white insects. As i found out the worms are result of over watering or bad soil. And when they have eaten all food in the soil they start to eat the roots.
The trunk is still alive, so i guess its dying slowly. There is only one expert for yamadori bonsai in Macedonia and I ll wait for his return in the town next week if he can save him.
However I would like to thank you for all your help and I ll be happy to inform you with any good news.

All the best
Kamka

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kamka,

Sorry to hear about the worms, most likely fungus gnats. I know that I was not too anxious to have you repot now but in light of this new information it may be better than leaving it as things stand.

We did not talk much yet about soils. I assumed that you did not have access to anything appropriate. Do you? Have you read our sticky about soils?
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3422

I'm sorry that I was not able to help you more. Please let us know how it turns out and if it's bad news don't let it discourage you from bonsai. It is an unfortunate truth that all of us kill trees, more in the beginning. As I mentioned there are other species that would do better in your home.

Norm

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kamka,

What did you decide? Have you taken any action yet?

Norm

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