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Location: Bournemouth, England

My chinese Elm looks dehydrated, please help!

Hi all, I would like some advice on my bonsai tree, as I fear it has dried out from lack of watering.

I received a lovely Chinese Elm as a gift for my birthday back in February, and up to this point it has seemed very healthy indeed. I followed the instructions that came with the tree, re: placing near a window that gets lots of light, watering only when the soil becomes dry, and only fertilising after the new leaves began to emerge in the spring.

However, in the past two weeks or so, the leaves have become rather crispy and some have fallen off. The leaves are still green, but they are quite curled and look dehydrated. Please see my attached photographs below:
My Chinese elm, this side is nearest the window.
My Chinese elm, this side is nearest the window.
My Chinese elm, this side is facing away from the window, and looks less healthy than the other side.
My Chinese elm, this side is facing away from the window, and looks less healthy than the other side.
The tree is in an indoor environment, and as I mentioned before, I water it only when the surface soil feels and looks dry, which is about once every 5-7 days. I live in Bournemouth, UK - a sunny seaside town with average temperatures for this time of year at about 15 degrees C / 52 degrees F. Other thing I should mention is that I recently pruned off some of the driest, spindliest branches at the advice of my girlfriend, who's parents have owned a Chinese elm for many years.

I am rather concerned that my tree will die (if it hasn't already) as a result of me being careless, so I hope you kind, helpful people will be able to advise me on what to do to save it. If you need any more information, please feel free to ask.

Many thanks in advance,


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Re: My chinese Elm looks dehydrated, please help!

Hmmm. For starters, Chinese Elm is considered an outdoor bonsai - at least here in the U.S. - hardy down to 20F degrees, so yours might finally be giving up the ghost after having been kept indoors for so long. And if the pics show the amount of light it's been getting on a daily basis, even if it was an indoor bonsai, that's not nearly enough light.

Unfortunately, once leaves start to crisp &/or curl, the death knell is frequently tolling. If I were you, I'd place this plant outdoors asap. Start with a spot, if you can, where it gets just a few hours of sun each day for a couple of weeks, & then move it to a full-sun spot. This might not save it, but it definitely won't survive indoors, so is worth a shot.
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Location: Bournemouth, England

Re: My chinese Elm looks dehydrated, please help!

Thanks for your quick reply.

My tree was sold as an indoor plant: http://www.kaizenbonsai.com/indoor-bons ... m-gift-box

I expect me putting it outside will definitely kill it off, it gets very rainy in the UK, and right now we are experiencing gale force winds that would knock the whole thing over. But I take your point about the amount of light it receives, is there any way artificially lighting it would help?

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Re: My chinese Elm looks dehydrated, please help!

Well, Chinese elm is a little complicated. Chinese elm is a sort of in-between tree. Temperate trees (evergreens like juniper and deciduous like maple, oak) have to be outdoors all the time. Tropical evergreens like ficus make good indoor trees. Chinese elm is a subtropical. Some people do keep them indoors all the time; sometimes they are treated as outdoor trees.

"Chinese Elm trees are very flexible about their environment. If adapted
properly, they can be grown indoors year-round. If hardened off to
the cold gradually, they can drop their leaves in the fall and be
considered deciduous trees, so you have a few options. However, it is
important to find out how your Elm has been growing recently. Some
Elms come from southern China, and have never experienced cold
conditions. It would be dangerous to keep these Elms too cold the
first year or two. Other Elms have gone to freezing and dropped their
leaves for many years; as a result, these Elms may not be too happy
indoors for the first year or two. If you can not determine where your
Elm has been, then keep it outside for the summer and bring it inside
for the winter. You can bring it in when the temperatures are around
50°F. If kept indoors for the winter, a cooler location is preferable
(50°F–65°F). Chinese Elms may drop some leaves in the winter due
to the natural decrease in light. This is normal.

But spring would not be a natural time for it to lose leaves. Yes, it really helps to give it supplemental (artificial) light. But this needs to be a dedicated lamp, shining directly on it from just a few inches away, kept on 12-16 hrs a day.
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