Smileica
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Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:29 pm
Location: Serbia

New to bonsai - is my Zelkova dying?

About 45 days ago I've got Bonsai Zelkova as a present, but without any care advice. So I've checked some sites about it and found that bonsai in fall and winter needs to be watered just once a week. But obviously it was very bad advice because 15 days after it leaves started to get yellow and very dry. Then on your site I've found that because of a small trunk, root can get dry if you don't water it properly.

Is it too late to start with some extra care or is it inveitable to let him die... Small branches are totaly dry and lifeless, but some branches near the ground are still alive. What can I do to save him/her?

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Gnome
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Smileica,

Hello and welcome to the site. Is your tree outside? Zelkovas require a dormancy period. If it is outside a large part of your "problem" may be nothing more than the change of the season. They will drop their leaves during winter just as their full sized counterparts.

You cannot water on any kind of schedule no matter the season. During cool weather once a week may be too much, during warm weather too little. Take a look at the sticky threads located at the top of the forum for some basic tips.

There is still hope for your tree. Can you tell us a little more about how you are handling it and its history if known.

Norm

Smileica
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Location: Serbia

Hello Gnome and thank you very much for your prompt reply and words of comfort.

My tree is inside, but I tend to bring it out for few hours a day. I live in Serbia and fall and winter can be very cold so Im not sure will it survive if I keep it outside all the time.

The real problem is that I don't know anything about my plant, not even how old is it. There's a note on the trunk that it's Zelkova, imported from Netherland and first class. Nothing else. I've got it as a present and they haven't told me where they bought it and where can I go to get more informations.

Maybe it is dormacy period, but leaves didn't drop, it got yellow and dry so I removed it (another mistake?)

Anyway I keep it on the table where it can catch some light, but there's no much sun and natural light these days. I water it once a week (by putting trunk in larger trunk filled with water until bubbles stop going out) and I spray leaves (while it had any) and branches once in two days.

Please tell me what mistakes do I make (I suppose most thing I did and keep doing were/are mistakes) and how can I protect this little fellow from my ignorance on bonsai trees. I spend hours and hours looking for infos on the net, but some of them are quite contradictous...

Thanks again!

alexinoklahoma
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Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2007 12:21 pm
Location: Central Oklahoma

Hi smileica :)

I suggest starting at www.evergreengardenworks.com/articles.htm for 'reading' material. You *will* ned to make a cold-frame or such to protect the roots of that tree, but the cold is not likely to harm the exposed wood, IMO. Not until it gets *really* cold ;) If you go the 'plant catalog' at same site, Brent lists the root-death temps for *many* species - be sure to use the index on the first page to udnerstand the symbols/numbers he uses to tell the plants' traits/limits - few places do that for their customers, or public in general. But do read up as there are many concepts to understand - forget everyting you know about 'regualr houseplants as those rules do NOT apply ;)

You can take the pot its in and place it in a larger pot and pour bark mulch or other insulating material in there to make a 'blanket' over the pot essentially. There are many ways of protecting the roots, but it will need to be done, especially if tree is going to dormancy already. Yellowing and drying leaves aren't necessarily bad - but green crisping leaves are...big difference between the two.

You should not water by submersion - much better for a few reasons to water several times 'from above', and that is addressed in the first link above, I believe. You can also glean outstanding well-written stuff from www.bonsai4me.com as Harry is rather well versed in his approach to bonsai. He does a commendably great job in the 'species guide' section, IMO.

And yes, many sites contradict others - but take evergreengardenworks and bonsai4me as the true gospel. Tose guys kinda lead the pack in the 'how-to' on bonsai (trust me on this one, LOL!).

For now, just keep soil semi-moist at most (no swimming for the tree, OK? hehe) and if the leaves continue to yellow/drop as it gets cooler, you really need to find out more about if it *was* an outside tree as that would mean that it is going-to-sleep naturally and you *must* allow it to continue (can explain later if not understood from the reading links above, OK?). Do not carry it in and out of house each day as this messes with the timing/cycles of temps the tree is genetically programmed to respond to normally. Practically all deciduous trees require dormancy, and those folks that refuse to honor this tree-demand always come back and post "What happened to my tree?" - and its a no-brainer as to why it died ;)

I am sure you will have more qauestions that we will be happy to clarify for you - but please statrt at those two sites for a much more 'balanced' background of 'bonsai basics'..

Again, welcome to the site. We'd love to see some pics if possible (hint, hint) but not mandatory by any means..

And it is OK to remove 'dead' yellow leaves usually, but better to let Nature take its course as the leaf-stem base upon branch generally seals itself naturally eventually, and early removal may possibly be semi-bad (but not fatal by any measure, IMO)... As tree loses more and more leaves, the need for moist soil drops proportionally - so careful to not overwater ;) Only water when soil is dry a bit under surface of soil. There is no way to water by a schedule - let tree/pot indicate when it is time.

HTH,
Alex

Smileica
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Thank you Alex, I'm already checking those adresses you recomended.
But there's something tyou've said that worries me - you've sad "Yellowing and drying leaves aren't necessarily bad - but green crisping leaves are...big difference between the two." and most of leaves were (until I cut them off) green and crisping... So, new diagnosis?

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Smileica,

Hello Gnome and thank you very much for your prompt reply and words of comfort.
You are welcome, glad to help.

Alex is quite correct in suggesting that you not move your tree around so much, this is a mistake that many novices seem to be prone to. Other than rotating my trees (to allow sun to reach all parts) they stay put for months at a time. And unless you have a tropical, which Zelkova is not, they belong outside year round.

This does not mean that they should be left to their own devices though. Some form of winter protection is necessary in many climates. While a cold frame is an option, it is not the only one. Other methods that I have used successfully are:

1. Place the tree, in the pot, on the ground in a sheltered location and mulch with a thick layer of shredded leaves. Then after the snows arrive cover the tree with a layer of snow. This is an excellent insulation and I had trees make it through last year like this when the temperature dropped to below zero degrees F.

2. If the root-ball can be removed from the pot and remain intact a proven technique is to plant the root-ball, without the pot, in the garden or flower bed. Water it in well to ensure good contact with the surrounding soil and mulch as above.

3. Keep the tree, in the pot, inside an unheated building. A shed or garage will moderate the temperatures and keep the tree out of the wind which is one of the main problems in winter. With this method you will need to check the tree periodically and maintain an evenly moist soil.

All of this assumes that you intend to attempt to allow it to go dormant. This really is a necessity but since it is now November and the tree has been inside for the last six weeks and has not been allowed to experience the natural triggers that induce dormancy this may prove problematic.

It is a beginners mistake that can only be corrected next year by allowing the tree to remain outside to experience shortening days and cooler temperatures. I never know what to say when faced with this dilemma, whatever choice you make there is the possibility of failure.

Norm

alexinoklahoma
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Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2007 12:21 pm
Location: Central Oklahoma

To elaborate more on the green *and* crispy leaves: Take a branch and suppose it is broken off. It will have green leaves (assumedly) and the nthe elaves are going t odry fom no water, adn they will remain same green color (usually anyways). This is example of what can happen if roots, or cambium is suddenly disrupted, killed ,or otherwise injured in some traumatic way. (bugs can do this too by eating roots close to trunk). With specific roots watering specific parts of tree essentially, the tree can have the leaves supplied by said root(s) being 'disappeared', to use a popular phrase. If a leaf goes through 'color' changes while becoming crispy, it has a water-suply, and something is happening internally, either normal or abnormal - but it does have a water-supply present basically.

Ever seen brkoken limbs laying on ground after a storm? And noticed how the leaves do not go through a changing of color as they would upon a slowly dying branch? They stay same color mostly and just dry up quickly Same thing. Make sense on that aspect now? Elms do that very noticeably.

Right now, my elms are slowly yellowing->browning from the lower and inner branches first and moving outwards & upwards - normal and expected as they are losing their 'supply lines' with the 'systems' going dormant. If I were to cut a limb off, the whole thing would remain green while it dried most likely.

So if any part of the tree went suddenly crispy green, there's an issue on the roots of that part of tree, more likely than not, IMO ;) Or somehow the water is not making it there. If you *do* see such crispy breen leaves, I recommend checking the roots ASAP. you can easily do this by lifting, very carefully and without lots of pressure, by holding the trunk and kinda inverting the pot a bit. A well-rooted tree *should* kinda slide outwards a bit, showing you its roots. Sometimes you have to give the pot a bump with your hand or such to encourge it to release the hold on pot's side. Not rocket science, LOL, but just use common sense. And don't make a habit of exposing the roots unless there is a 'clear and present danger'. If rootball starts to fall apart when 'inspecting', forego this. It is best done only with plants that are not recently repotted or that has been root-pruned severely.

And when I say crispy green, I mean VERY crispy, not just slightly dry leaves from need to water. So dry that when you try and crumble the leaf, it turns to dust practically before it hits the ground. I bet you see what I mean now (?)...

I fully concur w/ gnome's stuff, too. Once past the beginnngs of seasonal change, its hard to everse course either way. chances are the tree can limp along with decent enough lighting, but it will prolly be weak the next year until it can 'recharge' the tissues as it is programmed to do.

HTH, and I hope that your world there is better nowadays :)
Alex

Smileica
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Location: Serbia

Thank you so much Alex and Norm for helping me to save little fellow!

So I have to check roots. I'll do that first thing I come home and I'll let you know is everything right. And I'll taka a picture and post it.

Have a nice day both of you, so as your trees:-)

Smileica
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Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:29 pm
Location: Serbia

I've taken pics of my Zelkova but I'm not familiar with posting it here, so maybe some of you two guys can give me e-mail adress, I promise I won't use it for other purposes :D

I can't tell if everything's fine with roots... They don't seem dry or too crispy, but I'm everything but expert in any kind of plants... If I knew that having bonsai and keeping it healthy, happy and alive is so hard to do, I think I'll never accept to take it as a present before I get fully informed and skilled.

Regards,

Snezana

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Gnome
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Smileica,

This site does not support uploading pics directly, you must use a third party hosting service and link to it. Here is some information on two different hosting services.

http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... php?t=3724

If the roots were not obviously dry or rotten you are probably in good shape. The other thing to take note of is how thoroughly the roots have colonized the pot.

Norm

alexinoklahoma
Senior Member
Posts: 273
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2007 12:21 pm
Location: Central Oklahoma

I sent my e-mail addy to you as a PM. Look forward to seeing your tree, and if needed, I can put it up on my imageshack site I made for *this* site ;)

Alex

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