Jo
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Chinese Elm Leaves Turning Brown and Curling

Hi
my boyfriend bought me a bonsai for christmas, i think its a chinese elm but not sure (can someone confirm from the photo)
recently the leaves have started curling and some have turned brown, i have been keeping it in a fairly cool room next to a window and watering it every few days with a sprayer and also feeding it plant food. its not critical (i hope) but it doesn't look too healthy.. can anyone help?!


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arboricola
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Hi Jo;

Looks like a c. elm to me. Save the sprayer for misting and give the tree a good soaking til water runs out the drain holes. Wait 10 minutes and water again. Don't water again until the top inch or so of soil is dry. Do not fertilize dry soil. Do this on the second watering and only about every 2 weeks.

Other reasons could be not enough light, too cool temps. at night and low humidity.

You might move the tree to a brighter and warmer location and use a humidity tray. This is a low dish that the pot will sit in and filled with a ½ inch of water. Raise the pot so it is not sitting in the water. Some people use gravel or rocks in the bottom with the pot sitting on top, but anything will do as long as the pot is not sitting in the water.

Phil...

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Jo,

I agree with Phil, the mister is not really a good way to ensure that your soil is thoroughly saturated. That should be your goal every time you water. I can just barely see the soil but it looks like it is rather dry and the shoots are wilted. Read the general growing sticky thread located at the top of the forum for some tips on watering. We don't recommend watering by immersion as a matter of routine but as an emergency measure it has its place.

Norm

alisios
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..on the other hand, the Jade is doing well! :D

Jo
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Thank you all for your comments! I have watered it properly and am off to buy a humidity tray :)

arboricola
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Jo;

You're welcome and let us know if you have more questions.

Phil...

alexinoklahoma
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I wanna add that there is a *great* chance that that tree will lose a good deal of leaves from such things that have happened (the 'drought', so to speak). Not uncommon at all ;-) It *should* bounce back no problem (hopefully), but a period of mostly-leafless may occur - don't freak (or give more fertilizer!). Also, when leafless, a tree uses little, if any, water - so careful to not overwater if leaf-drop(s) occur soon, OK? :-)

Just as an FYI: usually leafbuds will start swelling ~a week or two after leaf-drop, so you won't have to wait too awfully long to see signs of 'life'... Plus, not unusual for the smaller/newest 'twigs' to fail to revive when such 'drought' occurs, so you may have plenty of twigs to snap off soon ;-) No rush, though, of course! Twigs with green crispy leaves are probably going to be no-go, brown/crispy foliage is normal/expected, green-crispy ain't, almost as a rule with Ulmus...

HTH,
Alex

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Alex,

Thanks for the additional information, you are quite right it will be a bit of a waiting game for a while. I would like to get your input on something else regarding this tree. Take a look at the portion of soil that is visible. Although the picture does not show much it appears that the soil is the usual dense, peat based medium that we avoid.

Obviously a re-potting is in order eventually but the question is when. I am always at a loss when faced with these out-of-season re-pottings. This situation is similar to the other Chinese Elm we saw recently. Although that tree and soil are in better condition than this one so the urgency is not a the same level IMO.
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6906

If it leafs out in the near future I would be reluctant to re-pot in the spring. Waiting another 14 months until next spring is too long considering the state of the soil. I'm not a big fan of slip-potting as this can set up a situation where there are two different soil types in the same pot. What are your thoughts?

BTW good to have you posting again. And Phil, by all means give us your thoughts as well. Thanks guys.

Norm

alexinoklahoma
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Thx, Norm - good to be back :-)

That soil does *appear* to be at least semi-inappropriate, at least for such a pot...if that really is a shallowish 'true' bonsai' pot, that is. I venture to say that the tree (and what it would take to make outstanding from this point!) is above Jo's abilities *for now*, but it is at a great starting point overall, and I do not mean to offend Jo whatsoever (honestly, I promise)...

I see a really good-movement tree with lots of good cut-back points to get some taper going, and all that lurking within the 'mess' of branchings (that tree is way too tall for itself currently!!! but that is *my opinion* so think before acting, Jo, please).

Firstly, it could definitely use a repotting into a pot-size more 'forgiving', like a bit deeper/wider/longer, etc (again, only if truly a shallow pot that is root-restricting) with a good gritty non-soggy-like soil (plenty to learn *there*, LOL!) if a good recovery is to be more-easily done right now. Chances are that some growth is going to die-back, hence new roots will be forming with the regrowths (right?), so repotting ASAP to coincide with such seems, to me, to be appropriate (y'all concur??). I may be assuming too much in the die-back I predict, but it seems inevitable at this point - most elms take a fair bit of 'abuse' before they look like that, IME, so it likely got 'hammered' by drought (lack of better term here) and is gonna do what I almost always have seen elms do after such - leaf-drop and good backbudding of new 'twigs' (so long as roots ain't toast, which is unlikely here, IMO). If the tree had not been dried, it could be worked within that 'tight' pot, but not very much, of course, but again, it lacks good taper and ramification; call it a quickie-tree probably gotten at a good price...a bit more time/effort can make it into a really, really nice tree ;-)

So...having said that, I would get a decent slightly deeper/bigger pot and repot it into that, even going so far as to give it a good root-trimming if it is fairly root-bound in there (bet it is!!!). This will let tree get back its vigor and also grow out new growth in a healthy way, and ramify it as it grows out. *If* so desired, it would be a good time to cut it back (do I see a branching at that first curve?!) to get rid of the typical 'S' bend that is non-unique nowadays and work in some new upwards growth and branchings from *that*...call it a start-over with a great base/nebari. I am only suggesting this as now would be a good time, but it is not mandatory by any means (!). It would take 2-3 years to get the tree worked into a great tapered thing from this point, or using what is there its gonna take at least a full season to get the new growth shaped/ramified anyways - assuming that the die-back happens...

At least make sure it is good gritty soil-mix, and work the ramifying of the 'pads' big-time as it will look soooo much better overall as the leaves will stay smaller/tighter and much more in-proportion. Keep it semi-moist, but always more-dry than soggy wet (if that makes sense), and only fert it when it appears to be actively growing; too much fert will make it grow too fast and give you rather long internodes, ruining the ramification (call it overfeeding, I guess). The tree is at a point where you want it going slower rather than faster in essence, IMO - unless it is repotted into bigger pot and reworked, of course ;-)

I do hope I am not speaking over your head, Jo - you *do* have a nice tree there, but it is like jumping into deep end of pool only knowing how to tread water if you are only semi-experienced with 'technical' parts of this stuff (you came to good place, fwiw!)... If I seemed to contradict myself, I'm happy to explain/clarify my rambling typing, haha....

HTH,
Alex

Jo
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Thanks again to everyone for their advise - much appreciated
I have been watering my tree properly and it now has a humidifier, it seems to be doing much better :)

As you said quite a few of the leaves are dropping and have also turned yellow. I agree with you all about the pot being insufficient and i will repot ASAP
Jo
[img]https://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg187/joburr/IMG_0473-1.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg187/joburr/IMG_0474.jpg[/img]

arboricola
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Jo;

Your tree is making a good comeback. I would hold off repotting til spring. It should be fully recovered by then and spring is the best time to repot...
What is that you have in your tray? It looks like Hydroton. In any case it will work just fine..


Phil...

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Jo,

I'm glad to see that your tree is on the mend. I have a question for you; are you able and willing to keep this tree outside from this spring forward? Chinese Elms are sub-tropical and are more flexible in this regard than say a Maple or a Pine.

Some growers, myself included, keep them as temperate trees, allowing full dormancy. Some allow a brief dormancy during early winter and then bring them inside. Your intentions have some bearing on possible scenarios regarding re-potting. Don't rush into anything.

Norm

Jo
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Hi
I was going to mostly keep it inside during the summer, as summers here are a bit volatile, however I will let it sit in the sun (not direct) for an afternoon or two
Jo

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Jo,
I was going to mostly keep it inside during the summer, as summers here are a bit volatile, however I will let it sit in the sun (not direct) for an afternoon or two
Please reconsider, even those who prefer not to allow a full dormancy usually keep their trees outside during warm weather. The tree will do much better I assure you.

One way to handle this would be to allow the tree to experience a period of cold temperatures in the fall before bringing it inside for the winter. During this short "dormancy" is one appropriate time to re-pot, the other being in spring before a dormant tree leafs out.

When you do re-pot be aware that the types of growing mediums most bonsai enthusiasts use bears little resemblance to garden or potting soil. This is an area that you need to research before you contemplate re-potting. For now just continue to monitor the moisture in the soil and only water as necessary.

Norm

Jo
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The story continues....

Hi again
My tree has recently gone a bit mad growth wise, and has sprouted some 'giant' leaves - i haven't pruned my tree at all (yet) as i wanted to let it grow and didn't want to distress it after its 'drought'

After doing some research i found that 'giant' leaves can be due to lack of light. However my tree is in a west facing window and has a good 8 hours a day.
Thanks again for everyones time and advice

Jo

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Jo,

Glad to hear that things are looking up.
I haven't pruned my tree at all (yet) as I wanted to let it grow and didn't want to distress it after its 'drought'
Good move, there will be plent of time for pruning/styling later.
After doing some research I found that 'giant' leaves can be due to lack of light. However my tree is in a west facing window and has a good 8 hours a day.
The light behind a window, especially behind the louvers is not as intense as you might think. Some supplemetnal lighting would not hurt and please think about the possibility of getting it outside this spring.

Norm

Jo
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Thanks

Hi Norm

Thanks for your reply, I will reassess its location and will get it outdoors in the spring / summer when the weather gets better.

Thanks again
Jo

Jo
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Repot - am I too late?

Hello Again

I was going to repot my tree (Chinese Elm) this spring, although it is April I was waiting until the weather here (UK) got warmer as it is still quite cold (frost at night) I also read that you should wait until you see new buds/shoots. There is not a lot of new growth but a few new leaves. I don;t want to harm my tree by repotting too late, but I also don't want to harm it by waiting until autumn to repot as it is quite root bound - roots are appearing on top of the soil and the pot is too small for it. It seems to be doing really well and looks healthy at the moment
Any advice would be appreciated as always
Jo

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Jo,
I also read that you should wait until you see new buds/shoots.
Unless I am mistaken I think that this refers to plants that have been dormant. Since yours has been kept evergreen that point is not relevant to you. Have you acquired a decent bonsai soil or the components to make one? You also mentioned that you feel it needs a larger pot, do you have one on hand?

I have no experience re-potting a Chinese Elm that has been kept as yours has since I allow mine to go dormant. I would really prefer to do this work on a dormant tree. I suppose if you really feel it would be beneficial now is as good a time as any. Cold weather must surely be almost behind you by now and you can always shelter it overnight if you must.

How confident are you about doing the work? It will be necessary to remove all (within reason) of the old soil from the roots. You do not want to have a situation where a core of dense, compacted soil is at the base of your tree. This will require some effort but the next re-potting will be much easier.

Norm

Jo
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Hi Norm

Thanks for your reply, I haven't acquired the pot, soil etc but I have read up on the tools that are needed and know of a bonsai centre nearby which has them. I don't feel overly confident about repotting, but have read the sticky on the forum which provides good information so i think i know what to do. As long as it doesn't put my tree under too much stress at this time of year i am happy to repot
Thanks again
Jo

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