SemperCordeMeo
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Help!!! Umbrella Tree (with pictures) and banyan fig.

My boyfriend's father gave me two small bonsai trees about a year ago.. One is a Banyan Fig Tree and the other is a Hawaiian Umbrella Tree.

I did what he told me (he's no expert though) and for the most part they were doing really well. He had given me some general fertilizer and I was using that every couple months I think in the spring/summer.

Then all of a sudden about a month ago..and more recently in the last 2 weeks (mainly) the Umbrella tree started wilting, the leaves started to curl down and turn brown and they'd fall off at the slightest touch or jar of the tree. I pruned them... but I didnt know how much to prune the umbrella tree. I cut off the sprouts that were dead or bad off.. i actually cut one branch I believe but even since then.. more is wilting..

I don't know what to do.. I think I had let it dry out too much by accident or not fed it enough... . And I don't know if them being in the windowsill in the kitchen was a factor. But they were doing fine there forever.. I moved them to the mantle in the living room (we never use the fireplace). I thought maybe them being by the windowsill in winter in the kitchen (the window was close to the stove) made them start to die? I know that I would look at them and the leaves would look like they had stuff on them..maybe grease from the stove in the air? I started to wipe them down .But they were fine last year there when I got them.. and our winters here haven't been overly cold. I also had read that if air cannot penetrate the surface then the trees could start to die...the surface of both were hard.. so I broke up all the rocks and stuff that sit on top of the soil so that it could breathe.

I watered the Umbrella tree thoroughly and now it seems like its not soaking up all the water.. I'll give it another day though, but the surface is still wet/damp to the touch.

The Fig tree is doing better - has some new sprouts.. so i think that will be okay.. I'm more worried about the Umbrella Tree right now.

ANY advice or suggestions would be helpful!!! I just watered, "aired", pruned them and moved them into the living room about 2 days ago. I really like them.. and I don't want them to die.. especially cuz Ill feel like a jerk since he gave them to me.

Also just to note - I was using room temperature (or slightly chilled) distilled water for them and then I changed to tap water. ... What kind of water is best?
Last edited by SemperCordeMeo on Sun Feb 10, 2008 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SemperCordeMeo
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PICTURES OF MY TREES:

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees009smaller.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees008smaller.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees004smaller.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees003smaller.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees001smaller.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees002smaller.jpg[/img]


[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees005smaller.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees006smaller.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y20/SemperCordeMeo/BonsaiTrees007smaller.jpg[/img]

arboricola
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Hello Semper;

It sounds like you let it get a little too dry. Set the pot in the sink and fill with water to just below the rim of the pot. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then let it drain. Make sure the water is not cold.

Distilled water is fine as it contains no disloved salts. Let the top 1 inch of soil dry before you water again. I like to water twice. Water once until some water drains out the bottom, then wait 15 min. and water again until it starts to drain. You might want to break up the top of the soil before you water. Use a fork and gently poke the top of the soil.

Hold off feeding the plant and just snip off the yellow leaves. Leave the stem. It will fall off by itself.

Make sure your plants are getting enough light where you have them now.

Come back and let us know how the plants are doing or if something is not clear.

Phil...

SemperCordeMeo
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Thank you Phil...

I watered them the other day - constant water for about 5 minutes each.. the umbrella tree is still rather wet. But I will do what you said today for it. They do get light where they are, but I can always move them closer to the window.

And thank you for the tip on not using cold water - I think I had a few times recently in the past - which again may explain the deterioration! I know in general it's not good to use cold water on plants as it can be a shock to them...

I hope my lil guy pulls through the rest of the coldish season. I am thinking once it's warmer out he will do much better.

- Amanda

arboricola
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Amanda;

You're welcome.

One other thing. Don't let the plants sit in the drain water. Keep the pot high and dry. Also check to be sure water is coming out the drain holes.

You might consider repotting both plants this spring. For now it can wait.

Phil...

moulman
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Umbrella

Amanda,

Get all those pasted-on rocks off the surface of the soil. They are inhibiting the soils ability to dry normally, and trapping all that moisture.

I noticed in your pics (mostly on the fig, but both plants to a certain degree) a white color on the trunks. Is this from the flash, or is there really a white-ness to the trunks? If so, you may be looking at a fungal problem.

I would not water ANY more right now. Let the soil dry somewhat (after removing those glued rocks). Then reassess.


Matt

constantstaticx3
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I would guess that those white marks are mineral deposits from the hard water rather than a fungal problem, but I could be wrong.

It also seems to me that the umbrella tree has undergone some root rot. The trunk looks rotten to me. Make a small scratch in the bark somewhere on the trunk, if you see green then theres still hope and I would say let it almost completely dry out before watering again. If the trunk is soft and there is no green then I'm sorry but your tree is dead.

As for the ficus, it seems to be in pretty good shape to me. They can be fussy at times wrt their leaves dropping and such. Figs like to dry out in between waterings. I water mine only once a week if that and I have a very well draining soil. With yours be very careful not to over water or you will have big problems. Definitely repot into a better draining soil in the spring.

Tom

SemperCordeMeo
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The white more than likely is just mineral deposits as I WAS using tap water - but have been using distilled water for a little bit now with them. Should I go back to using tap water?

I lightly scratched the surface of both trees - the fig ficus was hard to scratch but was green underneath, and on the umbrella tree - the part i scratched came off VERY easily, but it was bright green underneath! :) But it does worry my how thin the bark was....The trunk was a bit light in color like that when I got it.. its never been brown or anything.

Regarding my Fig Ficus.. the whitishness on the trunk - some has appeared over time with my watering and feeding it, some was already there. But it looks a lot lighter in the pictures than in person. But there are little white notches on the trunk.. you can see them in the really close up picture - are those normal?

One day late last week I broke up all those rocks you see.. they were like a solid sheet across the top of my soil on both trees. So I broke them up a lot.. do you think i should remove some of them? maybe all of them?

constantstaticx3
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The white more than likely is just mineral deposits as I WAS using tap water - but have been using distilled water for a little bit now with them. Should I go back to using tap water?
Stick with the distilled water. Tap water is not exactly bad but it is better to use distilled because you don't get the mineral deposits.
I lightly scratched the surface of both trees - the fig ficus was hard to scratch but was green underneath, and on the umbrella tree - the part I scratched came off VERY easily, but it was bright green underneath! Smile But it does worry my how thin the bark was....The trunk was a bit light in color like that when I got it.. its never been brown or anything.
I am not worried about the ficus, just remember to let it dry out in-between waterings, but I am worried about the umbrella tree. What worries me is that the bark came of so easily. It should take a little bit of force. I believe I may be right in that the tree is rotting from too much water. I'm not familiar with this species so I'm not sure. But the shriveling of the upper branches tell me that the tree is not ok, sorry.
But it looks a lot lighter in the pictures than in person. But there are little white notches on the trunk.. you can see them in the really close up picture - are those normal?
I'm not sure what you are talking about here but it seems like it too is related to the mineral deposits so I wouldn't worry about it.
One day late last week I broke up all those rocks you see.. they were like a solid sheet across the top of my soil on both trees. So I broke them up a lot.. do you think I should remove some of them? maybe all of them?
Remove them all! The roots will be able to breath better this way and the soil can dry out more naturally. Right now this is very necessary because of the condition of the soil.

Tom

SemperCordeMeo
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Okay so I removed all the rocks on top that you see - red and white from both plants... there was so much! I also very gently loosened up the soil with a fork. And I removed any dead moss I saw as well.

I did it to both just to be on the safe side.

There was something I noticed though that caught my eye. In the soil of the ficus there was little styrofoam balls in the fertilizer/soil as well as an occasional tiny round green "ball" looking thing mixed in. These are not in the fertilizer/soil for my Umbrella Tree....could that be why the ficus is doing better?

Just curious. Again, these were given to me as a gift so I don't know what's in the soil or anything. I will do as instructed by all of you and replant them both in the spring (providing i can get the umbrella tree to last..) and when I do I will make sure the soil content is correct.

constantstaticx3
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The foam like balls are called perlite. They are not fertilizer they are just a component of the soil. The one green one is probably just from being over watered.

Tom

moulman
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ferts

Actually, the green ball IS a slow release fertilizer commonly used in retail potted plantings. It should not be of concern really.

I still feel that there is something going on with the white trunk surfaces. Watering with tap water is not going to cause calcium deposits high on the trunk, unless you have been submerging the entire tree in water ALOT. And I mean a lot.

If you look closely at the last of the pics, you will see little "clumps" of white clinging to the trunk (just below the lowest branches". This certainly looks like mold. Is that umbrella pot sitting in that white pan - full of water??!!

You have not told us how often you have been watering, nor how. This might go a long way to finding a solution. Also what kind of fertilizer? How much? How often? What strength?

I have a number of umbrellas, and the only time I have seen them look as wilty is when they have been severely overwatered. From the look of those blackish leaves I think that is what is happening.

If this were my plant, I would repot asap in a coarser, free draining mix. This is a tropical after all and there is no need to wait for spring.
Then get some plant fungicide (like "No-Damp") and treat it.
Also, you want to find a home for this guy, and then leave him there. Moving them around makes them mad. :P

For information on how to treat a scheff - look here.
https://www.bonsaihunk.us/info/ScheffleraBonsai.html

SemperCordeMeo
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my little umbrella tree is NOT doing well at all - its even more wilted and the leaves are turning black.

i NEVER submerged it in water.. and to be honest in the past I probably didnt water it enough.

i have no idea what is in the soil

i have no idea what fertilizer i used in the past - as of now I'm not using any.

It was a gift - he gave me the fertilizer with it in a plastic baggie. it was teal in color.

I am half-tempted to sit the pot on my radiator to speed up the drying out process.

if any of you have AIM or GTALK please message me!!!!

SemperCordeMeo (on both)

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Amanda,
I am half-tempted to sit the pot on my radiator to speed up the drying out process.
Please do not do that. Just leave it alone for now. Do not water it until the soil is approaching dryness. The surface should appear dry with some moisture deeper in the pot. Watering issues are probably responsible for most of the problems we see here with over-watering being the most prevalent.

You are just going to have to wait it out and see what happens. You are going to want to re-pot these plants into a proper, free draining bonsai soil. But until you do some research and acquire a proper medium there is no point in doing so. Check out the sticky threads located at the top of the forum for information on bonsai soils and re-potting.

Norm

MissyS
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Hawaiian Umbrella

Hi,

I'm new on here and I am very interested in this thread because my umbrella bonsai is in almost an identical situation as yours - the leaves have recently turned black and fallen off and I'm afraid it's almost dead! I'm very interested to see how your tree turns out and what steps you take to save it. :)

Melissa

SemperCordeMeo
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phil has been a really really big help with it...

I'm repotting my bonsai tonight.. it has root rot i need to remove to save it.

i'll keep you updated.

constantstaticx3
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Wait, did I miss something? Did you find the right soil components to put it in? I'm guessing you talked to Phil on aim? For the sake of the thread I think you should fill in the gaps here so other readers can understand what you are doing and why.

Tom

MissyS
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That was going to be one of my questions - the soil my tree is in looks like a bunch of pebbles with some wood chips and the draining tray has a bunch of small rocks. I cut into the trunk and it is still green, so I plan on trying all the tips mentioned (moving it back away from the window a little since it's cold out, trimming off dead branches, repotting and cutting off dead roots). I was curious as to where I could get new potting soil. Would getting a UV lamp or putting my tree in a conservatory help any?

I think part of my mistake was watering my tree with our tap water, and I didn't realize that soft water was bad for it. I've been using bottled spring water to water it the past couple weeks, but it looks like I should switch to distilled.

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MissyS,
so I plan on trying all the tips mentioned (moving it back away from the window a little since it's cold out, trimming off dead branches, repotting and cutting off dead roots)...the soil my tree is in looks like a bunch of pebbles with some wood chips and the draining tray has a bunch of small rocks.
That is what a proper bonsai medium is supposed to look like. Here is a picture of the soil in one of my grow boxes.
[url=https://img246.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zelkovarootswa9.jpg][img]https://img246.imageshack.us/img246/8060/zelkovarootswa9.th.jpg[/img][/url]
If your soil resembles this you may not need to re-pot. Unless you know that you indeed have rotted roots you may not need to re-pot. How long have you owned it? Can you describe your watering practices? What method have you been using, immersion or watering from above? Has the soil been allowed to partially dry between watering?
I think part of my mistake was watering my tree with our tap water, and I didn't realize that soft water was bad for it. I've been using bottled spring water to water it the past couple weeks, but it looks like I should switch to distilled.
I routinely use well water for most species but I do not use a water softener so I do not have the issue of the added sodium to deal with.

Norm

MissyS
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Hi!

First of all, thank you so much for your help - I really appreciate it!

The soil in my tree looks very similar to the soil shown in your picture. I received the tree as a gift in May '07 and I used a water bottle to water it. Using a fine mist, I would wet the leaves and branches, then work my way down the trunk and soil. I only added enough water until I saw it drain in the drain tray. The tree thrived until about a month ago, but I always noticed that the leaves had a sticky looking film on them. I recently learned that might have been a result of the soft water I was using. I watered the tree when the drain tray was dry and the soil felt semi-dry.

I have been sick the past 2 months, so my poor bonsai hasn't received the same tlc that it once did (close attention to it's need for water, it may have been allowed to dry out too much), so I'm sure that is another factor. If it's possible that it may not need repotting, how can I tell if it has root rot?

Thanks again for your help!

Melissa

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Melissa,
First of all, thank you so much for your help - I really appreciate it!
You're welcome, glad to help.
The soil in my tree looks very similar to the soil shown in your picture.
Then consider yourself lucky, proper bonsai medium is the exception among mass produced bonsai. Although we have not yet seen it I would wager that the soil in the other Schefflera is more akin to conventional potting soil, primarily peat. The coarse nature of the soil in your pot assures the fast drainage and aeration required to maintain a tree in a small pot.
I used a water bottle to water it. Using a fine mist, I would wet the leaves and branches, then work my way down the trunk and soil. I only added enough water until I saw it drain in the drain tray.
A spray bottle, while useful for wetting the foliage, is not really a good way to ensure that the entire root mass is thoroughly wetted, this should be your goal every time you water. In the future I suggest you take the pot to the sink or tub and water copiously from above until all of the medium is saturated. Wat 5 or 10 minutes and repeat, this makes sure that all of the soil is saturated. This is not over-watering, you cannot over-water a plant in one instance. Where people get in trouble is not allowing the soil to dry adequately between waterings, that is over-watering. I am concerned that you have not been watering well enough to consistently wet all of the soil, make sure you do so.
but I always noticed that the leaves had a sticky looking film on them. I recently learned that might have been a result of the soft water I was using.
Misting with water that has minerals in it can often result in a white powdery film on the foliage that is easily rubbed off. Does that sound like what you have observed?
[url=https://img260.imageshack.us/my.php?image=ficusspots4ut.jpg][img]https://img260.imageshack.us/img260/5197/ficusspots4ut.th.jpg[/img][/url]

When you say you have soft water do you mean that you use a water softener or that you have naturally soft water? If the former then you are right to be concerned, if the latter I don't think it should be a problem. Water softeners work using some form of sodium and most sources suggest not using this water for plants. I don't have this problem so that is not from personal experience.
I watered the tree when the drain tray was dry and the soil felt semi-dry.
That sounds pretty good, make sure to check the soil deeper in the pot not just at the surface. The soil at the surface will obviously dry sooner that the bulk of the soil and if you water as soon as the surface appears dry the soil in the depths of the pot will never get a chance to dry. Tree roots need air as well as water and a constantly wet medium can tend to exclude it.
I have been sick the past 2 months, so my poor bonsai hasn't received the same tlc that it once did (close attention to it's need for water, it may have been allowed to dry out too much), so I'm sure that is another factor. If it's possible that it may not need repotting, how can I tell if it has root rot?
Sorry to hear that you have been ill. From your description of free draining soil and infrequent, and possibly incomplete, watering I doubt that root rot is the issue for you. A more likely scenario is that, as you suspect, it is suffering from a lack of water in the recent past. You have corrected the situation, haven't you? If you feel the soil is still too dry, water it by the immersion method once. This is not the correct way to water as a matter of routine, read the general growing stick at the top of the forum please, but it can be used from time to time especially if a tree is suffering from dehydration.

Norm

SemperCordeMeo
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constantstaticx3 wrote:Wait, did I miss something? Did you find the right soil components to put it in? I'm guessing you talked to Phil on aim? For the sake of the thread I think you should fill in the gaps here so other readers can understand what you are doing and why.

Tom
Yes, I did speak with Phil on AIM. He had me do an emergency repotting which we talked about and then he walked me through last night over the course of a few hours. At this moment he said it wasn't overly important to have the proper soil mixture. I didn't have the time nor did my tree. My tree's roots weren't all black, but a few were and most others were soft or the casing slipped off easily. So I had to trim the roots down significantly to remove as much rot as possible.

The large main roots and medium roots are all in tact still.

The cause was overwatering it. Because I had those rocks on the top of my soil, my tree didn't dry out enough nor was it getting the air it needed. Also I wasn't misting it until really recently. And with it being in the kitchen, it's possible the pores on the leaves were getting clogged. I would sometimes wipe them down gently when I noticed a residue on them, but never thought to mist them.

For now, I have it replanted in a larger clay pot as opposed to the small plastic tray it came in. He also had me trim off any dead, black, or brown leaves and stems. In addition I pruned the tip of the main branches and he had me apply vasaline to them to keep the moisture in. I am keeping a plastic bag draped over it to keep it humidified and will mist it once a day and water when necessary. And I am keeping it out of direct sunlight as instructed.

He said if it's going to survive I will see new growth in about 3 weeks. Then he said we'll talk about repotting both of them to the proper soil mixture. I am crossing my fingers my little guy survives.

On a positive note, my banyan fig bonsai is doing well... he has sprouted a lot of new growth this past week or so since I have removed those rocks, pruned him and began misting him.

MissyS
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Well thank you all for your help, but my husband took the tree to a local bonsai nursery out here and the prognosis was bad - it's dead. Apparently it died from exposure to the cold (the window I've had it in must have been too drafty). I'm kind of bummed about it, but I guess I'll know how to take better care of my bonsai next time. :(

Thanks again,

Melissa

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Melissa,

If it is any consolation everyone on this board has killed trees, some more than a few. Don't be discouraged it happens to us all.

I'll leave you with two quotes attributed to the late [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Naka]John Naka,[/url] considered by many to be the father of bonsai in America.

"Dead trees are tuition one pays to learn bonsai" and "Even monkeys fall from trees" Which I take to mean that even experts fail from time to time.

[url=https://users.ez2.net/manning/profiles/goshin/goshin.html]Goshin[/url]

[img]https://www.artofbonsai.org/galleries/images/john_naka/small/Goshin023.jpg[/img]

Norm
Last edited by Gnome on Fri Feb 15, 2008 7:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

arboricola
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Melissa;

If you still have the plant take some green stem cuttings. Stick them in potting soil and keep damp. All may not be lost.

I'm curious to know if the plant was in a plastic pot.

And, of course, Gnome is right. Won some, lose some. Don't give up.

Phil...

MissyS
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Thanks for all the great help! The tree was disposed of before I got a chance take any cuttings. It was in a shallow pottery-type pot, not in plastic. I'll definitely be back on here when I have questions about my new bonsai, which is also a Hawaiian Umbrella.

See you all around!

Melissa

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