Chinese_Elvis
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Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 5:14 pm
Location: Southport, UK

(Chinese Elm) - Loads of new shoots appearing - Next Step?

Hello. I've been meaning to post on this forum for a while but never managed to get round to it.

Anyway, I'm based in the United Kingdom and bought a Bonsai last Christmas. I bought it from a Homebase store for £15 (was meant to be £30). The instructions on the box stated that the tree was 15 years old. Over Christmas I also purchased The Bonsai Survival Manual by Colin Lewis. The pot tag that came with the Bonsai stated that it was a Zelkova, but the plant didn't look like the Zelkova in the book, and I figured out it wasn't a Zelkova but a Chinese Elm. The book also mentioned that Chinese Elms are purposely marked up as Zelkova to avoid import restrictions or something along those lines.

Anyway to start with my tree didn't do that well. A lot of the leave were turning Yellow and falling off. The Bonsai came in a clear plastic box, and I presumed that this created a nice greenhouse effect and taking it out of the box may have shocked it slightly and was probably adjusting to it new surroundings. The tree seemed to stabilise and I've been watering it till water comes out of the drainage holes when the soil becomes dry, then repeating after 10 minutes. I've also been misting it every other day or so and making sure the humidity tray has some water in it every morning.

Over the past month or two the tree has started to produce some seriously big shoots. The leaves on some of these shoots are 3 times as big as the original tree. I read in the book that pruning doesn't start till in the spring. Here are some pictures of my Bonsai:

[url=https://imageshack.us][img]https://img120.imageshack.us/img120/6470/bonsai002by4.jpg[/img][/url]

Big shoots and big leaves on them:

[url=https://imageshack.us][img]https://img171.imageshack.us/img171/6572/bonsai003yz8.jpg[/img][/url]

Close up comparison of original leaves and new shoot leaves (badly taken sorry):

[url=https://imageshack.us][img]https://img171.imageshack.us/img171/5193/bonsai004ij1.jpg[/img][/url]


The reason for this post is I want to know what I should do next? I take it I need to re pot the Bonsai and start pruning the tree back. I haven't bought any pruning tools and was wondering what tools I would need.

I just need some basic pointers to get me on my way. I be really appreciative of any tips or hints too.

Regards,
Warren.

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Warren,

Welcome to bonsai and our forum. You seem to be off to a pretty good start. You've ID'd your tree, I agree by the way. Nursed it past the transition period and, perhaps most importantly, begun to do research. Good job.

Two thoughts come to mind regarding the size of the new leaves. One would be the use of high N fertilizer that could cause coarse growth, but since you did not mention fertilizer that probably is not the case. The other possibility might be that light levels that are too low. Indoor trees almost always will benefit from some form of supplemental lighting. Even a simple compact fluorescent bulb would help.

New shoots can be cut back to two or three leaves after the shoots are have elongated to perhaps four to six inches. Your tree has to grow in order to stay healthy, don't fall into the trap of thinking that your tree should always look well manicured. Simply use a small pair of scissors to cut the shoots, now need for concave cutters for that type of simple pruning. If yo were going to remove substantial branches it would be a different story.

By the way I hope you are willing/able to keep your tree outside during the summer, it will do much better.

Norm

Chinese_Elvis
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Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 5:14 pm
Location: Southport, UK

Hi Gnome thanks for your time.

Yes your right I'm not using any fertilizer, I never managed to get hold of any. I'm thinking of cutting all the big leaved shoots back, would this me ok? I mean right back to the way it was previously. Could I harm my tree in doing this? Would it be ok to use normal household scissors to do this?

On the light issue its been very overcast here in the UK lately. On the odd days we've had some continuous sunshine my tree seems to look a lot greener and healthier. Spring is here now and hopefully more sunshine is just around the corner. I put my tree by the window and It does get a fair amount of light.

Will I need to re pot the plant at all? By re potting I take it that is just putting new soil in the pot etc. not actually replacing the pot?

Regards,
Warren.

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Gnome
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Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:17 am
Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Warren,
I'm thinking of cutting all the big leaved shoots back, would this me ok? I mean right back to the way it was previously. Could I harm my tree in doing this? Would it be ok to use normal household scissors to do this?
New shoots can be cut back to two or three leaves after the shoots are have elongated to perhaps four to six inches. Your tree has to grow in order to stay healthy, don't fall into the trap of thinking that your tree should always look well manicured. Simply use a small pair of scissors to cut the shoots, now need for concave cutters for that type of simple pruning. If yo were going to remove substantial branches it would be a different story.
Your tree is not static, if you try to keep it unchanged it will be trouble. Even masterpiece trees are occasionally redesigned. You do of course have options but until you have the basics down I think I would take it slow.
Will I need to re pot the plant at all? By re potting I take it that is just putting new soil in the pot etc. not actually replacing the pot?
Eventually all bonsai will need to be re-potted. The old pot could be reused or a new one chosen.

Norm

kdodds
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Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

I know I made these very common mistakes when I got my first trees. I was a young teenager at the time, which probably didn't help things. ;) Anyway... I'm a little foggy on the details of the reasoning I had at the time, this being almost 30 years ago, but here goes:

Watering - I made the assumption that it could be watered like a houseplant, and then overwatered as compensation, I guess.

Fertilizing - I didn't do it, figuring it wasn't necessary since the tree was supposed to be small, and I equated that with malnourishment, I guess.

Placement - Indoor trees are tropical or subtropical, outdoor trees are defined by your climate, they have no shelter and must be compatible, more or less, with the area in which you live. So, if you live on the equator, or thereabouts, the traditional "outdoor" trees like Pines, Maples, etc. won't work for you. Keep in mind that your Chinese Elm has a fairly wide range. Here in the states, most seeds, seedlings, and trees come from Elms from a more temperate climate and are more suitable as cold house or outdoor specimens here in the north. I've been trying to find seeds, seedlings or starters from indoor trees, no luck so far.

Wiring and pruning - This is where you fall in. Minor wiring can be done mostly year round on most indoor trees. Major wiring should be left, usually, to the time when you're repotting. Pruning is you primary issue here. You've received great advice so far. I just wanted to repeat that trees, bonsai or no, are dynamic, living organisms. By definition, they will grow, they will continue growing until they die. Because they grow, they will change.

As "scruffy" as your tree looks right now, it's not IMO, really all that bad. The style of your tree dictates that the extending horizontal branches should come from the outer edge of each arc. So, you can safely trim/prune off all branches and shoots growing from the inner arcs. Be careful here, tho. If there are a lot, or if they're older branches, you might want to take off less at first and then more in another few weeks or so. Anyway, that should be you start. Then, a week or two after you're done, if you want to keep the tree as compact as possible and maintain its look, I'd suggest waiting until the new shoots are 3-6 leaf pairs long. Once they've attained that length, cut all back to 1-2 pairs. You can also prune off any larger, unsightly leaves at this point. Be careful not to trim away any new growth springing from the bases of these leaves, though, you might want or need that growth later. So, you've now taken care of the growth on the inner arcs and most of the new shoots. If the tree still looks a little messy, you can, after a couple of weeks, start removing some new growth entirely. I'm not intimately familiar with Elms, but what works for me is to leave at least 50% of the new growth.

HTH and Good Luck!

Pictures when you're done!

Oh, on last thing, invest in a pair of concave cutters. For largish trees like yours, particulary if there's old growth that needs to go, they make things a whole lot easier and wound appearance a whole lot more aesthetically pleasing once healed. You can accomplish the save with careful hollowing after a cut, but it's a lot more work.

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sean117Ply
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

What you want to do is refine your branches.
First cut the shoots back to 1-2 leaves, if there are shoots coming out the trunk in a place you don't want; cut it right off. To make a branch find a strong shoot in the right place and just let it grow, then next growing season cut to the lenght you want.

With the watering; since its inside you would probly only have to water every 3-4 days don't water too much the roots could rot just keep the soil moist. Turn the bonsai around every now and again to let the sunlight hit both sides.

When repotting just cut a 3rd of the roots off, and mix in some slow release fertilizer into the soil. But its best to repot at the start of the growing season.

don't buy $300 dollar bonsai tool set (unless you want to) I just use normal garden tools and a chop stick.

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sean117Ply
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Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:36 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Eventually your branches will look like proper branches and the leaves will shrink. Here's my chinese elm after doing this:

[img]https://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh108/sean117Ply/ChineseElm.jpg[/img]

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