VR6 Mk3
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Using a Schefflera branch as a bonsai

I received a Schefflera last year as a gift, and the plant seems to be doing very well. There was one stray branch growing out of the side that I thought looked bad, and made the plant difficult to place in the area where I wanted it. I cut this branch off and replanted it, not with the intention of growing a bonsai, but just to not waste it.

This was some time last year. Now the branch has grown some serious roots, to the point that I need to repot it again, and it's got a bud of a new branch starting on the top.

I would like to do something interesting with this branch, as it looks fairly boring and strange now. It would be interesting to shape it into a bonsai, but I don't really know where to start, or even if this is a good starting place for a novice. Please tell me what you think.

Here is a picture of the current branch, and the original plant in the background. Thanks!

[img]https://www.maxpowered.com/images/VR6Mk3/Plants/Schefflera.jpg[/img]

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Gnome
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VR6 Mk3,

Scheffleras will respond well to hard pruning so you definitely can work with them. The cutting is, as you noted, rather boring right now. It is also a little on the thin side. Since you say it needs to be re-potted I think I would go ahead and re-pot without doing any pruning. The longer you let it go before you prune the thicker the trunk will become. The one in the background probably has more potential but you may not be willing to chop it down.

[url]https://bonsaihunk.8m.com/info/ScheffleraBonsai.html[/url]

Norm

alisios
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Very nice picture with great composition - we have a bunch of great photographers here!

VR6 Mk3
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Gnome wrote:Scheffleras will respond well to hard pruning so you definitely can work with them. The cutting is, as you noted, rather boring right now. It is also a little on the thin side. Since you say it needs to be re-potted I think I would go ahead and re-pot without doing any pruning. The longer you let it go before you prune the thicker the trunk will become. The one in the background probably has more potential but you may not be willing to chop it down.

[url]https://bonsaihunk.8m.com/info/ScheffleraBonsai.html[/url]

Norm
Do you think that this cutting will start to grow more side branches, or only vertical? If I wait for the trunk to thicken for a while, can I prune the whole top of it and wait for new growth, or does it need to retain some leaves?

Yeah, the one in the background was a gift as I said. That, and it's a nice looking plant, so I'd like to leave it as it is. I'm trying to prune any additional side growth and just grow it as tall as possible since it seems to fit well in that corner. It's hard to tell from the picture, but it's actually quite tall.

I'll check out that website when I get a chance. Thanks!

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VR6 Mk3,

I don't grow this species but we have others here who do, Phil are you out there? The way I understand it is that they will tend to grow taller until you take action and prune them. You can chop this species quite hard and it should back-bud on old wood at the location of one, or more, of the old nodes. Let it grow freely until you are satisfied with the diameter of the trunk.

I tend not to re-pot and chop hard in the same year so think about that. If you decide to chop it now don't re-pot soon. Conversely if you re-pot now don't chop it too soon. If this were deciduous material I would say wait a whole season between these major actions but since this is tropical and should be active almost year-round I am being deliberately vague. Just don't rush things.

Norm

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Gnome wrote:Let it grow freely until you are satisfied with the diameter of the trunk.
Makes sense. Just curious if anyone knows how quickly these grow? Will it thicken up significantly in, say, a year, many years, etc?
I tend not to re-pot and chop hard in the same year so think about that.
Sounds like good advice. I will probably repot soon, since the roots are coming out of the pot all over the place, and worry about chopping it later after it thickens.

If and when I do chop it, do I also need to cut the roots back to match? What happens if I don't, out of curiosity?

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sean117Ply
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Those trees are native here, they are vigorous growers so I think any chop you do should be fine. But they don't really seem to develope a trunk but they sometimes; send down aerial roots which looks cool. The best thing about them is their tolerance of low light.

You don't have to cut the roots back to match, nothing really happends.

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We've been using Schefflera in our toad terrarium for about 3 or 4 years now. They DO develop "trunks", at some point, as can be evidenced by older potted plants in nurseries and homes, but this can take many years. The ones in our toad tank have to, necessarily, be chopped back routinely to prevent overgrowing the tank. The oldest single plant in there currently has been in about two years (we also dig up and toss material when it gets too full or too tree-like as well) and is JUST starting to develop a woody appearance to the trunk. As stated, hard pruning if probably going to be your best bet with the material pictured since the trunk is already very tall, and the lowermost leaves very high up on the plant. I'd chop it down completely to the first set of leaves, and keep chopping it back to the lowermost leaves (if new ones sprout) every time it's attained 6-8 leaf sets. I'm currently doing this with a cutting I've taken from the toad tank and it's growing well, but hasn't branched just yet (it's been about 4 months), but is developing some woody appearance to the trunk.

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Now I'm very inexperienced, so maybe this would be over my head, but if I wanted to develop the exposed roots, I think I read that you would repot the plant with a rock underneath and then after it's given some time to grow roots around it, start slowly exposing the roots? Any more details on how to do this safely, how long to let it grow, etc?

Also, not that I know what I'm doing, but if I wanted to try to shape the trunk, would that be better to do while it's still green and thinner (maybe not something I should try yet, but still curious)?

kdodds
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Schefflera are hard to wire and wiring is not always successful, especially not the first time. You might be better off weighting or tying to the pot.

Aerial roots on Schefflera are very easy to encourage in a moist environment. The ones in our toad tank (not bonsai) develop aerial roots readily, and after only a few months. If you want a "root over rock", by all means, use the rock. But, if you don't, you might try sphagnum moss, misted daily, around the base.

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kdodds wrote:Aerial roots on Schefflera are very easy to encourage in a moist environment. The ones in our toad tank (not bonsai) develop aerial roots readily, and after only a few months. If you want a "root over rock", by all means, use the rock. But, if you don't, you might try sphagnum moss, misted daily, around the base.
Do you know of any tutorials on how to do this? Thanks!

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Which, the rock or the sphagnum?

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VR6 Mk3,

To create root over rock is pretty easy it just takes time. At the next re-pot begin the process. After choosing an appropriate rock spread the roots around the rock then surround the rock with some sort of flexible cylinder, it's up to you to choose an appropriate material. It must be stable enough to last a couple of seasons. Fill in around the planting with soil and wait.

Over the next few years gradually trim the cylinder down and as you water the soil will slowly be washed away. This is a process that cannot be rushed. I did this once but I forget what I used for the cylinder and exactly how long it took.

Norm

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Best thing for this is a soda bottle. They're cheap and readily available, and come in different sizes. If you need something bigger than a 3-liter bottle, though, that might be tough.

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kdodds wrote:Which, the rock or the sphagnum?
Either one.

So you trim away at the soda bottle and remove the soil down to that level?

How slowly and how frequently are we talking about cutting away at it? Like cutting a quarter inch each month, or one inch once a year, etc?

Thanks!

I repotted it today to give the roots some more room to grow. Probably later this year, or next I would like to start this process, after the trunk gets a bit thicker, unless you guys think otherwise.

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VR6 Mk3,
So you trim away at the soda bottle and remove the soil down to that level?
Yes, just to clarify it is an open ended cylinder. It could even be slit up the side to facilitate placing it around the assembled plant/rock. A few holes up both edges would allow it to be "stitched" together. You don't actually have to remove the soil as the act of watering helps to erode it slowly.
How slowly and how frequently are we talking about cutting away at it? Like cutting a quarter inch each month, or one inch once a year, etc?
It is not really possible to say as every situation will be different. If the roots are long enough initially to make it to the soil in the pot it would go quicker. If the roots are initially too short and are only within the cylinder it will take longer.

Norm

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Gnome wrote:VR6 Mk3,
So you trim away at the soda bottle and remove the soil down to that level?
Yes, just to clarify it is an open ended cylinder. It could even be slit up the side to facilitate placing it around the assembled plant/rock. A few holes up both edges would allow it to be "stitched" together. You don't actually have to remove the soil as the act of watering helps to erode it slowly.
How slowly and how frequently are we talking about cutting away at it? Like cutting a quarter inch each month, or one inch once a year, etc?
It is not really possible to say as every situation will be different. If the roots are long enough initially to make it to the soil in the pot it would go quicker. If the roots are initially too short and are only within the cylinder it will take longer.

Norm
I guess maybe I still don't totally understand how it works. The cylinder is within another pot, and I fill the soil higher inside the cylinder than the level of the pot?

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VR6 Mk3,

Perhaps this will clarify the process I am describing. You will not be doing this soon since you have just re-potted and it is such young material. A few years of growing out will allow the roots to lengthen and the plant to gain some bulk.
[url=https://img405.imageshack.us/my.php?image=rootoverrockrz2.jpg][img]https://img405.imageshack.us/img405/4930/rootoverrockrz2.th.jpg[/img][/url]

Please excuse my crude artwork.

Norm

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Cool, thanks!

Is this something good for me to start with, since it will take a few years like you said?

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VR6 Mk3,
Is this something good for me to start with, since it will take a few years like you said?
That's entirely up to you, it is not terribly difficult just time consuming. Consider this though, is the material you're considering using worth the effort it will take to complete this or are you better off looking for something a little further along?

Norm

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Gnome wrote:VR6 Mk3,
Is this something good for me to start with, since it will take a few years like you said?
That's entirely up to you, it is not terribly difficult just time consuming. Consider this though, is the material you're considering using worth the effort it will take to complete this or are you better off looking for something a little further along?

Norm
That was my question. I mean right now this one isn't costing me anything, and requires hardly any time to care for, so it's not a big deal. I could always buy another plant down the road if I think I need to I guess. I like this this is an indoor plant, and very easy to care for.

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VR6 Mk3,

Since you just re-potted it you have some time to consider your options. Here is some more information.

[url]https://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATRootoverrock.htm[/url]

[url]https://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATrootoverrock2.htm[/url]

Norm

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I'd say cut the bottle down about ½" per month, but that would vary too depending on how much root growth you want on the rock and the size of the rock and plant. For getting expeosed roots through sphagnum, simply pile sphagnum around the base (or secure with raffia in suspended areas) and keep it moist, misting as often as needed. Give is a few months and you should have root growth.

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Thanks guys!

kdodds
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FWIW, I happen to agree with Norm about the material, I don't think this specimen, as it currently looks, lends itself very nicely to root over, root on, or root in rock styles. I think I would start with something more compact, less "leggy". Just my 2¢.

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