Newly Registered
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:54 pm

Chinese Elm losing leaves

Hello all!

I am new here so thank you for having me. I've been having issues with my elm and I finally decided to reach out for some help.

I bought a 7 year old Elm at a gardening sale thinking it would be a nice challenge, and it sure has been. I tried my best to accommodate its needs but it seems to be losing its vigor from when I bought it.

It has been constantly dropping leaves from when I bought it, sometimes more quickly, sometimes less. I have moved it to my window, which gets direct light from 7 am to 3 pm, but it doesn't seem like enough. I also water it every two days, in the morning, but may vary depending on how wet the soil still is. I have a humidity tray, and sometimes have tried to spray, to no avail.

I mean, it doesn't look too unhealthy, but it also doesn't look as healthy as I think it should. You be the judge;
Is this behavior normal? Dormancy? Should I adapt my routine in any way?

Thank you all for the help

Posts: 11126
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Chinese Elm losing leaves

If the plant is going dormant you should not be watering every two days indoors. Chinese elm do not like to go completely dry but it is easy to overwater indoor plants. The leaves may be dropping because it is too cold next to the window. Even though it is getting good light by the window, the winter sun in northern climates may not be enough. You have a humidity tray and that is good as long as the plant is not sitting in water. I do not like plants in saucers. If you must use them. Elevate the pot with pot fee so there is a space between the bottom of the pot and the top of the tray so it can never sit in water.

Potted plants do need to be regularly fed with plant food during the growing season and repotted as needed. Bonsai need to be regularly trimmed to keep their shape. Usually, bonsai masters will try to shape the cut ends so it does not look so unnatural. ... oor-bonsai
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

User avatar
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Chinese Elm losing leaves

I agree. You didn't say where you are located, but most of northern hemisphere, you are having very short days. That is enough to trigger it in to dormancy.

Chinese elm is a sort of in-between tree. Temperate trees (evergreens like juniper and deciduous like maple, oak) have to be outdoors all the time. Tropical evergreens like ficus make good indoor trees. Chinese elm is a subtropical. Some people do keep them indoors.
Chinese Elm trees are very flexible about their environment. If adapted
properly, they can be grown indoors year-round. If hardened off to
the cold gradually, they can drop their leaves in the fall and be
considered deciduous trees, so you have a few options. However, it is
important to find out how your Elm has been growing recently. Some
Elms come from southern China, and have never experienced cold
conditions. It would be dangerous to keep these Elms too cold the
first year or two. Other Elms have gone to freezing and dropped their
leaves for many years; as a result, these Elms may not be too happy
indoors for the first year or two. If you can not determine where your
Elm has been, then keep it outside for the summer and bring it inside
for the winter. You can bring it in when the temperatures are around

At this point you probably need to treat it as deciduous for this year. So cut way back on the watering and don't fertilize and let it go dormant, since it is already doing so. In the spring, you can start watering more and fertilizing. In the summer, it should go outside. When you bring it back in next fall, if you want to keep it green and growing through the winter, you will need to give it supplemental lighting.

Supplemental lighting is a dedicated fluorescent light, shining on it from just a few inches away:
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: Facebook page I manage for them: Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Return to “BONSAI FORUM”