Gareth
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Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:41 pm
Location: Surrey, UK

Bonsai Identification thread #378974 (Chinese Elm)

Goooooood afternoon.

I'm Gareth, the generic poster, with the cliched 'oh dear, what has someone just given me?' thread.

Unfortunately, horticultural/forestry arts aren't my strong point. Snakes are. If somebody gave me a snake which I didn't know what it was, and nor did they, I'd be concerned because I wouldn't be able to provide the right environment for it in terms of temperature & humidity. It's the same with fish, and it's also similar for trees.

I don't know what it is. I also don't know how old it is. Yay for mainstream Garden centres-EDITED - PLEASE REPORT THIS POST-DIY stores selling 'Bonsai trees'. It's your typical 'gift', and your general novelty tree, which I actually find hard to define as Bonsai.

As a result of not knowing what it is, I don't know any of its requirements, and can't give it the love it needs - if it's still alive that is. So there we have it. It's going to die. [/pessimist]

It was only bought for me as the person in question saw me reading books on Bonsai:

The Bonsai Survival Manual - Colin Lewis
Bonsai from Native Trees and Shrubs - Busch
Indoor Bonsai - Paul Lesniewicz

The plan was I was going to visit a special bonsai nursery, pay for a hardy native plant or two, and use them to learn the basics on while growing some others from scratch. I believe in literature and research, and not impulse buys (or anonymous gifts :lol: )

The leaves look very much like a Chinese Elm to me. Is it a Chinese Elm? There's a tag in the soil which doesn't state which tree it is, but that it has been 'imported from the far East' - or so it claims.

[url=https://img148.imageshack.us/my.php?image=73317143us8.jpg][img]https://img148.imageshack.us/img148/2382/73317143us8.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img171.imageshack.us/my.php?image=75671116ug8.jpg][img]https://img171.imageshack.us/img171/5488/75671116ug8.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img385.imageshack.us/my.php?image=95591798jy7.jpg][img]https://img385.imageshack.us/img385/6192/95591798jy7.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img171.imageshack.us/my.php?image=23863986ee9.jpg][img]https://img171.imageshack.us/img171/5392/23863986ee9.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img171.imageshack.us/my.php?image=96146139pe7.jpg][img]https://img171.imageshack.us/img171/1787/96146139pe7.th.jpg[/img][/url]

Gareth
Full Member
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:41 pm
Location: Surrey, UK

Sorry - two more photos:

The soil seems quite damp. Recently watered, I'd imagine.

The roots are quite exposed. Almost like a root over rock style, with the rock removed. Saying that, it feels quite established, with only a slight wobble there.

Roots are not growing through the drainage holes at the bottom, but they are visible. From these further pictures, it looks like the tree has lifted itself out of the pot. Is that right?

I'm tempted to remove it to examine the root ball, but am weary, hence seeking the more knowledgeable opinions on here.

I'm also weary of the soil. It looks monotone. Like there's no mix to it.

I'm guessing my first steps are to get a decent ceramic bonsai pot of a good size, as these exposed roots are at the far end of each side and look raised. With that, I'd imagine I'd have to get a decent potting mix.

The plant has come with a fertiliser. It is called 'Mestistof Fertifliser'. Apply once every fortnight from Spring to Autumn. Using a mixture of two screwtops for each five litres of water. Cloyd days or in the venings you may spray, using one screwtop for each five litres of water.

Here's the important part though:

7% total nitrogen
- 1.27% Nitric nitrogen
-1% Ammooniacal nitrogen
-4.73% Ureic nitrate
5% phosphate anhydride
6% potash

Potash as I understand is an impure form of potassium. Is it a 'gimmick' fertiliser?

[url=https://img375.imageshack.us/my.php?image=59553948ud9.jpg][img]https://img375.imageshack.us/img375/3301/59553948ud9.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img375.imageshack.us/my.php?image=15838848kg4.jpg][img]https://img375.imageshack.us/img375/4284/15838848kg4.th.jpg[/img][/url]

arboricola
Senior Member
Posts: 224
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:07 pm
Location: Minnesota zone 4

Hello Gareth and welcome.

From your pics I would say you have a Chinese elm. I won't go into details since you've been reading and doing research. Do check the soil to be sure it drains well.

Phil...

arboricola
Senior Member
Posts: 224
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:07 pm
Location: Minnesota zone 4

Gareth;

Do allow the soil to dry a bit before watering again. Stick your finger or a toothpick in the soil, if it comes out dry go ahead and water.

Yes, a rootbound tree can push itself out of the pot, but I don't think this is the case with your tree...

What size pot in the tree in? I would go with a pot about 2 inches bigger and fresh soil is a must. The tree looks healthy so I wouldn't be too concerned about a repot right now. Do look for a larger pot and soil so you have them on hand.

The fertilizer should be fine. Just don't overdo it. Every two to three weeks should be enough.

Phil...

Gareth
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Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:41 pm
Location: Surrey, UK

Aye, I've heard of the toothpick/chopstick moisture test. Is 70% potting mix and 30% stone chip ok for a Chinese Elm Tree? I'll do some further reading on that.

The dimensions in inches of the port are 7.2" x 4.5" (18.2cm x 11.43cm).

arboricola
Senior Member
Posts: 224
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:07 pm
Location: Minnesota zone 4

Gareth wrote:Aye, I've heard of the toothpick/chopstick moisture test. Is 70% potting mix and 30% stone chip ok for a Chinese Elm Tree? I'll do some further reading on that.

The dimensions in inches of the port are 7.2" x 4.5" (18.2cm x 11.43cm).
The Chinese elm does like an organic mix. I use 50% potting soil, 25% 1/8" gravel (aquarium gravel, well washed), and 25% sharp sand ( well washed).

I would go with a 9.5" or 10" pot...

Phil...

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

Gareth,

Hello and welcome to the forum. I commend you on doing your research first, all too often we see people who are ill prepared, bought their tree on an impulse or was given one as a gift and don't know what to do. At least you attempted to do the research first.

You seem to realize that such mass produced trees are often, shall we say, somewhat lacking in artistic merit. That is not surprising as they are a commodity to the growers. It is now up to you to improve it, and it can be done. Just as these trees are by no means 'finished' there is no need for a 'finished' pot. A cut down nursery pot or improvised growing container is just as effective as a ceramic bonsai pot. That is not to say that you cannot use one but it is not necessary for a tree in training.

Have a look at the sticky threads located at the top of the forum there is one concerned with general tips and mentions the 'chopstick method' There are also two dealing with soils/re-potting. I prefer to use bark as my organic component but each grower has unique requirements WRT to climate, species in question, pot size and ability to water, just to name a few.

I agree that your tree does not appear to be in any immediate distress so you have the luxury of taking your time in deciding when to re-pot. Chinese Elms are bit unusual in the they are sub-tropical, neither fish nor fowl, so to speak. The two most common times to re-pot this species is either in the spring (how I handle mine) or mid winter. The later scenario is advisable only if you intend to bring it inside after a brief dormancy. Either way re-pot just prior to bud break.

You did not mention if you are keeping it inside or out, I suggest outside allowing it to experience a full dormancy. Inside, supplemental lighting is all but a necessity.

BTW, without a reference it is difficult to get a true feel for the leaf size. There is a possibility that you have a Zelkova there, I really am not sure. Culture is much the same except I would not even consider bringing a Zelkova inside, ever!

Norm

Gareth
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Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:41 pm
Location: Surrey, UK

Cheers Phil & Norm!

Well I don't know how old it is really. Given a lot of Chinese Elms (assuming it is) are quite spindly in the sense they're thin, this one seems a little chunkier, and the bark looks like tough, so I'd imagine on the basis of that, it'd do well outside - especially with what looks like exposed hardened roots.

We have had some unusual weather here the past 2-3 years. We've been getting snow in April & March, which is the beginning and mid-Spring for us. We also get a fair bit of ground frost.

As far as I'm aware - and please correct me if I am wrong - I should leave it in the pot, keep fertilizing it every fortnight, and keep watering it. Come the winter, I'll plant it outside. When it comes to being planted outside, is there a special soil needed?

When I plant it outside, I'm not to prune or cut at the roots, as it may cut away any storage roots. Prior to the spring, and towards the end of dormancy, I should repot it (into a pot 2" bigger to allow for yearly growth?), and then cut/comb the roots.

Could I prune it then in Spring after repotting, or should I wait a while as to not potential traumatise the plant so soon after being repotted?

Add to that, can I take it out of it's pot at the moment? The soil mix doesn't look right, and I want to make sure. If I do, can I put it into a bigger pot immediately, or should I place it back into the pot it came with? Also if I do, should the pot be deeper (see bottom photos).

Finally, where should it be kept now? I think really, I'd like it to be in the garden from September/October-March/April odd, and indoors for 4/5 months or so.

Reference for leaves:

[url=https://img513.imageshack.us/my.php?image=87659454ch8.jpg][img]https://img513.imageshack.us/img513/9835/87659454ch8.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img513.imageshack.us/my.php?image=59114544ow3.jpg][img]https://img513.imageshack.us/img513/1878/59114544ow3.th.jpg[/img][/url]


Raised roots:

[url=https://img380.imageshack.us/my.php?image=30700255ae0.jpg][img]https://img380.imageshack.us/img380/894/30700255ae0.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img261.imageshack.us/my.php?image=85450239od9.jpg][img]https://img261.imageshack.us/img261/4981/85450239od9.th.jpg[/img][/url]

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

Gareth,
I should leave it in the pot, keep fertilizing it every fortnight, and keep watering it.
Fine for now.
Come the winter, I'll plant it outside. When it comes to being planted outside, is there a special soil needed?
One option for over-wintering would be to 'heel it in' to a sheltered spot in your garden or flower beds. If you choose this approach you will not actually be disturbing the root system, simply slipping it from the pot and firming it in the ground. Water well to eliminate any air pockets then mulch it in. So you see that the question of soil will not arise until you actually re-pot (remove the existing soil) next spring.
When I plant it outside, I'm not to prune or cut at the roots, as it may cut away any storage roots. Prior to the spring, and towards the end of dormancy, I should repot it (into a pot 2" bigger to allow for yearly growth?), and then cut/comb the roots.
Correct, do not root prune before winter but after. A larger pot would be fine for this tree but the part about yearly growth is not quite accurate since often 'finished' bonsai are re-potted into the same pot. This is accomplished by root pruning. The arrangement of roots on this tree is going to present a challenge. Perhaps you could consider a true root over rock style. Be on the look out for a suitable rock.
Could I prune it then in Spring after repotting, or should I wait a while as to not potential traumatise the plant so soon after being repotted?
You could prune it at re-potting but you need to have a style in mind before picking up the pruners. Long shoots can be pruned back to one or two leaves throughout the growing season. This is more of a maintenance type of pruning.
Add to that, can I take it out of it's pot at the moment? The soil mix doesn't look right, and I want to make sure.
It is usually pretty easy to remove an established tree from the pot, it should just slip out. Now is not a good time of year to perform the thorough removal of soil this tree will require the first time you re-pot it. The old soil needs to be remove and replaced with a suitable bonsai mix.
If I do, can I put it into a bigger pot immediately, or should I place it back into the pot it came with? Also if I do, should the pot be deeper
You could do what is termed a 'slip pot' simply slip the tree from the existing pot and, without disturbing the roots, place it in a slightly larger pot and then backfill with a similar soil mix. As I said this is not a good time of year to do the thorough re-potting that is really required.
Finally, where should it be kept now? I think really, I'd like it to be in the garden from September/October-March/April odd, and indoors for 4/5 months or so.
I think you would really be much better off leaving it outside. Some do keep Chinese Elms as indoor species but it requires a greater commitment from the grower to do it well. Even then most would say that it is best to have them outside during the summer. One way that Chinese Elms are sometimes handled is to allow them a brief dormancy in early winter then bring them inside where they will experience an early spring. If you choose this approach that would be the time to re-pot, otherwise next spring.

Here is a photo that may help with the ID. The shoot on the left is from a Zelkova and the other is a Chinese Elm. My Zelkova exhibits a sort of zig-zag pattern where the Chinese Elm does not. The US quarter dollar is just under one inch in diameter or about 25 MM. The leaves of your tree appear to fall somewhere between the two in terms of size but do look like Chinese Elm in arrangement. I think Phil was correct in his initial ID.
[url=https://img255.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zelelmzz6.jpg][img]https://img255.imageshack.us/img255/2258/zelelmzz6.th.jpg[/img][/url]

Norm

Gareth
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Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:41 pm
Location: Surrey, UK

Fantastic. I appreciate all the replies. *doffs hat*
You could do what is termed a 'slip pot' simply slip the tree from the existing pot and, without disturbing the roots, place it in a slightly larger pot and then backfill with a similar soil mix. As I said this is not a good time of year to do the thorough re-potting that is really required.
Okay, just to clarify; I've been told the soil it is in needs to be changed to a specialist bonsai mix. Can I perform such a thorough change that seems to be needed, assuming this soil isn't the right mix? I don't want to traumatise it or anything.

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

Gareth,
Fantastic. I appreciate all the replies. *doffs hat*
You're welcome, we're glad to help.
Okay, just to clarify; I've been told the soil it is in needs to be changed to a specialist bonsai mix. Can I perform such a thorough change that seems to be needed, assuming this soil isn't the right mix? I don't want to traumatise it or anything.
The soil does need to be changed at the first true re-potting but now is not the correct season to perform such an extensive procedure. If you decide, for whatever reason, to do a 'slip pot' then it is preferable to backfill with a similar soil to what is already present; here's why.

If you were to backfill with a proper (coarse, free draining) bonsai soil, leaving the dense soil at the core, there would be a likelihood that the coarser, outer soil would dry quicker than the denser, inner soil. If you then watered according to the coarse soil the dense soil would stay too wet. Conversely, if you watered according to the needs of the dense inner soil then the coarse outer portion would be too dry for a large percentage of the time. In short it is best to keep the soil in the pot consistent throughout.

Norm

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