nguyBonsai
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ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Hello Dear Gardener Friends,
I live in the New York City metropolitan area and my friend gave me 19 days ago this bonsai.
Then he left to Europe. There's no name of the species, no instructions. I don't know how to care it.

I was wondering if someone could help me ID it and make a guess of its age so I can find out how to take care of it.
I'm enclosing a few shots with close ups.
From the look of the leaves, feels like conifereous, but I can't say more.

I live in a condo facing East, so I used to put it right by the window. For nearly 2 weeks it got plenty of direct sun between 7-11am or so. Temperature of my apartment is 78 F with AC kicking in moderately to keep temperature.

My current maintenance schedule:
- Spray water on it (leaves, soil...) about every 2 days.
- Pour in 1 cup of tap water every 2-3 days to keep soil moist.

TURNING YELLOW:
Then about 10 days ago, I moved it against a wall for decorative and I was told room ambient light was sufficient.
I keep about the same watering schedule.
2-3 days ago I started noticing a few branches and leaves turning yellow. Most of them are located in the inside part of the tree, hidden below or behind the ouside leaves.

Am I giving too much water? Not enough light? Do I need to start putting fertilizer?
There used to be this little microscopic tiny 'mosquitoe' flying around. To me it was a sign of good health. But now it's now even there :(.

Thank you for any help!
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rainbowgardener
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

It is a juniper. It is very young - they take a cutting of a branch of juniper tree and root it. These are mass produced and sold as bonsai. But the cutting has very little root system and so they are fragile.

But juniper bonsai IS NOT an indoor plant. As you are discovering, they die indoors. The lack of humidity (especially with A/C) lack of light, etc in a house is lethal to them. You need to get it outdoors. But since it has been indoors, you will have to do that gradually, starting in a very protected space or if in direct sun, then bring it back in after a couple hours and gradually increase its exposure.

If for some reason you absolutely have to keep it indoors (no balcony?), get a humidity tray for it, mist it daily, put it in your best south facing window and get a dedicated lamp for it, that shines directly on it from just a few inches away, for 12-16 hours a day, and keep your fingers tightly crossed!

And yes, it stays out in winter, yes in a NY winter. They grow natively all the way up to the arctic circle and are hardy to something like 30 degrees BELOW zero. Look around you and see how many juniper shrubs are in people's yards sitting out all winter. Come back when it is closer to winter and ask us about winter protection.

Read some more about juniper bonsai care. But get on this right away - by the time a juniper is showing significant yellowing it is already in serious trouble.

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GardeningCook
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

I second most of rainbowgardener's advice except for the daily misting. For a juniper - even one indoors - that will just kill it faster.

Now that you know that your plant is an outdoor juniper, it will be easy enough to do some online research re: how to keep yours going. And yours is a very nice specimen, by the way. Very likely was not just mass-produced as the detailed styling would have taken some wiring & some time.

For info & accessories like humidity trays, I've been using these folks for several years now with excellent results:
https://www.brusselsbonsai.com/
They're quite well thought of in the industry.
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nguyBonsai
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Thank you very much. This is very helpful. Indeed, it's a nice tree.

I only have East windows, so in the morning, the condo gets a lot of direct sun. Where it used to be, against the yellow wall, it didn't receive much sun because it was not in the path of the sunrays.
Anyway I put it back to the windows for now, near some other plants.

The good thing is, in the afternoon, the sun hits the red brick walls of the building facing West, thus facing my windows separated by a large street and reflects the light back to some degree,... so I still have some light.

Yes, I have a balcony :) but there's a constant machine noise all day long in the street (think like AC noise). Not sure if the tree would like that either.

My apart is not dry actually. The AC doesn't kick in a lot, just once in a while for a minute or two.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

OK, all I can say is you have been warned. Junipers die inside. I doubt noise on the balcony would bother the tree any, but don't know what the light situation is on your balcony. None of the other issues with light, humidity, etc matter in the long run, because juniper is a northern tree. It needs a cold winter dormancy. If you manage to keep it alive inside until winter (not seeming likely, since it is yellowing already), it will not go dormant indoors and thus will exhaust itself. Sometime the following spring or summer it will run out of energy and die for sure.

Sorry, but this is an outdoor tree. If you want bonsai indoors, you need to look for tropical evergreens that are used to being active all year and used to low light situations under rain forest canopy. Ficus is a good one, baby jade, schefflera, serissa are others.
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GardeningCook
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Ditto rainbowgardener's advice. Back in the days of my misspent youth I managed to murder several juniper bonsai by thinking they were too delicate for life in the temperate outdoors. I wised up, did a lot of reading, & now have a nice little collection of both evergreen & deciduous bonsai, all of which live outdoors on my deck year-round.

The only very brief times they visit indoors are when nights are going to drop below 20 (& then they just come in right inside the front door where it remains cool), or once in a blue moon when I've used them as decorations for Japanese dinner parties (once again - they're only inside for a few hours). Other than that, they're out in full sun (or rain, or snow) year-round.

Oh - & your tree will not mind the "machine noise" at all.
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nguyBonsai
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

OK, I will start putting it on the balcony. Great warning. It's a nice tree. It deserved a very good care.

Also, stupid question, but i was told that bonsais (including my Juniper), and in general interior plants, don't like to be moved often, is there some truth to that?

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GardeningCook
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Naw - houseplants don't care about getting moved around so long as they always end up in a spot that provides an optimal environment for them.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Not a stupid question and I disagree a bit . Houseplants are more tolerant than trees, but even houseplants will suffer if moved from indoors to outdoors without gradual hardening .

Trees are adapted to being rooted in one spot . Sometimes you have to move them, but they never love it. Some are more sensitive than others and of course it depends on how big the change is, but it is always a stress.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

My point in there was don't start putting it out on the balcony , as in bringing it in and out all the time . Very stressful . Put it out on the balcony and leave it there .
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nguyBonsai
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Thanks for the wise advices to both of you.

I'm leaving it there on the balcony. I also bought this fertilizer: Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Spikes with a 10-10-10 NPK to use in the coming days.
I read somewhere that if underfeeded, leaves could turn yellow as well... and since I received it on 05/09, it hasn't gotten any food. The choice was a compromise over all unperfect choices I could find at Home Depot:
Between balanced and unbalanced NPK, slow release vs liquid fertilizers etc..

I needed something easy to use with little storage and balanced NPK.
The ready to use liquids at HD had either unbalanced NPK or too weak ratios (like 5-3-3 or something like that). The other ones would require me to mix and store gallons of water. Some fertilizers were coming in big bags, or were very unbalanced (like 24-8-16)... I also found a nice small box of 14-14-14 release from Osmocote. Seemed interesting but it would have required me to scrap that small area of soil since the pellets needed to be within 1-3 inches on the soil... and i didn't have the tools nor didn't really want to damage the entire thing.

nguyBonsai
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Not sure what else to do.
So the bonsai has been on balcony facing East since then, it gets full direct sun in the morning till about 11am or so. It's been hot in Jersey City as typical, but not that super hot.

I give the bonsai one cup of water every 2 days or so, sometimes once every other day when it's too hot.
I water mist it daily alongside with the soil surface every morning before I leave.
Early June, I gave 1/2 stick of Miracle Go Orchid Plant Food Spike (10-10-10 NPK).

Unfortunately, the leaves have kept yellowing, then they seem to dry out and eventually break.
There doesn't seem to be any bug.

Is it receiving too much or not enough water? Is the direct sun in the morning baking the pot and the tree?
Not sure what else to do.

Thanks for any advice.

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GardeningCook
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

Okay - for starters, you can't just give "a cup of water or so" every other day or so. You need to test the soil to see if it needs water. Dig your finger into the soil. If it's dry for an inch or so down, then yes - it needs water. If the soil is still moist, then no water required. And when you water, you need to water to the point where water is draining out of the pot.

As far as feeding - a Miracle Gro Orchid Spike is NOT the way to go. Orchids ain't bonsai. I'd remove that asap. Bonsai really need a liquid fertilizer extremely low in urea. Look for a specific low-urea bonsai fertilizer. Also, feeding plants that are already showing signs of stress (i.e. yellowing leaves) is asking for a death knell.

And really - do some reading/research on the care of bonsai. Because knowledge of this manner of raising/training plants is all important.
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nguyBonsai
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Re: ID Please, bonsai leaves starting to turn yellow.

OK, thank you.

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