eris23
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Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:37 pm
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

I'm worried my Golden-Gate Ficus bonsai is dead

I know it looks really really bad and I really screwed up by waiting to ask for help. I'm especially concerned, because it was given to me after a family member passed away. So there's a sentimental value to it. This plant did very well in Houston, TX which is where I lived until 2 yrs. ago. Since I've been in Santa Barbara, it hasn't done so well.

[url]https://www.flickr.com/photos/77654175@N07/6957713537/[/url]

[url]https://www.flickr.com/photos/77654175@N07/6957713539/[/url]

[url]https://www.flickr.com/photos/77654175@N07/6957713551/[/url]

I followed instructions on a forum and replanted it a couple of years ago with pebbles at the bottom, little bit of soil, and bark and always made sure the water drained properly.

I would appreciate any help I can get. I was told that I could tell if it was alive by scratching the trunk and seeing if it was green...it's not. It's kind of an off-white. Does this mean it is dead?

I assumed there were roots growing in the dirt, but I accidentally knocked into it and found that the plant was just sitting on top of the bark layer (the bad wiring is there just to keep it from falling over until i get something better). Please tell me all hope isn't lost! Thank you in advance for the help.

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Gnome
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eris23,

Green leaves and petioles indicate that it is still alive. One trick that can help with a Ficus in distress is to enclose it to keep the humidity up. If you choose to take this route be sure to monitor the water in the soil carefully and don't keep it soggy. Also make sure not to keep it in direct sunlight while enclosed.

Norm

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lance
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If it has been a few years, I'd re-pot it. It looks like there isn't enough soil in that pot.
Gnome is right. The tree isn't dead.Ficus drop their leaves when stressed...Baby it for a while.
patience.......wait for it :)

eris23
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Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:37 pm
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Thank you!

Thank you both for responding so quickly and for the advice. I'm so relieved to learn it's not dead!

I asked for advice in the garden center at a Home Depot or Lowe's and the advice they gave me just didn't sound right (I was told that this bonsai should be only kept outdoors in direct sunlight). The weather here can get pretty chilly and dry, so my hunch was that they were wrong and it did well indoors and without direct sunlight for most of its life.

With the proper soil, water/drainage, and sunlight, it shouldn't need any sort of plant food or additive, right?

I wish I had asked for help here sooner. Honestly, I was expecting to be torn apart for how bad off my bonsai looks.

Again, thank you guys so much for your kind help.

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lance
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Get it a pot with more soil. Using rock on the bottom is up to you. I never use it because bonsai soil is well draining without them. Don't fertilize it until after you see new growth. fertilizing the tree now will harm it.
Only fertilize a tree while it is actively growing, and never right after re-potting it.
Oh and I will add this...
all bonsai enthusiast has killed at least one tree. Don't be so hard on yourself.
patience.......wait for it :)

TomM
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And don't trust the advice given from a big box store. Try to find a nearby 'owner operated' nursery where they know their plants and treat them 'like their life depended on it'.
:lol:

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Gnome
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eris23,
I asked for advice in the garden center at a Home Depot or Lowe's and the advice they gave me just didn't sound right (I was told that this bonsai should be only kept outdoors in direct sunlight).
Wow, that's a switch. All too often we read of advice given that promotes keeping temperate trees indoors which is really bad advice. In your case keeping a Ficus outside in CA is reasonable advice.

A caveat though, you mention that it gets chilly sometimes. Without intimate knowledge of your climate I can't say for certain if it could stay outside year-round or not. I've left Ficus outside overnight when temperatures dipped into the lower forties or even upper thirties. I have not experienced any ill effects from brief dips. Of course mine come in when the weather really gets cold. Also, a Ficus will do well in full sunlight, again with the same caveat. I don't know your climate, in mine full sun is not a problem.

Fertilization is definitely required, especially when potted in a proper free draining medium. Such a medium allows nutrients to be washed away quickly so they must then be replaced regularly.

I would not make any drastic changes now, allow some time for recovery from the recent problems. Also, did you inadvertently allow it to become dry for too long? I ask because of the shriveled/shrunken appearance of the trunk in one picture. Could you describe your watering practices please?

Norm

linlaoboo
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cold tolerance depends on the specific ficus type you have. Last time I was in SoCal, they got ficus growing as street trees all over the place and they're nicely trimed to about 10 to 15 ft tall.
ficus, maple, elm, juniper, pine

eris23
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Gnome,

I live just a few blocks from the beach in Goleta (near Santa Barbara). It's extremely dry, so that, along with how chilly/windy it gets at night, made me think it is best kept indoors. I assumed a tropical plant would do better in a warm humid environment, but I definitely trust you guys know what you're talking about. Unfortunately, for the next 6 months, there's not a safe place that I could leave it outside (I live in a dorm type of building).

You are correct about it going without being watered for a long period. I was ill in 2008 and neglected a lot of things...the tree being one of them. I'd say it went a few months without watering and sitting in my window in an area that provided sunlight, but was partly shaded. I couldn't believe it was still alive & had so many green leaves when I found it behind my curtain.

The first time I noticed it looked unhealthy was about 2 or 3 years ago after repotting it. I followed the instructions for repotting a bonsai and used the materials suggested, but it seems anytime I change its environment or mess with it, it only gets worse. When I moved from TX to CA, my car broke down in AZ. After just one day of sitting in the AZ sun, the leaves were scorched brown. Again, it survived.

As far as my watering practices, about every 3 days I check the plant and if it's dry under the bark, I water it and let it drain. An exception would be over the winter break when I left it in the care of my roommate for a month. When I returned, it was pretty dry, so I'm not sure she watered it as often as she said.
I love this plant even more because it has been through hell and is still alive.

Thanks so much for all your advice!

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Gnome
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eris23,
I live just a few blocks from the beach in Goleta (near Santa Barbara). It's extremely dry, so that, along with how chilly/windy it gets at night, made me think it is best kept indoors. I assumed a tropical plant would do better in a warm humid environment, but I definitely trust you guys know what you're talking about. Unfortunately, for the next 6 months, there's not a safe place that I could leave it outside (I live in a dorm type of building).
Warm and humid are good conditions for your Ficus. Are you sure that your home is any more humid than outside? Normally our homes are extremely dry as well so I'm not sure how much difference there would be. As far as temps go, at some point I assume the outside temperatures will become appropriate but if you can't keep it outside I suppose it is a moot point. Don't worry though Ficus can do well inside particularly if you have a bright enough location. Often supplemental lighting is necessary for indoor trees.
You are correct about it going without being watered for a long period.
One of mine was inadvertently neglected this past fall when I first brought them in so I recognized the symptoms. It is still very sparse looking and I expect it to remain so until I can get it outside in real sunlight. I am still keeping it under a clear plastic cover for now. It would help for you to do the same.

Norm



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