MMoose
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White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Hi everyone,
I was gifted a Carmona tree just before Christmas last year from my brother, and haven't had any issues with it until I noticed today a strange white fluffy growth looking thing around the base (it doesn't seem to be on the trunk). I live in Scotland and the light at this time of year leaves much to be desired, however it has a well lit position on my desk in front of the window. I've been feeding it every two weeks and watering it daily as instructed with the care instructions it came with.
I've attached a photo to help figure out what it is - really hope it's nothing damaging! It does occasionally drop leaves but because almost all of the leaves are a strong dark green and are shiny/healthy looking I didn't think it was an issue. Did some googling and wondering if it might just be some kind of mineral deposits from the water?
Thanks, any help would be much appreciated!
MMoose
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applestar
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Although it could be just growing in the soil mix and not on the tree itself, the white fluffy definitely looks like mold/fungal growth of some sort. Was it last watered with something that could get moldy (like juice, etc.) or sprinkled with crumbs or something in the water?

But more to the point, it seems like the soil mix is too dense (regular potting mix?) for bonsai, very wet, and it appears to be covering the base of the tree too high up the trunk. The surrounding bark above the "white fluffy" is looking wet and perhaps damaged. Is the tree shedding leaves on that side?

I think first order of business is to gently sweep the white fluffy and soil away from the base of the tree and expose the widening trunk base where the roots spreads out. -- verify if the fluffy is growing in just the soil mix surface. I'll leave the rest to more experienced Bonsai folks. (I do think watering every day may not be a good idea, especially indoors in the wintertime.)
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rainbowgardener
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

No, mineral deposits from the water would not be fluffy.

It is some kind of mold and it is an indication that your soil is staying too moist. Watering every day sounds like too much to me. You only want to water it when it has started to dry out a bit. Use the chopstick method to determine when to water: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... php?t=1479

Hard to tell from the picture what the soil it is in is like. Bonsai soil should be very free draining, meaning mostly rocky/ gritty, not much peat or other organic components. Soil that is too organic contributes to holding moisture too much.

Your tree is likely to die if this isn't corrected - not from the mold, but from the over watering.

PS sorry, applestar sneaked hers in while I was looking up the chopstick method reference, but we are on the same page with what is going on...
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MMoose
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Hey folks,
Thanks so much for getting back so fast!
The tree I think was planted pretty botch-job from the store, as though the soil is fairly high up on the trunk on one side round the other its actually quite exposed. Should I be considering a replant? - I just don't want to shock it too much, but if it's necessary I will do. The soil definitely isn't rocky/gritty.

I've swept away the soil a bit but it's hard to tell where the mold is growing. It might be on some of the larger roots. I've attached a few more pictures below - the soil is actually very firm where it had gone up as if it is bound together somehow (?). I've been careful not to disrupt it too much because of this.

I will certainly stop watering this regularly right away - is there anything else I can do to help it? It really doesn't look unhealthy from the leaves, surprisingly, there are even quite a few new shoots.

I'm quite annoyed about the misleading instructions - hope they haven't cost me my tree. They read "The bonsai requires a bright area. Avoid sunlight to prevent withering. Water daily. Add special bonsai feed one a fortnight to attain shiny leaves. Trim regularly."

(I should point out about the photos the soil isn't -that- dark - it's just because the mold shows up better with the flash on!)

Thanks!
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the same part of the tree shown with the mold swept away - think from the look of it is is organic soil
the same part of the tree shown with the mold swept away - think from the look of it is is organic soil
image (3).jpeg (40.84 KiB) Viewed 5823 times
the pot and the root to the left possibly with some mold on it
the pot and the root to the left possibly with some mold on it
that's the weird open part in the soil a bit closer up
that's the weird open part in the soil a bit closer up
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MMoose
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Just some extra photos I should have included in the last post...
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The tree itself
The tree itself
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Not-so-nice looking orange stuff around the edge of pot. Has been removed.
Not-so-nice looking orange stuff around the edge of pot. Has been removed.
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applestar
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Hmm... Trying to decipher what I'm looking at -- are there roots growing where the high mounded soil was?
If so, then the original intent might have been to encourage these roots to grow and that's the reason the soil was mounded. You may want to re-cover the area until you decide whether to let the roots stay.

If you have sphagnum moss you could moisten a wad and mulch the roots with that. I think as emergency measure you could even just use moistened shredded kitchen paper -- or even just wadded up kitchen paper or toilet paper -- or push loose moistened but not wet soil back up (or mix the soil with some sand first) ...just until you get advice on what to do bonsai style-wise. If allowed to dry out the question of keeping them will become moot.

That orange crusty salt-like stuff is the fertilizer build up. If it's doing that along the rim, it may be building up on the trunk too -- not the white fluffy but the fungal growth may be a symptom of some kind of die-off due to too much salt.
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Please be welcome here.

The hard white stuff on the rim of your pot is either milk-stone or salts.

The fluffy white stuff on soil is mold or mushrooms.

I beleive your light level is too low, I beleive there is too much peat-sphagnum in your soil. And you have been watering to schedule, rather than tested need (use a chop stick, water only when it comes out dry to touch).

Without the props of a greenhouse or a bank of lights growing a tree indoors is not only something to talk to at your desk.

The soil (or compost if you prefer) most often used in the UK is likely to be too fine grained to support a tree in a shallow pot. Bonsai soil looks ever so much like a bag of gravel with a few chips of bark mulch dragged through it. It (bonsai soil) is sometimes sold premixed, also cactus mix will work.
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tomc
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

A smarter bonsai guy than me told me; You will have to learn to water to your trees needs. And even then I thought he meant to the type of soil I had.

A grower in Bankok will have soil with up to half of its volume in sphagnum. A grower in Boston will drown his tree in the same soil.
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MMoose
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Hi folks,

applestar - I think they are roots yes, they seem to be in a really strange place though. Will re-cover until I know what the next steps should be, thanks!

tomc - Just found out about the chopstick method today and will be sure to use it in future! My desk however is in one of the brightest areas of the house - unfortunately winter in Scotland can mean lots of heavy cloud cover and not much sunlight which has been the case this year. Is there perhaps a light one can use? I've heard of florescent lights but am unsure if they are a good idea. I will see if I can find some bonsai soil soon if you think it will help.

Thanks everyone for your advice so far - much appreciated!

tomc
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Re: White Fluffy Growth at Base of Bonsai Trunk

Moose the longer you fool with tree babies the more junque yer gonna buy. Thankfully your bonsai doesn't care if there is some old lo-mien sauce on the chop-stick. ;)

For now I'd suppliment light with the lamp you have. Be aware these lamps tend to grow up into lighted wonder-boxes, when they are un monitored...

My tender trees stay indoors till it gets into the sixties (F) in the day. They'll walk in and out, taking cover on cool nights until late April here in appalachia.

Your tree(s) will also prosper from real sunshine when ever it warms up.

FWIW don't buy your next tree from the bonsai peddler, get a cutting of bittersweet or ivy and root it in a shallow pot. Both-either will need about six times as much pruning as a fig or other tree sold as bonsai. Your next hurdle will be to start reading up on-and the how-to of top & root pruning.

Better you start with a free cutting and hack away, The more you do it, the better it will go. Sometimes its better to first wrench on a Ford vs a Jaguar.
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