ro0ter
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Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Hi everyone,

To be short: I have a bonsai in distress which I believe is Fukien (leaves with white spots/dents and little hairs, little fruit grouped 2 or 3 together).

I received this bonsai a little while ago (about 1 month and half). In the past I had another bonsai (exact same species I believe, the leaves would have bumps on their surface when drying) which unfortunately died due to bad care... I don`t want to be a bonsai killer.... Help...

For the beginning I was watering the plant each 2 days. 2 weeks after receiving it I saw that the substrate did not want to accept any more water (like hydrophobic) and had some mold-like (white-ish) crust at the top. I digged (like 3-5mm deep) that crust and everything is fine ever since (no more crust, accepts water just nicely).

I admit that I neglected the bonsai for about 3-5 days last week, but it sterted loosing leaves about a week after I got it.... It also has some new fresh leaves, healthy-green (I thought it was a natural process of loosing old leaves and growing new ones), but I saw lots and lots of yellowish leaves this morning (some brownish on sides) and they fall as soon as you touch the bonsai pot.....

I am using some special bonsai fertilizer mixed together with little cactus fertilizer and little orchid fertilizer. I only water the bonsai by spraying on the substrate (when I use solution with fertilizer) and by also spraying on the leaves (when I use plain water). I have no schedule like when to use fertilizer and when not to. This morning it is the 2nd time I use fertilizer in a row. I use tap water which sat for about a day or so in an opened bottle (tap water is very drinkable (like very good) in my area).

I live in the Northen hemisphere (47 degree north, Cluj-Napoca, Romania). I keep the bonsai indoors, large S-WWW window, direct sun for like 2-3 hours this time of the year. Lately (last 2 weeks) it was very cloudy, but it is sunny for 2 days now.

What other details should I mention? I have the impression that I am forgetting something....

Anyway, I suspect I have over-watered the bonsai (based on what I have read so far on other forums)... The substrate smells like a wet basement but there is no mold. This is the first time I lifted the bonsai by the trunk (out of its pot).

Can someone please help me?

Thank you very much!
Attachments
Bonsai fallen leaves...
Bonsai fallen leaves...
Bonsai medium (smells like basement, like "wet", not necessarily like mold, but I`ve been watering each day or each 2 days)
Bonsai medium (smells like basement, like "wet", not necessarily like mold, but I`ve been watering each day or each 2 days)
Just-watered bonsai substrate (it has some little moss)
Just-watered bonsai substrate (it has some little moss)
Bonsai photo (no flash)
Bonsai photo (no flash)
Bonsai photo (using flash)
Bonsai photo (using flash)

tomc
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Re: Leaves Falling Off :-(

RoOter, your post may never be seen hidden inside another's post. I don't grow Tea, so I don't feel qualified.
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ro0ter
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Re: Leaves Falling Off :-(

tomc wrote:RoOter, your post may never be seen hidden inside another's post. I don't grow Tea, so I don't feel qualified.
I just didn`t want to start a new thread... should I?

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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Yes, so I split this one off into it's own thread. ;)

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Looks like one of the moderators moved this to its own thread.

1) you are watering all wrong

2) your soil is all wrong


Starting with the soil. Real bonsai soil is very mineral, loose and free draining. What you have is peat moss and dirt. Lots of peat moss explains why it got water repellent when dry - peat does that. Holds a lot of water when wet, stays wet for awhile, but then dries out and gets water repellent. So your soil is too heavy, excludes air, holds too much water, too long.

Never water bonsai on a schedule. Water when they need water, which will vary with temperature, humidity, season, how fast the tree is growing, etc.

Here's some good information about bonsai care including watering and how to know when to water: http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... =36&t=1479

Here's a lot of information about bonsai soil with links to more: http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... =36&t=3422

I would summarize the soil info by saying that bonsai soil would be mostly pine bark and grit (fired clay, granite grit, ground volcanic rock, etc), with maybe a little bit of humus.

Smelling like a wet basement is very bad. Clearly your soil has been staying too wet too much of the time - heavy, moisture holding soil, watered too often.

But you mentioned in there watering by spraying the soil. That's why your peat dried out. That is not an effective way to water. Don't water until it needs it, then water by pouring water through from the top until it is running out the drain holes. Wait until it stops draining and then do it again ("for bonsai it always rains twice"). You always want all the soil to be moistened when you water. Then don't do it again until it is starting to dry out.

So what to do now? Gently wash all the old bad soil off the roots. You may have to loosen it some with a chopstick while you are running water over it. Once it is gone, you can inspect the roots. If they are black, mushy, and or smell bad, the roots rotted. At that point, you might as well pitch it and start over, after you have done enough reading to know a little bit more about what you are doing the next time. If the roots are firm and white and healthy, repot your little tree in good bonsai soil.

Best Wishes! Welcome to the Forum!
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rainbowgardener
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PS @ webmaster

Hi Roger - could you make this thread on bonsai soil http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... =36&t=3422
a sticky in the Bonsai Learning Library? I had to look a long time to find it.

thanks RBG
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ro0ter
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Thank you, rainbowgardener, for making things clear to me. This is the bonsai`s original soil and I should say it was a fortune (bonsai costs over $100, I work next to the flowershop from where I bet it was purchased, considering the wrapping and brand name... very "high-class" flower-shop...).

Also thanks to webmaster for splitting the thread. I did not want to spam by creating a new thread, I posted in the most suitable thread.

Darn... I R the bonsai killer.... :(

rainbowgardener: Will orchid substrate do it for bonsai? I also have porous clay pebbles somewhere (of which I could crash some). And when I wet it, I wet it by thoroughly spraying the soil until water comes out in the bottom tray. Pouring water will just not work as the soil is too tall in the pot and water will spill over (since it is not very well absorbed). I don`t really understand what "grit" should mean, but I suppose some sort of small rocks or rock chips (based on google image search)?

Keeping this soil and making sure that I water only when needed (chopstick humidity trick) won`t work, would it? I really need to check the roots, right?

Should I leave the bonsai substrate out of its pot for a couple of days or so to aerate? Would it help?

What should be the relative humidity in soil when I should water? I really like embedded and I could build very fast a small capacitive water sensor for this purpose.
Also, what relative air humidity does bonsai like? Do I have to use a humidity tray?

Also, if I will change its substrate ( and I will, just not sure when, I know the faster the better... but I have some problems right now, that is why I neglected the bonsai... :(... ) and I need to trim some rotted roots, how should I seal the bonsai after I cut the root?

Many many many questions from me... Many excuses for this... I really want to save the bonsai, we received it from a person which was quite close to us..

Thank you for welcoming me on the forum and I regret the circumstances.

garmy yo
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

I am no expert, but I do have a Fukien Tea Tree, which is happy and healthy, so someone feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
That being said, me advice is:
1) trim off all the yellowing leaves
2) trim off all the flower buds, your tree will need that energy to recover
3) trim off the lower 1/3 roots and replace with bonsai soil
4) water thoroughly and don't water again until almost dry, but still a little moist, on the bottom (chopstick method)
Good luck
Try to keep us updated with your progress
edit:
5) put it under a fluorescent grow light for 16 hours/day

ro0ter
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Hi garmy yo,

Thank you for the advice.

Two questions I have, if I may:
1) What if I can't find bonsai soil anywhere? Would some crushed clay pebbles + orchid substrate (100% tree bark) do it? I can't seem to find any bonsai soil in any general store and the flower shop state tht they only sell the bonsai trees...
2) Would a ring neon tube from my magnifying glass soldering lamp do it? I don't have any bonsai/plant grow lights...

Thanks!

garmy yo
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

1) Yes. A 1-to-1 mix should be well draining while retaining enough water and air.
2) Perfect
Also, I don't see any in your pictures, but it wouldn't hurt to give your tree a thorough inspection for aphids. They can hide on the bottom of leaves.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

any kind of fluorescent light will do, doesn't need to be special "grow lights." But it does have to be CLOSE to your tree. In this thread

http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... ng#p372303

I posted some pictures of how bonsai lighting is done.
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imafan26
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

O.k. I have Fukien tea all over my yard. It is a menace. It does not need a lot of water, it will grow in hard soil that is not watered and it will grow between rocks. Your soil is too 'muddy' and too wet. Fukien tea is not that fussy about light it grows in full sun and it grows in the shade almost as well.

First, I would actually repot it in bonsai soil, which is more like fine gravel. I know you took it out of the pot, but the roots looked like it was in the pot a while. The plant is stressed and it is better if it is not, but soak the plant in a bucket of water until the bubbles stop. It helps if you put some super thrive 1 drop per gallon only in the water. It will help with shock. Use gloves.
After the root ball is thoroughly soaked hopefully it got a good drink. Carefully tease the outer roots out but try to keep a good portion of the inner root ball intact if you can. If the tree was healthier, I would take it down and get rid of most of the soil. Cut off all the black and damaged roots with a clean pruner.

I don't know what you have available for soil mixes there but you will want something that drains very well. I use cinder, but if you can get fine gravel and add just a handfull of peat moss or coir that should be enough organic. I would not put it back in the bonsai pot. I would use a nursery pot with at least 4 or 5 drain holes and get the plant healthy before root pruning and putting it back in the bonsai pot. In the meantime clean the pot; soak it in 10% bleach solution for 24 hours or a week and then rinse; dry and store it for later.

Put the plant in a sheltered location and then gradually move it to more light. It grows better in the light than in the dark. If the plant recovers, the new leaves should start coming out. It does not go dormant here, so I don't know what it will do in a colder zone. Feed it weekly with a water soluble fertilizer, or fish emulsion at 1/4 strength. If it recovers then you can trim the roots and put it back into the bonsai pot. Wire the tree in until it is established.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

ro0ter
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Hi guys,

Thank you all for the replies.

I left the bonsai over night out of its pot (like sideways, long substrate side sitting on short pot side) and I`ve put it back this morning after giving some little water (which won`t really wet the dirt...).
I left the fluorescent magnifying glass ring light on for 1 hour last night. I believe plants also need some time to sleep, to regenerate, not just make photosynthesis all day long (that is why I did not left the fluorescent light on all night). The light was very close to the tree, like ~5cm (~2 inches). Anyway, should I leave the light on 14 hours during the night or to accumulate a total of 14 hours of combined daylight and fluorescent light? (actually there are like 9 hours of daylight right now of which about 5 are with bright light or sun)
Today is a nice and sunny day, bonsai is near the 3m by 2m window, I bet it will like it.

I trimmed all yellowing leaves (only had to touch them, they fall right off). Anyway, why is this required? Do the yellowing leaves have some toxin which will spread to all tree?
I have also clipped all the flower buds in order for the tree to conserve energy (darn, there were a lot of them...). Side question regarding the flower pollination: does it accept self pollination or pollination from the same tree?
I`ll upload some pictures to reflect its state when I get home.

I will wash the dirt later on today or tomorrow after I prepare its substrate.

Regards!

garmy yo
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Hi ro0ter,
My advice would be to take imafan's advice. Slow down and take the long term approach to nursing your tree back to health.
As far as artificial light, I turn mine on when I get up, turn it off when the sun comes up (mine is by an East window, so it gets direct morning light), and I turn it back on around 3pm when the light starts to fade. Then I turn it off when I go to bed.
iamfan: If you ever want to get rid of one of your Fukien Weeds, I would be glad to take it off your hands. I would even pay for shipping ;-)

imafan26
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Sorry Garmy, plants have to go through agricultural inspection and unless they are certified, they cannot go out in soil. The Fukien tea is popping up all over my yard because my neighbor does not trim the flowers soon enough off his tree. The former owner also planted an African tulip that has seeded and been popping up in my and other neighbor's yard and there is an Allspice on the other side of their house which was a volunteer that keeps reseeding and coming back to my yard as well as a honeysuckle that is trying to take over my yard.

roOter, the reason for taking off the leaves is the same reason the tree is dropping them in the first place. The plant is stressed and is dropping leaves because it is unable to support and get nutrients to them.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

ro0ter
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Hi everyone,

I washed my bonsai`s root ball last night with powerful water jet. Some substrate remained very attached to the roots (somewhere even parts as big as 3 stacked quarters, didn`t pulled very hard on them).

In the process the bonsai lost about 20 more leaves (some yellowing, some healthy).
I have then stole some substrate from my orchids, cut it down to 5~10mm (3/16~3/8 of an inch) and also grabbed some clay pebbles and crushed them to the same approximate size.

I packed the bonsai in its previous pot as I couldn`t find any nursery pot and then thoroughly wet it (last night it rained 3 times for my bonsai!) with a slight addition of special bonsai fertilizer with microelements (3.5% N2, 7% P2O5, 4.5% K2O, 1% MgO +++ 0.013% B, 0.003 Cu, 0.021 Fe&EDTA, 0.011% Mn, 0.0011 Mo, 0.0058 Zn).

This morning I turned on the ring fluorescent soldering light for about an hour until the light outside was very bright (well.. not brighter than the fluorescent light). Right now it`s overcast, should have left the light on all day...

Can anyone tell me how well/bad the roots look? They were not mushy at all, but rather strong. Maybe at most 10% were soft, but I don`t know how to evaluate them...

Thank you all for your advice so far, I will keep you updated with the bonsai`s health.

Didn`t want to eat the forum`s bandwidth, so here are more photos: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id= ... sp=sharing

Regards!
Attachments
Bonsai after 3 rains with 3.5--7--4.5--1 N--P--K--Mg  (clay pebbles chips make funny sounds when watered)
Bonsai after 3 rains with 3.5--7--4.5--1 N--P--K--Mg (clay pebbles chips make funny sounds when watered)
bonsai in old pot... no nursery pot anywhere...
bonsai in old pot... no nursery pot anywhere...
substrate cut to size
substrate cut to size
washed root ball
washed root ball

garmy yo
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

Looks good. We should know in a few weeks how she is going to respond. Now you have me wanting to do this with my Fukien. Her root ball is still original soil..

imafan26
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Re: Fukien Bonsai Leaves Falling Off

The core of the root system looks alive and removing the dead roots will help it a lot. Your substrate mix is a little big, but should drain very well and it should work. If the plant falls out of the shallow pot, then wire it. to the pot. It is actually the way bonsai are anchored after the roots have been reduced. You don't want the plant to be shaking or the new roots will not establish well. Remove the wire in a couple of months. Orchid bark will break down over time, plan on repotting in about 6 months. That should give you time to find the right mix. The old pot looks like it had a lot of coarse bark too.

Bark is a good mix that drains well and holds some water, but it decomposes and over time it will become sour and fungi will start to grow. That is why bark media needs to be replaced frequently while the plant roots are still healthy.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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