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need help with Hawaiian Umbrella Tree

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 6:06 am
by anela
For my birthday in July my husband bought me a Hawaiian Umbrella Tree. We're from Hawaii and he thought I would like it. I love it, but I don't think I'm doing very well caring for it.

This is the link that shows all the particulars of the tree: ... UTF8&psc=1

Being a first time bonsai owner, I don't know that I would have chosen such an expensive one since it seems that I may be killing it. :cry:

It was so lush and full when it arrived. It's been a month and a half now and for the last 3 weeks or so it has been losing leaves like crazy. The leaflet that came with it said to expect a loss of about 20% of its leaves as it acclimated to its new environment. At this point, it's lost about 75%. I can see through the branches now.

When I first got it, the leaflet said to water every 3-4 days and that's what I did, until the water ran out the bottom of the pot. However, at the 3-4 day mark, the soil was still extremely moist so I started waiting until it was drier before watering. Again, every time I water, I do it until the water flows out the holes in the bottom.

Every day I'm losing leaves. If you brush your hand over the tree, the leaves just fall off. I'm getting a small pile of them. Even the bright green leaves are falling off. Sometimes, it's whole "umbrellas", stem and all. Only about 10% that fall off are actually brown when they fall.

There is new growth ALL over the plant. Some of them are getting bigger, some are falling off.

The only insects I've seen are the harmless ones that live on leaf litter. I forget what they're called but everything I've read about them says they won't harm the plant. There aren't any rotten spots. There is one branch that was trimmed by the company it was bought from that is starting to turn black at the tip and I was considering trimming it below that spot. It only goes about a quarter inch down from the tip.

I'm keeping it indoors because I live in Phoenix and to put it outside is a death sentence. It would burn up in no time flat. Our house faces north and south and there aren't any suitable windows to put it near so I bought a 24-inch plant light that I mounted approx. a foot above the tree in the largest cubby of an entertainment center. I don't have it in any drafts. We keep the house at 78-80 degrees all year round. I have a humidity tray for it. I will freely admit that I didn't realize it needed to be sitting on TOP of rocks in the tray and so it's just been sitting in the tray. Possibly it's getting too much water that way, but wouldn't the roots need to be coming out the bottom then? If that's the case, isn't it root bound and needing repotted?

I have considered repotting it into a larger pot and letting it become bigger than a typical Bonsai. From everything I've read, it's the binding of the roots that stunts the growth. If letting the root system get bigger will help, I'm fine with that. It doesn't matter to me what size it is. I just want it to be healthy.

Sorry this post is so long, but I wanted to convey as much info as I could. Any ideas on what could be happening to my tree would be so greatly appreciated. I emailed the "Bonsai Master" at the company it was purchased it from almost 2 weeks ago and haven't received an answer. I'm getting a little desperate.

Re: need help with Hawaiian Umbrella Tree

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 2:00 pm
by rainbowgardener
A picture of the plant as it is now would help.

Sitting in water in the humidity tray is not good. It doesn't matter if the roots reach down into the water. As long as the bottom of the soil is sitting in the water, it wicks it up and that keeps the soil wet all the time. That would be why it wasn't drying in any reasonable time. And since it was wicking up from the bottom, it could be dry on top, but still soggy at the bottom.

At this point your umbrella tree sounds like it is on the way out. So I think you need to pull it out of the pot. If you do it gently, the whole root ball should slide out unless it is wired in, in which case you will need to undo the wires. Take it out of the pot, gently rinse the soil off the roots and inspect them. Healthy roots are white and firm. Rotten roots are dark (brownish or blackish), mushy, and smell bad.

If very much of the roots are rotten, it is probably too late (if just a couple are, just trim them off). If the roots are healthy, repot it in good bonsai soil, not the potting soil it has probably been in.

Best Wishes! Keep us posted on what you find.

Re: need help with Hawaiian Umbrella Tree

Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 5:38 am
by anela
I don't have a smartphone so taking a pic is a bit of a hassle. And, honestly, I forgot before I started to unpot it.

I am currently in the process of taking the tree out of the pot it came in. I can barely remove any of the dirt for the number of roots it has. The roots take up the ENTIRE pot! So far they're all white and firm. I have found a very thick wire under the dirt and I'm trying to expose it without tearing up too many of the roots so I can figure out how to undo it. The dirt is very dark, almost black, but it's also about 50% rocks.

So far the tree won't just lift out of the pot. I'm assuming that's because of the wire. Working diligently, but gently to extricate the tree.

I decided to put it in a very tall pot. It's not bonsai soil, but it is quick draining soil. It's made mostly of coconut fiber with big chunks of bark in it. I have about 10 other plants, all different kinds, in the same soil that are doing magnificently since I potted them in it.

I'll post an update as soon as I'm done repotting it. And this time I'll attach a pic.

Re: need help with Hawaiian Umbrella Tree

Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 3:55 pm
by rainbowgardener
If you wanted to keep it small, as a bonsai, then you would cut back a lot of those roots.

50% rocks (especially small gravel or grit) is a good thing in bonsai soil. Your coco-fiber and bark mix isn't bad, but still pretty organic. For bonsai, it would be improved by adding some perlite or other mineral ingredient.

Re: need help with Hawaiian Umbrella Tree

Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 4:57 pm
by imafan26
Since the plant is under stress. I would actually put it in a bigger pot as you planned and allow it to acclimate to your environment. However, I would go with a pot that is just a little larger. Later on you can reduce the roots and down pot again. Most bonsai are wired when they are transplanted in shallow pots because they would fall out otherwise.

It sounds like the tree was ready to be repotted anyway. Most older bonsai are rootbound that is why getting the watering down is important. It is easier when they are outside since drying times indoors can be variable. In Arizona, a tropical plant would not like the dry air very much.