Anooshey
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Indoor Juniper Bonsai Sick - Turning Brittle

Hello everyone, I am brand new to the Gardening Forum and need your help. I got a juniper bonsai in December and I think something is wrong with it. It's pins are turning brittle and slightly purple. And the core of the tree (where the branches meet the trunk) is a weird brown - it didn't look like this before. I also found a white cotton-like fungus on the soil and the rocks in the water tray the pot sits in.

I have to admit, I know nothing about what I am doing! I keep it indoors out of the direct sunlight and I water it when it needs watering by checking the moisture of the soil.
I would really appreciate anyone's help or comments.
Thank you!

-Anooshey

moulman
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If you received the plant in December, then I am guessing it came from a retailer as a "florist" type "bonsai"? There are a number of things that can be going wrong, nearly all of them caused by the fact that you have been keeping it indoors. It has not been alowed to go dormant, and is lacking enough light.

By "pins" I assume you mean needles? If they are brown and crispy, and the trunk going brown, then this discussion is probably already too late for your tree. It is most likely already dead.

Scratch the trunk slightly with your fingernail and see what it looks like under the bark. If it is green, then there may still be hope - if not it gone.

Can you post a picture of it?


Matt

kdodds
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Unfortunately, just a ditto here. With Junipers, by the time they reach this stage they're usually too far gone to save or salvage. The indoor keeping could have been part of it, but from your description of the condition of the soil, and the mold, I would say that the soil was probably not appropriate, probably did not drain well and probably held more moisture than evidenced by the surface. Anyway, Junipers are probably the poorest of indoor bonsai choices. If you wish to continue with indoor bonsai and need recommendations for types of trees, please let us know.

Anooshey
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Oh wow, this is really sad. Yes, I think it is dead - I scratched the trunk and there was no green in sight. I'm really upset about this. I live in an apartment in a college town and I didn't keep my juniper outside because I was afraid someone would steal it or knock it over.

I really appreciate the comments and help. And I would like to hear those recommendations for indoor trees.

Also, are there any books anyone recommends to help guide me through my next tree that could help me with proper soil, fertilizer, etc..

kdodds
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First, a couple of books that are indispensible for indoor bonsai growers, especially those new to the hobby:

Indoor Bonsai by Paul Lesniewicz
Indoor Bonsai for Beginners by Werner M. Busch

They're each about $10 on Amazon.

As far as indoor trees go... there are a lot more to choose from now than there were 10 or 20 years ago. Dozens upon dozens of species, in fact. Some of the more popular are Serissa, Sageretia, Chinese Elm, Fukien Tea, Pomagranate, etc. Some of these are more difficult and some do still require a dormancy period in the winter in a cold room. Some of the best trees for beginners, though, in my opinion, are the Ficus. They lend themselves to any style, really, as a group, and are quite hardy and forgiving. You probably don't want to start with a seedling or "starter tree", but maybe you do. If so, the plant will be young enough that you can work with it. But if you want something that is more refined, more "bonsai like" already, you will probably be restricted to mass produced trees because of the price points. Mass produced Ficus can run about $20-30 whereas a more well planned and designed tree half the size can run twice the price, easily. You might want to look around on this site: https://www.meehansminiatures.com/ They have a very large selection of available starter plants to choose from.

gogreen
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Hello -
I also have dried out juniper bonsai which I received as gift last December. Contacted place where it was purchased; they said not to worry about dormant period, just soak in water 2-3 times a week (!).

Bark is still green in places when scratched. Needles are all dry. But, the worst part is that there are tiny, worm-like creatures about an inch long with hairy legs crawling in soil. So far, I've plucked off about 5 of these critters.

Is this an ex-bonsai, or will some natural pesticide and heavy pruning bring it back? Thanks.

TomM
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I have no answers for the salvation of your dead, dying, or diseased tree but my question is "Who is selling all these junipers and promoting them as INDOOR BONSAI?" which they are not? Please, please expose these dealers. Put them out of business. They give bonsai such a bad reputation, and turn off some many prospective new bonsai enthusiasts.
Juniper is a cold hardy "outdoor" plant. Look at all of them in the landscape, in planter boxes, all around your favorite fast food joint. They do not belong in your home, dorm, apartment or condo.
There are so many great tropicals that can easily be adapted to indoor growing where temperatures are more like their native environment. That is what "indoor bonsai" is all about. If I was a juniper and I was kept in doors I would get sick and die.
"indoor juniper" is an oxymoron.

JTred
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TomM wrote:I have no answers for the salvation of your dead, dying, or diseased tree but my question is "Who is selling all these junipers and promoting them as INDOOR BONSAI?" which they are not?
I think it's a lot of dealers who are out to make a quick buck. Stick a cutting in a cute pot, glue some nice looking gravel and a big rock on top to keep it from spilling during shipping and tell people it will grow right on their desk where they can look at it. It just happens that junipers are the prototypical bonsai tree.

Anooshey, if you are still interested in bonsai know that there are several trees that will grow happily in a dorm. Ficus or schefflera are almost bulletproof choices, ficus really only requires that you don't move it around too much and don't let it get cold or sit in a draft. They are both tropical species, so they will tolerate being overwatered as well. Shefflera needs to be trained in the clip and grow method, but they grow really well. I believe there are a few threads on here about how to properly train one this way. Check the bonsai photo gallery first. Fukien tea is also a good indoor choice, they have interesting bark and leaves, and are pretty easy to find on a reputable bonsai site.

One other thing to mention, if you are growing in a dorm, you will need supplemental lighting. The fluorescent lights of the typical dorm are too far away and too weak to help much. To get good, strong growth you're going to want some type of lamp or other light source that can be positioned close to the plant, preferably fluorescent and not incandescent. If you live on the south or southeast side of your building you could probably get away with using the window for the warmer months, but it will probably be too cold for the winter months depending on where you are located.

Anyhow, sorry for the long post. I hope that your experience with the juniper hasn't turned you off to bonsai. Almost everyone makes big mistakes in the beginning, its just unfortunate that your tree didn't pull through. Good luck!

TomM
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JTred - Don't apologize for the long thread. I like the way you think, the way you write (you know - like complete sentences, proper grammar, correct spelling, etc) a real breath of fresh air!!! But most importantly you gave Anooshey good advice and encouragement to keep trying with this new found interest. So many give up after the first bad experience. Keep posting here.
TomM
Last edited by TomM on Fri Mar 26, 2010 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

gogreen
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Indoor Juniper Bonsai Sick - Turning Brittle

Many thanks for all the helpful, witty and well thought out responses to Anooshey and myself about our ailing juniper bonsai plants.

Lessons learned: 1) juniper bonsai are most definitely not indoor plants, and 2) don't give up, because there are other bonsai plants that do quite well indoors with the proper lighting and care.

Update: My juniper bonsai has probably bit the dust, but ever the optimist, I've taken it up to our property upstate where it is now outdoors to see if it might still be revived. I will also look into some more tropical bonsai plants that will be more appropriate for growing in my Nyc apartment.

Thanks again to all the Helpful Gardeners!
:D

needyguy
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white stuff

Some white coloration on juniper trunk. PLEASE HELP!

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JustinBoi
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I would like to add a quick thing here.
I am as new to Bonsai as anyone else and I've had my Ginseng Ficus for 3 weeks or so, and it is an amazing plant! I've done a lot with it like the rocks that were glued, flipping it upside down and dipping it in water, and keeping it in 30 degrees! These are one hardy plant. I would completely recommend this plant to whoever is new to Bonsai. I also ordered a Chinese Elm (which hasn't come :evil: ) and it is a fascinating plant. It looks very nice and it a subtropical bonsai which can live in any weather. It is more likely an indoor plant but can be outdoors if you want.

Sorry for all this. Got carried away.

Also, that white stuff is probably from being watered too much and/or sitting there forever in a store or window without direct sunlight.

Hope this helps,
-Faithful Gardener
"It's not just a 'hobby', it's a type of lifestyle."

EEDWARDS
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My first Juniper Bonsai

I just started researching the bonsai. I received my first Bonsai in Oct from a friend. I was/am so happy because i always wanted one! Now, it is light green and brown. I could tell that something was wrong with it before it got to this point. My friend bought the juniper bonsai from a known retailer. The care info said that it could be kept indoor and out. So this is how I have taken care of it. The soil is still most. I might have over watered it because the info said to make sure it does not dry out. I'm reading these post and realize that it should have been outdoors this whole time. Can it still be saved? I scratched the trunck of it just now after reading one of these post or on another site. I see a little green on it. I don't want to loose it. It was a gift and if I can help it I do not want to kill nature... Plus I know that this bonsai, along with much of nature, has a deep meaning connected with it and I want to bond with that. I know I can get another... I want to know if I can still save this one because it is not all the way brown, however, some needles are starting to fall and there is white around what looks like it could have been a branch...

Thank you

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JustinBoi
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EEDWARD,

Now that you have read these posts, just put it outside and water it everytime it feels dry to the touch. Mist the branches/leafs. Leave it in the sunlight. And hopefully it will revive itself.
"It's not just a 'hobby', it's a type of lifestyle."

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applestar
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What is the outdoor temps like in your area eedwards?
Depending on the weather conditions where you live, you may be able to put it outside in a protected location as suggested if you acclimate it gradually to the temp, wind, and direct sun. Otherwise, you may have to find an indoor or protected location that stays cold but above freezing and provide supplemental light.

Emery0805
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Re: Indoor Juniper Bonsai Sick - Turning Brittle

I find this amusing and also depressing. I too got a juniper in December from Sams Club in my area. It was very cheap ($10) and I figured I'd never find one that cheap again and it looked all dried out so I purchased it in hopes to revive and rescue it. Well... That hasn't happened. I'm new to juniper (I have two different ficus, bamboo, and a money tree) and I don't know what I'm doing. I repotted it (beginning of spring) with my own mixture and a fertilizer I purchased online from Bonsaiboy. It was inside for the remaining winter because Google said to bring it inside if the weather is below 40. Recently it has been inside because it has rained everyday for the last week and a half and I didn't want it to get over watered. If you barely tap the branches they fall off. I haven't scratched the trunk because I'm not home yet. Not sure if my tree is dead yet or not. On another note, I also have a ginsing ficus that is losing leaves and becoming naked. The tips of the leaves are browning and then they jusy drop. I repotted it the same as the rest of my bonsai after the dormant stage. It is in a pot with a humidity drip tray that I keep wet. It sits two feet to the right of a window that the blinds are kept open and the temp doesn't drop below 70 degrees. Any idea what is wrong? It was fine for a year and a half and then took a massive turn for the worst.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Indoor Juniper Bonsai Sick - Turning Brittle

Your juniper is dead. Sorry, but juniper dies in slow motion from the inside out. By the time it is showing significant browning on the outside, it is a goner. If you read through this thread, the message is there is NO such thing as an indoor juniper. If it's been indoors, it needs to be gradually acclimatized to outdoor, but in nature juniper is native almost up to the Arctic circle; it is hardy to something like negative 30 degrees. It needed to stay outdoors.

Re the ginseng ficus: If it was fine for a year and a half, what changed after that. Did you change its location? soil? watering? Ficus is prone to dropping its leaves in response to environmental change, especially change in lighting.

" ginsing ficus that is losing leaves and becoming naked. The tips of the leaves are browning and then they jusy drop. I repotted it the same as the rest of my bonsai after the dormant stage. It is in a pot with a humidity drip tray that I keep wet. It sits two feet to the right of a window that the blinds are kept open and the temp doesn't drop below 70 degrees. Any idea what is wrong? It was fine for a year and a half and then took a massive turn for the worst."

I'm not sure what you meant by the humidity drip tray. You understand that your plant and pot should be sitting OVER the humidity tray, not in it, right? The humidity tray is just supposed to add some moisture to the air around the tree. You never want your tree sitting in standing water. Two feet to the right of a window doesn't sound like enough light. Indoors, ficus likes plenty of light. I always had mine in a corner with windows on two sides and it did well there.
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