Atamusk
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Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:30 pm
Location: Maine, USA

Chinese Elm Dropping Leaves

Hi all! I've been browsing the forum here, so I can see it is full of people in similar conditions, but i believe that my predicament is somewhat different than what I've seen covered already.

So, one month ago, I purchased a nice, healthy looking chinese elm. Keeping it indoors, i noticed that leaves started to drop after about a week, which is what I had expected. However, much to my dismay, the leaves continued to drop. The leaves are very discolored when they drop; they are gray at the tip and fade to yellow then to green at the base. I have noticed a faint grayish residue on the leaves, but I had just chalked that up to minerals from my tap water precipitating out as the water dried off the leaves.

The tree is still throwing healthy new growth, so I believe that the watering/fertilizing regime is alright, but some of the new growth has turned gray and shriveled like all the rest. I have begun treating the leaves with neem oil, but I am not seeing a drastic improvement.

Are there any other methods I could try to revive my bonsai?

Thanks for reading!
"arithmetic, arithmetoc."

maveriiick
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Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2009 7:06 pm
Location: Toronto

I would leave it outside until frost begins, then leave it in a garage, cold room, or solarium outdoors. Indoors is very hard on trees and is best reserved for tropicals, and the chinese elm seems to appreciate a little bit colder temperatures at this time of year with an eventual dormancy period. I have one that is doing very well and I have a solarium/balcony that get cold as winter progresses. Keeping trees indoors stresses them due to very low humidity, no air circulation, high susceptibility to pests (due to lack of air circulation), and low light levels. I never keep my chinese elm indoors, just outside on a window sill during the spring summer and fall, indoors in cold area that drops to zero degrees C by winter. I hear you can even keep you elm in the fridge for the winter to assist with dormancy.

One more thing, I would probably stop fertilizing by this time of the year, as fertilizer (high nitrogen) may continue to stimulate the tree to bud leaves, and this could harm the tree as it will normally need to 'harden off' for the cold weather and dormancy.

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Atamusk,

While I agree with maveriiick's general philosophy of keeping temperate (and sub-tropicals where appropriate) outside and allowing the proper dormancy, I'm not so sure that I would move your particular tree outside now. Dormancy is a process and by making such a harsh transition to a tree that was not properly hardened off, I fear that you will stress your tree even further.

You may be describing a fungal issue it is hard to tell from here. If you would post some pictures it may help us to give some suggestions. The Neem oil just might do the trick but don't expect immediate improvements. Have you read the sticky threads on soils and general tips, for watering, yet these may give you a clue as to what is wrong.

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1479
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3422

Norm

Atamusk
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Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:30 pm
Location: Maine, USA

Thanks for the advice. I agree with Gnome, in that such a transition in an obviously weakened state may cause further stress. I have stopped fertilizing, moved the plant to a window shelf that is dryer and cooler than it was before, and set up a set of 3 14W CFL (Equivalent of 3 60W Bulbs) about a foot above it.
I've also been applying organocide (just fish and sesame oil) once a week, and while it smells like low tide, it seems to be doing the trick. The tree has recouped all of the leaves it lost, and more.
The only problem i've got now is that the leaves are getting too big (about the size of half of a dime) and I feel like it may be getting too much light.

any thoughts?

and thanks again for all of the great suggestions.
"arithmetic, arithmetoc."

Atamusk
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:30 pm
Location: Maine, USA

As a follow up- My poor little Elm has been having quite a fight. The leaves came back with vigor, but when my vigilance with the spray lapsed, the leaves started falling off yet again. So i started spraying again, and the leaves came back, and fell off again.
So, using a 30X microscope i discovered the true source of the problem... two spotted spider mites. I've been doing some research, and it looks like the best method i could find for removing these pests is an alternating spray of light soap and 1:1 mix of Isopropyl alcohol. Wish me luck!
"arithmetic, arithmetoc."

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Gnome
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Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:17 am
Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Atamusk,

Good for you for persevering and identifying the culprit. I've not had a lot of problems with Spider Mites but I believe that they thrive in the warmer, drier environment that our homes provide. Are you intending to move your Elm outside when the weather settles? This alone may go a long way toward dealing with the pest. Not to mention that the tree itself should do much better outside. If you have your heart set on an inside tree for the winter it can always be brought inside around Christmas after a brief dormancy where it will leaf out as if it were spring.

Norm

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