Anomiko
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My Hawaiian Umbrella is turning yellow!

Help, I have a bonsai emergency! I recently went on vacation for three weeks and left my house plants with a friend. I got them back the other day and now my basil is dead and my bonsai is turning yellow. Its a Hawaiian Umbrella with very big, pointed leaves that is not typical of most bonsais. I've raised this tree for 5 years and it would break my heart to see it die. Whole branches of leaves are turning yellow; the stems are still green and there are still some leaves that haven't turned yet.

I'll appreciate any information and help you can give me!! I've already re-potted it. I checked the roots and they were still white and healthy looking. The soil felt very cold and moist, like the bonsai hadn't absorbed any of the water. The same was the case with my basil. I don't know if they left it outside and it froze or what but my basil's leaves have all shriveled up.

Please tell me that my bonsai is still salvageable!!

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djlen
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Re: My Hawaiian Umbrella is turning yellow!

Anomiko wrote:Help, I have a bonsai emergency! I recently went on vacation for three weeks and left my house plants with a friend. I got them back the other day and now my basil is dead and my bonsai is turning yellow. Its a Hawaiian Umbrella with very big, pointed leaves that is not typical of most bonsais. I've raised this tree for 5 years and it would break my heart to see it die. Whole branches of leaves are turning yellow; the stems are still green and there are still some leaves that haven't turned yet.

I'll appreciate any information and help you can give me!! I've already re-potted it. I checked the roots and they were still white and healthy looking. The soil felt very cold and moist, like the bonsai hadn't absorbed any of the water. The same was the case with my basil. I don't know if they left it outside and it froze or what but my basil's leaves have all shriveled up.

Please tell me that my bonsai is still salvageable!!
Welcome to our Forum Anomiko,

First can you tell us if the soil in your pot drains well or when you water it does it stand a bit before being absorbed? If it drains well your Schefflera should be just fine.
It could be lack of nutrients that are causing the yellowing, but more likely it got a chill while you were away. They are tough trees but cannot be left in cold temps. or they can react as yours has.
Put it in a warm, nicely lit environment, let the leaves fall and let it get almost dry between waterings and you should see new leaves appear in a week or two.......maybe a bit longer.
I regularly defoliate my Scheffs. and many others do as well, to produce smaller leaves and more compact growth. They spring back stronger than ever over time.
So it could be that it got a chill or was over-watered, but I'm leaning toward the former.
You've had it quite a while. Are you feeding it? And if so what and how much?

Some reading material:
https://www.bonsaigardener.org/hawaiian-ubrella-bonsai.html
https://www.mellobonsai.com/care/Hawaiian-umbrella-bonsai.aspx
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Big Vine
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Location: Florida - Zone 8b

I gather this Schefflera is normally kept outside, and you suspect that the person taking care of it left it there during a cold snap?

If so, I would contact them and find out all the specific details of what happened.

Where are you located?
Where was the tree being kept?

You said you've had it for 5 years---when was the last re-potting (not including the one you just performed)?

Please fill us in on the details, and we can provide better advice.
BV
Sean
Indoor Grower
Schefflera arboricola
Ficus microcarpa 'Green Island'
Ficus salicifolia 'Willow Leaf'
Portulacaria afra
Pachira aquatica

Anomiko
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thanks for all the advice everyone!

i keep the bonsai indoors. I live in an apartment on the top floor but I have windows that reach up to the ceiling so I get a lot of sunlight. the tree is normally kept in a pot by the window but while I was away I left it with a friend. I have no idea where they put it but they claim it got lots of sun and never did they leave the window open. I'm not sure I entirely believe them as when my basil came back there were a pair of mysterious plastic knifes stuck into the soil and a string holding up my basil. I asked them about it and they claimed nothing unusual happened.

my last repotting was sometime in the fall. i don't remember exactly when but it was maybe three months ago. i live in the midwest in the US and this past couple of weeks has been very cold with temperatures close to 0 degrees and even lower. I use potting soil that I bought at the supermarket so its got plant food in it.

to water it, i use the immersion technique. i put the pot in a giant bucket of water and leave it there for sometimes an hour. when i lift it out, the water drains readily but the soil is moist. when i got back the bonsai, i thought it looked a little underwatered so I left it in for two hours. perhaps i left in for too long?

i checked on it this morning and there doesn't seem to be any changes. at least I don't think I see more yellow leaves. I haven't watered it today since the soil doesn't look too dry to me. is that what I should be doing?

just a quick note: I don't water the bonsai everyday. just whenever the soil looks dry.

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Big Vine
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Location: Florida - Zone 8b

Thanks for the additional details.
I'm almost certain that you are dealing with one (or possibly both at the same time) of the following:
-cold
and/or
-overwatering (in which case an overly water-retentive potting media is to blame)

IF your plant was subjected to cold, then about all you can do is give it some TLC (tender loving care) and be sure to keep the plant well away from any potential cold drafts coming in from nearby windows---especially with the sub-zero temperatures that have been happening in your region as of late. Being farther from the windows will likely mean less light for the plant (unless of course you are supplementing with artificial lighting, which is never a bad idea), but a bit less light shouldn't hurt this plant. Cold WILL hurt it!

As for the overwatering issue...
You mentioned your soil came from the supermarket, which leads me to assume that it is a fairly dense, rich peat-based material with fine particles. Perhaps one of many Miracle-Gro products? Does that about describe it accurately?

You mention you only water whenever the soil looks dry, but have you ever stuck a finger (or chopstick) in there to test for moisture below the soil surface? This is absolutely critical to making sure things don't stay too wet.

We need to make sure you are using proper potting media (a.k.a. 'soil'), which means something which drains freely. Could you please do us a favor and describe your potting mix in as much detail as possible?

Photos of your plant and potting mix would be helpful.
Also, it would be helpful to know the details of your fertilizing regimen.
BV
Sean
Indoor Grower
Schefflera arboricola
Ficus microcarpa 'Green Island'
Ficus salicifolia 'Willow Leaf'
Portulacaria afra
Pachira aquatica

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djlen
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I've seen Schefs. do OK with far less light than you describe. It should be just fine with some TLC and letting it get almost dry between waterings. Even when defoliated completely bare mine have sprung back with better branching, smaller leaves and tighter growth.
I am not a fan of the immersion technique. I like to water from the top spreading the water around until it see it coming out the bottom holes. In summer I use a wand attached to the hose with a rosette end that sprinkles water on the plant and soil, letting it soak through. Do what works for you though.
What you describe generally comes from over-watering or being subjected to cold but I'd let it go for now and just work at bringing it back strong. I'm sure they did what they thought was best at the time. How long were you gone? If a week or less it might have been OK if left alone at your house till you returned.
Yes, wait until it's looking almost dry and then give it a good watering. I feed all my tropicals with each watering at 1/4 strength, but some folks feed less often. I use a lot of light and they grow fast for me so they need extra fertilization, IME.
One other thing. I have found that for temperate Bonsai trees the coarser the potting mix, up to 1/8" in diameter, is very beneficial for them in terms of soil aeration for the roots and root development. My wife and I have tried bringing this philosophy into the house for houseplants to see how it would work and are very pleased with the growth and development of our tropical and semi-tropical plants.
I don't know how into that aspect of your plants you are but I thought I'd mention that. Possibly that might be a consideration for you when you re-pot your Schef. next time.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Anomiko
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Thank you both so much for your help and advice. I was seriously on the verge of panicking.

Here are some pics of our patient. (if the pics are too big, please let me know)

[img]https://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv339/sim-miko/personal/DSC00654.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv339/sim-miko/personal/DSC00657.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv339/sim-miko/personal/DSC00660.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv339/sim-miko/personal/DSC00664.jpg[/img]

As you can see, some of the leaves are browning while others are getting dark. Its a pretty big tree with a thick bark. My boyfriend and I decided to let it grow as is rather than trimming.

Please ignore the white ribbon. We tied it because after a re potting it tends to lean.
Here's a closeup of the soil:

[img]https://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv339/sim-miko/personal/DSC00655.jpg[/img]

This is the brand I use:
[img]https://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv339/sim-miko/personal/DSC00665.jpg[/img]

We were gone for three weeks at which time, the plants were brought over to a friend's house. He wasn't very descriptive about the time they spent over at his house, just that everything was fine and nothing unusual occurred. We never really had any trouble with this bonsai. It just kept growing as soon as we got it so I never saw any reason to fertilizer it. We re-pot it maybe once every two years when it outgrows it pot and that seemed to have worked well. We pruned the roots a bit each time we re-potted it as well.

Again thank you both for your help!

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djlen
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I'm thinking it's from the cold. It almost like it was exposed to frost because from the picture it looks like the the leaves that are green are lower leaves that were protected by the upper ones.
When you took it over to the other house how cold was it.....how long in the car? Could that have been what happened?

As to the soil, it's a pretty good mix for your Schef. and you've had success with it so I'd stay with what works for you. You can improve your soil so if you're ever interested in that someone here will be happy to help.

As to the plant itself, it does look a bit over sized for it's pot, but if you feel it's pretty and are happy with it it's just right in your eyes and that's all that matters. I would consider re-potting in the spring rather than the fall, simply because that is the time when the plant pushes itself more to grow because of environmental changes (daylight, humidity levels, warmth).

I never addressed your basil simply because I have no knowledge about them and would be guessing at best with any suggestions. Sorry.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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Big Vine
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Location: Florida - Zone 8b

I would tend to concur with Len about the frost damage.
The appearance of the damaged leaves looks very much like the damage I've seen over the past few days with some Scheffleras I've been keeping outside (to test whether or not they are suitable for year-round outside growth in my particular Florida locale...seems they may not quite make it, but some might).

All you can do from this point on is keep it protected from the cold and make sure it isn't subjected to any further cold drafts.

Thanks for sharing those pics.

About the soil mix...
Personally I find that using a much coarser (more like 'small gravel') mix works best for ME. I have 'drowned' several Schefflera plants in a mix similar to the one you are using.

BUT, the most important thing is to find something which works for you AND your plant(s). Since you have had this plant for years and say its root system is in good health, it seems that you have struck a balance which works. In other words, if the shoe fits, wear it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, etc.

IF you have any interest in looking into alternatives to your potting mix, there may be some more suitable options---just let us know and we can advise accordingly.

One last thing...
Your plant is in a damaged state from the cold damage, and thus it will not require as much water as usual. Just be careful not to overwater.

Best of luck with it, and keep us posted!
BV
Sean
Indoor Grower
Schefflera arboricola
Ficus microcarpa 'Green Island'
Ficus salicifolia 'Willow Leaf'
Portulacaria afra
Pachira aquatica

Anomiko
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again, thank you both for your help.

just a quick question: should I let the brown leaves fall naturally or should I prune them? If so, where should I cut them off? Where the leaves met the the stem or where the stem meets the branch?

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djlen
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Location: Just East of Zone 7a

When I defoliate I cut the petiole (the thin stem that supports the leaf) at the halfway mark or there abouts. It will eventually fall off on it's own. You can take it off right at the branch as well. I just liked the idea of cutting the petiole in half. :) And yes, I would trim them off. The tree is going to look terrible when bare but it will rebound for you.

Also, you will see more branching and smaller leaves when they do come in.
This is why we defoliate them.
You still have a few green ones on the tree, correct? If so you can leave them or defoliate totally. It won't hurt the plant to take all of them off.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
_________
How To Post A Picture

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