Pamawat
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Caucasian Elm bonsai - leaves dropping - help please.

Hello! :)

I bought a reasonably mature Zelkova indoor bonsa (1/2 metre high) from a reputed gardencentre in London mid September. It was in a poor state and heavily reduced due to a massive crack in the tray, thus not been watered for a while and lost 2/3 of its leaves. I couldn't leave it there to perish :cry: so brought it home, knowing this would be a tricky problem since I don't know anything about bonsai trees. But I'm a resonably competent gardener, so was willing (indeed, the whole family)to give it tlc and see how we go. :lol:

I looked through books so am fairly certain its a Zelkova carpinifolia, ie. Caucasian Elm. The leaves are chunkier and not as elongated & pointed as the other one. I fed it (1x) highly diluted Miraclegrow. Hubby mended the tray which sits inside a larger tray. The bonsai sits by a window in the S facing kitchen, so plenty of light. In the late afternoons when the sun was not so strong anymore I took it outside. Watered daily, ordinary tap water. It responded really well, within weeks it had masses of new leaves :lol: We didn't have such a hot summer so I wasn't afraid of scorching etc.

The temperature turned cool begin. of November but we didn't switch on our heating until mid November, so the house was fairly cold for a week or so. When the heating came on I regularly sprayed the tree as I do with other house plants. When we cook the tree gets removed to another room. And at night we put the tree away from the window.

About a week ago it started to lose leaves heavily, mostly green ones, a few yellow tinted, so clearly not an Autumn effect. Some leaves shriveled on the tree. By now it looks pretty much like when I bought it with only 1/4 of leaves still on. :(
Possibly I over watered it? I thought the shriveled dry leaves might be indication of drought but maybe I was wrong. I have bought bonsai liquid feed but haven't used it yet as I thought it's more for spring onwards. And I haven't used any other liquid feed, nor have I repotted it (wrong time of the year I presume) or trimmed it.

Do I allow it to dry out slightly? Do I wait for all the leaves to fall and then put it in the garage to overwinter it? (the garage faces NE, little light). Do I place it in a cooler room (eg.where I do my laundry) for the duration of winter? Do I keep it in the kitchen? :?: I think I understood that to put it outside is not an option as it hasn't become acclimatised yet. Having said that, I have a small spot by the house wall, on the terrace, facing south...

So you see, kind people, that like the Macedonian lady, we are really keen to save it. Any advice is keenly appreciated. 8)
Thanks, Patricia. :P

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Patricia,

Hello and welcome to the site. If possible could you please post some pictures of your tree. I have a feeling that your bonsai may actually be a Chinese Elm. They are much more common in the general retail trade than Zelkova. And although Z. carpinifolia are most definitely used as bonsai I believe that they are less common still than Z. serrata.

Have a look at this side-by-side comparison.
[url=https://img255.imageshack.us/i/zelelmzz6.jpg/][img]https://img255.imageshack.us/img255/2258/zelelmzz6.th.jpg[/img][/url]
The Zelkova is on the left. A US quarter Dollar is about 24MM

This second photo shows that Chinese Elms can exhibit substantial variability in leaf shape.
[url=https://img244.imageshack.us/i/elmleavesnq3.jpg/][img]https://img244.imageshack.us/img244/2779/elmleavesnq3.th.jpg[/img][/url]

Leaf size of an established bonsai is not always representative of the species as often such pictures are taken in spring or after a defoliation. At these times the leaves will be smaller than at others. Also, a well cultivated bonsai will have smaller leaves than the same species left to it's own devices. Photographs also have the problem of not showing anything for scale.

One of the more distinctive characteristics that I have noted is the shape of the shoot. Every Zelkova that I own, or have seen pictures of, exhibits an obvious zig-zag pattern while Chinese Elms do not seem to have this trait.

I know you did not ask about an ID but, as you know, it is important to know what you are dealing with.

Norm

Pamawat
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Joined: Tue Nov 23, 2010 12:44 pm
Location: London, UK.

Hello Norm,
You're spot on :wink: It's a Chinese Elm. Unfortunately can't send you a photograph just yet: my digital camera is "poorly" and my mobile phone is so old that the software isn't compatible with our new-ish computer. I'll get my daughter to use her phone, hopefully I can do this this evening. :idea: Once the pic is in my computer, how do I proceed?
Meanwhile, I've put some tap water in a bucket & left it in the garage, so will be using that water henceforth.
Also, we've had a mild frost overnight so I don't think putting "Samson" :lol: (because it was nearly bald when I bought it and then sprouted lots of hair!) outside is an option anymore. Pity these trees are sold as "indoor" bonsai when they clearly are not.

Thanks & bye for now,

Patricia.

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Patricia,
You're spot on It's a Chinese Elm.
It is very common for these to be misidentified. Apparently this is done to skirt restrictions on the importation of Chinese Elms. Almost without fail 'Zelkovas' that come from the retail trade in the UK end up being Chinese Elms, I've seen it numerous times here.
Pity these trees are sold as "indoor" bonsai when they clearly are not.
In this regard you are actually better off with a Chinese Elm. You see, they seem to fall somewhere between deciduous and tropical, they are sub-tropical. This means that they are adaptable to various climates and will even do reasonably well inside if the proper care is given them.

There have been numerous threads here on this subject, which can be found by using the search feature, so I won't go into it all again. Very quickly, although a dormancy is not a strict requirement it seems that most experienced growers allow either a full dormancy or an abbreviated one. This means spending at least part of the year outside. Have a look at previous threads and we will be happy to answer any specific questions you may have. In the meantime, here is a link that I'm sure you will find of interest.
https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicsdevelopingmallsai.htm
Once the pic is in my computer, how do I proceed?
Via a third party host, then link to them back here. Here is a thread that outlines the procedure.

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3724


Norm

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