cynthia33331
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Hibiscus Bonsai Question

I gave my son a hibiscus bonsai for his 15th birthday 2 weeks ago. It was bright green the day I gave it to him and now the leaves and moss are wilting and yellowing. We live in south florida with weather during the day in the 70's - 80's and at night in the 50's - 60's. He has been keeping it outside during the day and bringing it inside at night but it looks like it is dying! HELP!

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froggy
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check if the top of the soil has anything glued in, that, and maybe the moss too, should be removed so air can get in and you are able to judge the need for water better.
also read up on properly watering the tree -> search the forum for 'chopstick method'.
not sure about what kind of hibiscus it is, but i am thinking it should be fine left outside. - some plants don't take well to being moved around a lot.
;)

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bonsaiboy
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If you are putting it in full sun that may be the cause. Move it to shade.
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cynthia33331
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I am concerned because I purchased the tree and it only came with a rock base and some moss covering the rock. Do we need to place in the entire rock into a pot of soil? It was being placed in the sun during the day...we will no longer do that!

Victrinia Ridgeway
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Hi Cynthia...

Actually putting hibiscus in sun is not only good, it's the best way to get ideal growth and bloom.

Two things are likely the culprit of your problem...

Watering a tree/shrub in a container (rock or otherwise) especially in a warm enviornment like S. Florida is usually a daily event. So knowing how you've been watering it would be very important. If a tree isn't given a sufficient amount of water, especially in full sun, it can start to blast leaves which will yellow and fall off. The fact that your moss is also dying supports that idea.

The second thing which can happen, if you've been watering daily, is the plant may have been growing in a UV protected space like a greenhouse. When plants are grown in a UV protected space they don't brother to put on the waxy coating that protects them from harsh light. If the leaves which are dieing are dull then likely they are buring in the light. However the good news is that the tree will replace them in a couple weeks with leaves which will tolerate direct outdoor light.

Given your temperature, I'd leave it outdoors at all times unless you suddenedly are getting temps down to freezing at night. Then you should bring it indoors... other than that... leave it out. It'll be happier for it.

However, all that being said, the tree is currently stressed. So filtered or morning sun would be better for it than direct sunlight... but as soon as it gets happy again... move it to direct full sun and keep it there.

If you could take a photo of it and upload it to an image host like photobucket and post it here that would be great.

If you have stressed it out due to lack of water... all is not lost... one thing which may happen when it gets happy again is it should bloom for you. Hibiscus often needs a "drought" period to get to active blooming.

Good luck!

Victrinia
La belle cose prendono tempo... (Beautiful things take time...)

Victrinia Ridgeway
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One other thought... about the rock... if the hibiscus is planted in a rock with very little soil... watering can actually then become as much as a twice a day process, three even if the whole thing is quite small. I would remove the moss and with a chopstick try and determine how much soil is actually there. If little to none... know that watering is even more crucial... and you may want to see about transplanting it into another container out of the rock entirely.

If that's the case... let me know and we can talk about soil... :)

V
La belle cose prendono tempo... (Beautiful things take time...)

cynthia33331
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https://s1198.photobucket.com/albums/aa441/cynthia33331/

Victrinia:

Thank you for all of your help. I am attaching a link so you can see a picture...please let me know what you think.[/img]

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bonsaiboy
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The plant is almost certainly suffering from stress, so for now it is important to keep it in a shaded area until it has recovered. Then, if you want, progressively move it back to full sun exposure.

It seems to me (although I could be wrong) that the hibiscus has been growing on the rock for some time. If this is the case then removing it may not be important at this time, however, if you feel it should be planted in soil, then by all means go ahead (it certainly can't hurt at this point). Although it is generally frowned upon by the bonsai community, I've found that potting soil mixed with a tad of pumice (about 1:2 ratio) works well as bonsai soil.
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bonsaiboy
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Heres a thread on bonsai soil: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3422
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Victrinia Ridgeway
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cynthia33331 wrote:https://s1198.photobucket.com/albums/aa441/cynthia33331/

Victrinia:

Thank you for all of your help. I am attaching a link so you can see a picture...please let me know what you think.[/img]

Cynthia...

First off... thanks for linking the photo that was very helpful!

Knowing how you have been watering it would be very important to know. Since the tree currently has so little viable foliage you would be fine to just defoliate it completely (remove all leaf matter by trimming it off) and let the tree push a new set of leaves. As a tropical tree in a tropical enviornment, there is no danger to do more damage than has already been done. It will respond and live... or it will not. The leaves that are there aren't doing anything. Also be sure to cut off any flower buds as they will take valuable energy away from the tree.

I am curious about the rock... is it draning from underneath somewhere when you water it? Typically most trees in a rock or pot will have a way for water to flush through the container. If it's not... then the rock may be holding too much water... and while hibiscus like to drink a lot when they are growing (and especially when blooming) being really soggy pisses them off. You should check the soil and see if it is saturated or dry, the best method is using a chopstick to gently probe the deeper parts of the soil. If it comes up really wet, it may not have adequate drainage through the rock which can also be a problem. Because the tree has no leaves which are viable, you will not want to water in the manner which I was saying previously... watering daily assumes a healthy set of foliage. You'll want to keep the soil moist but not wet until it's drawing more water from the soil after it has a full set of leaves again.

Is the tree firmly in the rock? If you take hold of the lower trunk and attempt to shift it around is it tight? I'm trying to figure out if the tree has been in this rock for a very long time or not... also did you buy it from a store or an actual bonsai vendor? Those kinds of things are very helpful to know when assessing why a tree is reacting the way it is.

Not to contridict bonsaiboy, but keeping this tree in shade isn't useful at this point, filtered light/morning sun will actually be better for a defoliated tree as sunlight will simulate latent buds which need to be activated. Full sun is the goal for hibiscus in the end though... you want lots of light to get into the foliage to stimulate growth. If you still had a set of viable leaves, then yes... shade can be helpful for a stressed plant. Fortunately hibiscus is a weed, and is usually quite tough, it's happy to recover from stress with consistent care.

I have to say... you did well picking your first bonsai... it's got a lot of character and potential. Nice thing is that if you get to the point where you want to style it into a more defined/refined state, you can easily airlayer some babies off for yourself. But that's a lesson for another day. lol

One other thing... if it does try to put on flower buds when it replaces it's leaves, be sure to remove them. Reproduction is not where you want it to put it's energy... no matter how pretty they may be. :)

Let me know about the watering schedule, soil water content, and how secure that tree is in the rock. Thanks!

V
La belle cose prendono tempo... (Beautiful things take time...)

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bonsaiboy
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My only concern with this is that heat, rather than the light from the sun itself will be the factor that kills the bonsai. If the culprit for the defoliation is shock, then throwing the bonsai into full sun might not hurt it. However, since there is also the possibility of root damage (either from not-so-well-drainage or other factors) then the excess heat from the sun on the stem might cause more water to be expelled than absorbed, which would dehydrate and kill the plant. In fact, the more I look at your picture of the plant, the more it seems to be the leaves wilted from lack of water (and began to dry out as a result), perhaps (but not necessarily) as a result of damaged roots.

An inspection of the roots may tell you if they are damaged or not. If it is planted in soil, take it out, and look at the root tips. They should be translucent and white. If they are, you're okay. If they're not, then you may be dealing with root rot. If the plant has root rot, then the best thing you can do is trim away the dead roots, keep the plant in a constricted pot with well draining soil, and water it with a vitamin B1 solution. Once roots have reformed, then you can put it back in its rock (but be sure to put a hole or two in the rock for water to drain out, if there isn't one already).

However, if there is no soil on the rock, and the roots just grow into the moss, then you will need to keep the moss moist at all times.
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Victrinia Ridgeway
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Defoliation is a symptom of shock... which is why I think that it's best for Cynthia to answer the questions asked before too much speculation goes on. Especially in regards to a visual inspection of the roots... that could be a recommendation based on her answers, but it's a bit previous to suggest it at the moment.

All transpiration of water in the tree is through the leaves... since the tree has decided to withdraw from it's current set of leaves there is no worry of dehydration in the manner which you are describing. Quite the opposite is my concern at the moment....

Best to wait and see what Cynthia's responses are. :)

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La belle cose prendono tempo... (Beautiful things take time...)

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