jstile
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Curling leaves after just a few days... help a novice!

Hi all, first time poster here and complete Bonsai newbie so any help would be greatly appreciated!

At the weekend I bought a Bonsai tree from a local garden centre... helpfully it was labelled 'Shanghai Mix' so I'm not really sure what it is. A quick trawl on the internet shows that it could be some form of ligustrum - it looks relatively similar to the below image:

[img]https://www.bonsai.co.uk/images/D/DSC_8490_resized.JPG[/img]

I am however no expert. When I get home from work I'll put up some photos of the actual tree.

Anyways, after a few days of it being in my flat it seems to have developed a problem. There are new growths of leaves coming through but they are all curling back on themselves. The main body of leaves did look ok, but this morning they seem a bit 'softer' than they were. I've been watering the plant daily but does this sound like it needs a soak? I've noticed when I do water the plant the water does seem to run down to the edges of the container, and also the soil isn't exactly bonded to the pot.

Any suggestions would be really helpful, I'm pretty terrible with plants as it is and I was hoping that this poor little tree wouldn't be the latest one to suffer at my hands!

Thanks,

J

kdodds
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First, we need an id. There are a lot of "look-alikes" out there. My initial impression, as a matter of fact, upon seeing the image was that it was of a Chinese Elm, until I looked closer.

Second, any tree that looks like that privet is most likely going to need to be very near to a south, east, or west window. Make sure it's getting enough sun. Depending on the species, it may even need to be outside (like the elm, and heck, even privets).

Third, do a search on "chopstick method" here. Never water on schedule, water as needed, as tested, at least until you're familiar with your tree.

HTH

jstile
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Hi kdodds,

Thank you for the swift reply! Unfortunately outside is not an option (the joys or urban living), so the little guy is going to have to make do with indoors. Hopefully he won't mind too much.

He is near a west facing window, so hopefully lack of light isn't the issue at play here. His area is bright, but out of direct sunlight (as suggested in the modest care instructions that came with the plant).

The 'chopstick method' sounds good, I'll definitely give that a go. I guess my main concern is that I don't want to over-water the plant, although from reading other posts and bits on the internet I'm guessing that I've probably been slightly under-watering him . From what I've seen so far online i'd guess that a 'soak' would be a good starting point, however as a complete novice I'd like some guidance before I take the plunge (excuse the terrible pun).

As I said, I'll get some photos up later today - I don't want to take any action until I'm sure I know what I'm doing, and what I'm dealing with!

Thanks again for the advice,

J

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Gnome
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jstile,
I've noticed when I do water the plant the water does seem to run down to the edges of the container, and also the soil isn't exactly bonded to the pot.
It seems like the plant is not being watered to its core. When soil is compacted, or the tree is root bound, it can be more challenging to wet the soil properly. This leads to the old adage to always water a bonsai several times in quick succession.

You did not mention how much you have been watering but always water profusely then wait until it needs watered again, don't ration water in an attempt to manage moisture levels, water well then wait.

The air in our homes is very dry and some plants simply will not thrive in such conditions. Air conditioning is no help in this regard. If you can only grow indoors your options are reduced from the start. It would have been better to do some basic research first, decide on a species, then choose an individual.

Norm

linlaoboo
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i find alot of times the instructions aren't helpful. With watering, unless you have free draining soil such as the bonsai mix and your location is warm and hot, there's no reason to water several times a day. When you water, make sure the soil is soaking it all up and not just draining it out of the pot. I don't see a picture of the tree so it's hard to tell. When you say the soil is not bonded to the pot, it could be that it's too heavy, broken down which can also have problem absorbing water which requires watering several times in one sitting or soaking it like you said but once watered, it may stay too wet for the roots. How often and how much to water depends on the tree type, soil type, how much leaves it has and your environment.
ficus, maple, elm, juniper, pine

jstile
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Hello again!

Thank you Gnome and linlaoboo for your input, anything I can learn from people more experienced than me is a massive benefit.

So.. It seems like under-watering was the problem. When I left for work this morning I was somewhat concerned... new leaves were still curled, and the older ones seemed to be going a bit floppy. I was in a rush and gave it a bit of a mild drenching (very professional, I know). Anyway, I've come home this evening and it's miraculously perked up! Crazy quick turnaround, obviously I have a sensitive soul on my hands.

Anyway, there is clearly still a lot I need to learn. First up, here's some photos of the little fella. If you could help me identify him that'd be really useful:

[img]https://i423.photobucket.com/albums/pp311/jaystile/IMG_0674.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i423.photobucket.com/albums/pp311/jaystile/IMG_0672.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i423.photobucket.com/albums/pp311/jaystile/IMG_0675.jpg[/img]

I've put a wooden skewer in the soil now and will check it in the morning for dampness.

Gnome - I haven't been watering profusely so far but I will once the soil is dry again. Which is best for a first big hit - water twice, or a quick soak?
You are completely right about the indoors aspect - I must admit (somewhat guiltily) that it was bought on a bit of a whim, however the fact that it was indoors in the shop and came in a wee little pot gave me the impression it was an indoors-type. Who knows though. Next time I will research, however this guy is going to get the most of my attention til then!

As you and linlaoboo state, it seems like I'm not watering through to the core, as the picture below probably indicates:

[img]https://i423.photobucket.com/albums/pp311/jaystile/IMG_0673.jpg[/img]

So, next watering will be a proper one. Finally... what would you recommend in terms of food? Do I need anything in particular for this type of tree?

Thanks,

J

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froggy
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To get through to the dry core, it would probably be best to soak the tree (well, just the soil) for a good 15 minutes. try to use room temperature water. Le it drain well before putting it back, so it won't be sitting in water.

You might want to consider a humidity tray and maybe some supplemental lighting - once you figure out which kind it is, its needs will be a lot clearer :)
As for the species, sorry, I am of no help there...
;)

derkap10
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Might this be some type of Azalea? Just a guess but the shape and the fuzziness of the leaves look like it could be.
Happy little trees!

kdodds
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Boy, I thought fr sure I'd be able to id it 100% with pictures that good. Alas, I can not. My BEST guess is Eugenia (Syzygium). It definitely grows like Syzygium, but its leaves and grow points aren't the same as S. paniculatum, the most common, also known as Brush Cherry. The leaves themselves also look like Malpighia (specifically glabra), but that doesn't fit right either. It could very well be Azalea, the only thing I know about them is that I have to chop about 2 feet off of the Rhododendrons at the front of my house every spring.

If the soil is pulling away from the pot, indeed, most like lack of water. There are many, many bonsai enthusiasts who recommend against regular soaking. However, my personal preference is to water almost exclusively in this manner. All of my bonsai get a good half hour soak once per week. I change up soils with regards to tree, tree size, pot, and pot size, to accomodate that schedule. Some individuals, mostly those in smaller pots, do need more frequent watering, and those waterings I do from above. I admit, I do have a few (like a Bougainvillea) that require LESS frequent watering, but they're new and I need to adjust soil on the next repot. I also mist well at least twice daily. This misting uses up at least a pint of water on each go, and the trees are (mostly) in a 5'x18"x3' garden/greenhouse window, which kind of helps keeping humidty in.

You can get a reasonably accurate, analog hygrometer in any pet superstore, if you're intersted. This may help you to determine whether or not the tree's surroundings are humid enough. They cost about $5.

HTH

kdodds
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OH.. almost forgot, that pot needs topping up with soil badly. Once the tree is settled and coasting for a month, I'd also consider repotting.

jstile
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Thanks for the further help guys. Mystery tree will remain a mystery. So far I've learned that it responds well to lots of water. I'll try and pick up some bonsai soil and feed online.

I was a little reticent to give it a full soak, but made sure to give it the 2x watering, getting all the soil as wet as possible then letting it drain through the bottom of the pot, then repeating the process about 15 mins later. There's a skewer in there too, so I can monitor moisture levels.

Other than that, I'm feeling a lot more confident that I'm not going to destroy the little fella now. Be interesting to see what he does over the summer.

Thanks again for all the help,

J

jstile
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Hello again all,

I'm terrible at this bonsai malarky. After thinking I'd rectified the drooping leaves problem, my tree has now started shedding leaves like nobody's business. The lower leaves in the canopy are going a very washed out green colour then just falling off. Seems to be a rate of about 5 leaves a day.

I've done as much as I can to see what's going on, your input would be really appreciated:

- I topped up soil and fertilised the plant, and after a slight rush of growth things have fallen back again.

- I (delicately) pulled the plant out of the pot and had a look at the root structure. There is no obvious sign of rot (roots are thin, brown and not particularly crumbly), and moist around the outside. I didn't want to break into the centre of the structure. The root structure is quite small and very dense.

I'm thinking one of two things... either the root structure is too dense and water isn't getting through properly, or I'm over-watering. Obviously the two possibilities require very different approaches to rectify... does anyone have any ideas? I'm thinking that at this rate the poor bugger'll be dead in a few months.

Thanks,

J

jstile
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Seems that my bonsai has blackfly...

kdodds
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Are you sure they're not fungus gnats? These would be MUCH more common indoors.

jstile
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Not sure really. They are very small and black. Look a bit like thunderflies. I'm hoping judicious application of death liquid sorts them out. The tree is not looking healthy.

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froggy
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jstile wrote:Thanks for the further help guys. Mystery tree will remain a mystery. So far I've learned that it responds well to lots of water. I'll try and pick up some bonsai soil and feed online.

I was a little reticent to give it a full soak, but made sure to give it the 2x watering, getting all the soil as wet as possible then letting it drain through the bottom of the pot, then repeating the process about 15 mins later. There's a skewer in there too, so I can monitor moisture levels.

Other than that, I'm feeling a lot more confident that I'm not going to destroy the little fella now. Be interesting to see what he does over the summer.

Thanks again for all the help,

J

I would think it's a case of watering too much now. The gnats would be an indication of soil staying wet for too long. did you look up the chopstick method? It really would be worth it...
;)

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