BH
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:47 pm

Dwarf Hawaiian Umbrella tree losing leaves - Please help

[img]https://i1127.photobucket.com/albums/l633/bettyh1/umbrella.jpg[/img]

This is a picture of the infected leaves that are falling off my Dwarf Hawaiian Umbrella tree. This started about 2 weeks ago. Every morning there are a couple of leaves that look like the above picture. Often a small branch will fall off if lightly touched, even if the leaves look healthy. The sick leaves are a brownish color. It doesn't look like black spot, but the bonsai has had black spot problems before in the past.

So far we've tried Garden Safe's fungicide (which also is an insecticide and miticide). We've used it twice in two weeks, following the directions on the label. We've also started giving the bonsai Joe Bonsai's fertilizer and vitamins.

We've had this tree since April. It's still growing some new leaves, but it's losing leaves at a faster rate because of this problem. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

kdodds
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

MOST often, with Schefflera, the case is overwatering, sitting in water that the plant can't or won't uptake. There are two likely causes of this. The first is overwatering, but it's not as simple as that simple statement. Overwatering is not a timed event, nor is it a volume of water event. Each individual situation is different, so there's no real way to say, "give this much water at this frequency". The two variables that play MOST into THIS scenario, for beginners, are too large of a pot or poor draining soil, sometimes both. The second likely cause, this year at least, is that vendor(s?) have been selling Schefflera cuttings shoved into potting soil as "starter plants" and even "bonsai" without advertising that these cuttings are NOT rooted. I've come across this now, myself, and on various sites, at least a dozen times this year.

So, my best suggestions, unpot and check the root system. If it's barely there, put the plant into a glass of water in a sunny southern window and wait for roots to develop well, then repot. If the soil in the pot is not a fre draining bonsai mix, replace it with a better mix, whether the plant is well rooted or not, on repot. But, do not repot until the plant is well rooted.

BH
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:47 pm

Thanks for the reply.

That's bad about them selling cuttings. I didn't know about that. I don't think the tree is a cutting since we have seen roots near the top of the soil.

Overwatering could be the problem. I used to give it 1/2 cup of water once a week, but after reading about bonsai care, I got worried I wasn't watering it enough and started watering it until the water came out the drain holes. I'm going to go back to watering it 1/2 cup. It could be the soil is not draining properly. The plant was bought from Walmart and still has the soil that came with it. Would you recommend changing the soil? I'm worried that it might be a shock to the tree. If I do repot, can you recommend a good bonsai draining soil?

kdodds
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

See above. I'm very familiar with WalMart "bonsai" trees. The soil they are in has two states, sodden and dusty. It's not a good soil, it's not even a passable soil, for keeping bonsai. For low maintanence, short-term care, without concern for the long-term health of the plant, hey, it suits its purpose well, but not for bonsai. You'll need a free draining mix. You SHOULD be able to see water flowing from the bottom of the pot almost as soon as you start watering (if not soaking) and you should continue watering until the soil is thoroughly soaked through. Let it sit for a few minutes, then water again the same way. After that, use a toothpick or chopstick. Stuck into the soil, if it comes out clean and dry, it's time to water again. After a few months of this you should have watering down pat. I prefer soils that are equal parts calcined clay, lava or pumice, and compost or pine bark.

BH
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:47 pm

What's the best way to change the soil without stressing the plant? Is there a certain shape or type of (ceramic, plastic) pot that would be best?

kdodds
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

*Most* WalMart Scheff's are not really ready for the big time, so a larger "grow out" pot, gallon size, is probably more suitable, but without seeing the tree it's impossible to say. As far as repotting goes, gently remove from the pot, gently clear the soil, washing the roots if necessary, wire into place in its new pot, fill with soil. This is fairly simple, fairly basic bonsai stuff. You may want to purchase a book on the subject before doing anything.

BH
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:47 pm

Thank you kdodds for all your help. I ordered some bonsai soil today and have looked at some videos about repotting bonsais and will look some more while I wait for the soil. We'll watch the water and hope the new soil will help. Thanks again.

kdodds
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

NP. Please let us know how it goes, and what the root system actually looks like once you've unpotted it. I've tried to stay away from recommending Schefflera this year specifically because this problem is so prevalent. While you're waiting, if you're so inclined, a much easier, more tolerant species you might try is Portulacaria afra, AKA "Baby Jade". It's definitely replaced Schefflera on my list of recommendables, and is probably the single easiest species for indoor bonsai culture.

BH
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:47 pm

I was actually surprised when we removed the tree from the original pot. The roots were about 2 inches long. I thought that they would be longer. I did not trim the roots because they were so small to begin with. The tree is around 8" tall. Anyway, we repotted the tree 2 days ago. It seems to be doing okay. The new soil seems to drain much better. I'll feel better after a week or so goes by and I'm sure the tree is okay from the transplant.

kdodds
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

Score another one for the unscrupulous Schefflera sellers this year. They MUST be mostly coming from one supplier. I can't imagine a largish group of suppliers all deciding to do this at once. :evil:

BH
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:47 pm

It's terrible how they sell the cuttings like that. People buy these little bonsais with good intentions and want their plants to do well.

What would be normal root length for a plant this size? Do you think it will be okay with the roots being this short? We're starting to get some brown leaves again, do you think it could be the transplant?

Thanks again.

kdodds
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

I haven't seen the size of the plant, or the root system. Root length is not nearly as important as density of fine feeder roots.

Return to “Indoor Bonsai Forum”