royalxi1
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Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:08 pm
Location: Milton Keynes, England

Bonsai Doing Poorly - Chinese Elm Dropping Leaves

Hi there,

New Bonsai owner and forum member here, looking for some advice for my Chinese Elm that I purchased just before Christmas.

I received it on the 21st December and sat it on the windowsill where it would get the most light.

From Christmas onwards, I have been watering as per the care instructions that came with it - feeling to see how wet it is, if only just damp re-watering.

It did really well for approximately a month and a half although the new growth was a lot paler with larger leaves than the small dark green leaves it arrived with. The new shoots would also grow quite long with only a couple of leaves at the end.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that it was dropping more leaves than normal and over the following few days it shed practically all of its leaves.

There is also a white mildew across the top of the soil now.

I have moved it to a different windowsill where it should get more light and have the window open a fraction as I read that it could need a better air flow, which it wasn't getting in its previous position. There are now a few small green buds along the branches but they don't really seem to be growing.

I have attached some pictures for you to see what it now looks like.

Any help or advice would be gratefully received.

Regards,
Ana

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Gnome
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Posts: 5122
Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:17 am
Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Ana,

Hello and welcome. Would you please put your location in your profile, it will help us to help you. The pale leaves and elongated shoots are no doubt due to low light conditions. The growth on the soil is likely caused by the heavy organic soil and your watering too frequently.

Put a chopstick or kitchen skewer into the soil. Insert it all the way to the bottom and leave it there. Everyday remove the skewer and hold it against the underside of your wrist to judge the moister level. Only water when the soil approaches being dry, not just the surface but at depth. You will likely determine that you have been watering too frequently.

Be aware that the soil may be a little tricky to re-wet once it dries a bit. That's the nature of the heavily organic soil that is the hallmark of commercially prepared bonsai. At some point the soil will need to be replaced with a properly draining medium.

When your climate permits, and assuming you are able and willing, you will much better off placing it outside. I keep several of these and the are in an unheated garage right now. Spring is approaching and I will, in due time, remove them to their benches where they will remain until next winter.

Norm

royalxi1
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Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:08 pm
Location: Milton Keynes, England

Hi,

Thanks very much for the advice, it has been very helpful.

I have now moved my tree to a better lit windowsill and we now have an opening bud!

I am going to give the skewer method a go and see how I get on with that.

My Bonsai will have to be an indoor tree, I have nowhere outside it can go (as I have no garden) so hopefully I can just make the conditions as hospitable as possible for it. Do you have any tips for keeping it inside?

I have been reading quite a bit about caring for a Bonsai tree and have come across two things that I'm not sure how much help will be. The first is misting the tree with water, it already has a humidity tray so is this necessary?

The second is a pesticide/invigorator spray. Some people seem to swear by it no matter whether the tree has an infestation of anything or not, others seem to be much more hesitant. I was just wondering what are your views on this?

Again, any opinions would be much appreciated.

Thank you again for the advice already given.

Regards,
Ana

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djlen
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Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:37 am
Location: Just East of Zone 7a

Ana, where did you purchase the tree? Do you have any idea how long it's been in it's current pot? Your plant just appears not to be very healthy and it's difficult to tell accurately how hard/compacted the soil is from the pictures but that could be a contributing factor. The white mold is not a good sign either.
The advice Norm gave you above is very good advice and your tree, if you want it to thrive will need eventually to be moved outdoors during the warmer months and then left out for a bit in the Fall to drop it's leaves and get a rest (go dormant).
I have seen these trees simply wear out from lack of rest and just wither and die. There are many possibilities, but your tree appears to need a rest after this coming growing season if, that is it survives it's current weakness.
I'd like to be able, either from further description or from better pics. the condition of the soil. Doesn't look light and loose, but rather tight and compacted. The tree can't breath if it's either pot bound or in soil that is not conducive to air circulation.
Can you give us some help with further description?
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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Gnome
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Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:17 am
Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Ana,
The second is a pesticide/invigorator spray. Some people seem to swear by it no matter whether the tree has an infestation of anything or not, others seem to be much more hesitant. I was just wondering what are your views on this?
I don't usually use any pesticides, natural or otherwise, in anticipation of a problem. The only exception for me is the use of a Fungicide on Chinese Elms. This species is susceptible to a fungal disease and if not controlled will kill it. I never mist this species for just this reason.

I would really prefer to keep this species, really all plants, outside when the weather permits but since you have no choice supplemental lighting will be a necessity. Check the bonsai library section of this forum for a thread about proper bonsai soil, it is nothing like conventional potting soil.

Norm

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