keither
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Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2007 4:29 pm
Location: Belgium

(possible) Chinese Elm - dormancy vs dying

Hey, thanks for reading...

All things considered, I'm a newbie to bonsai. I've done the usual reading but want some confirmation before i proceed with some things...

i (think i) have a Chinese Elm bonsai, based on pictures. I purchased it at a garden center in Antwerp, Belgium.

I've noticed that leaves are turning yellow and dropping quick. It's 5 years old and has been in the same place for a few weeks now. There is not much sunlight that comes into the house so it's on my coffee table under a 60watt bulb about 6ft above (which is on, pretty much all day).

I've read that repotting should be done near the end of the dormancy period. But I'm at a loss now, being almost December with no chance to get my tree outside for some fresh air and sun.

As you can see in the photographs, the soil is pretty dark and dense (mind you it's still damp from a watering, yesterday). I have a feeling this little tree has never been repotted or had a root trimming. To lift the tree (and soil) out of the pot I'm going to have to scrape away some of the soil at the edge (pot tapers inwards at the top). I would like to change to a coarser (more coarse?) soil and have a look at the root system to see if it needs a trim... BUT... will all this be in vain because my tree is TRYING to lose it's leaves and have a winter nap?? i don't want to stress my tree any more than necessary so I'm looking for some advice.

Anything is appreciated.

(sorry for the pic quality, there's a magnify button to look closer)

yellow leaves
[url]https://picasaweb.google.com/binary.keith/Bonsai/photo#5138587929650617426[/url]
location wrt window
[url]https://picasaweb.google.com/binary.keith/Bonsai/photo#5138587951125453922[/url]
soil
[url]https://picasaweb.google.com/binary.keith/Bonsai/photo#5138587968305323122[/url]

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koiboy01
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Location: U K

Hi,
I think you should be putting your elm outside it will be far to warm in your house and repot it next year before it starts to wake up.
koiboy01

artisanoo
Senior Member
Posts: 117
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2007 3:53 pm

i don't know a lot about chinese elm but there are a few recent threads that address the issue of chinese elm care and dormancy requirements.

although, i could be completely wrong, but i doubt a tree would be going dormant inside, so im not sure why the leaves could be going yellow - you mentioned some possible causes but th emore knwledgable guys around here can probably shed some more light on the topic...

also, just a side point - a 60watt bulb 6 ft away (assuming either its an incandescent, or a 60watt equivalent fluorescent) is not very much from the plants perspective. remember that light intensity from a light source falls off in proportion to the square of the distance .... so if you have a plant at 1 foot away, moving it 6 feet away will reduce the light to 1/36th (1/6^2) of what it would have been getting at a foot.

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

keither,

Welcome to the site.
I think you should be putting your elm outside it will be far to warm in your house and repot it next year before it starts to wake up.
If we were discussing a temperate tree such as a Juniper or Maple I would agree completely. Even with a Chinese Elm this is the method I prefer, annual dormancy. But being a sub-tropical Chinese Elm is more flexible in this regard and many do keep them inside.
although, I could be completely wrong, but I doubt a tree would be going dormant inside,
I agree, especially considering the species. Leaves of this species are tenacious and do not drop easily due to temperature. This year mine has already been exposed to numerous light frosts and at least two decent freezes and has not lost leaves, some have turned color but stayed on.
a 60watt bulb 6 ft away (assuming either its an incandescent, or a 60watt equivalent fluorescent) is not very much from the plants perspective. remember that light intensity from a light source falls off in proportion to the square of the distance .... so if you have a plant at 1 foot away, moving it 6 feet away will reduce the light to 1/36th (1/6^2) of what it would have been getting at a foot.
I see this as the root of the problem, although there are other factors to consider. This is a pitifully low level of lighting for your tree. Conventional incandescents, not MH or HPS, are never a good choice, too little energy gained for too much heat released. In other words, even putting aside the question of frequency/spectrum, you cannot get the light close enough to do any good without burning the plant.

Fluorescents are a much better choice, although all are not created equal almost anything you come up with would be an improvement over the current situation. They can be kept within inches of the tree without danger of overheating and as noted distance is an important consideration.
As you can see in the photographs, the soil is pretty dark and dense (mind you it's still damp from a watering, yesterday). I have a feeling this little tree has never been repotted or had a root trimming.
The soil looks pretty poor as well and a re-potting is in order but not until you get some decent mix and do a little reading.
I would like to change to a coarser (more coarse?) soil and have a look at the root system to see if it needs a trim.
You need to do more than have a look, you need to completely remove the old soil and replace it with a proper free draining mix.

What are your options for location, both now and next summer? Do you intend to keep it indoors forever or can you locate it outside come spring. I see that your weather today is mild for this time of year, how much colder do you expect it to get later?

In the meantime please read the sticky thread concerning general care. Pay particular attention to the portion concerning watering. Really quickly, do not try to overcompensate with excessive watering. Likewise fertilization, in fact its probably best to forgo that for now, until you see some fresh growth.

[url]https://bonsaihunk.8m.com/info/IndoorLight.html[/url]
[url]https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/indoors.htm[/url]

Norm

keither
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Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2007 4:29 pm
Location: Belgium

big thanks for the informative replies.

I followed your links and read the articles. I really appreciate the help.
This was my first time (ever) root pruning and without having the proper tools (ie: leatherman multitool and foldable scissors), i think all went well. If you remember from my last pictures, i have a rectangular pot and found roots about the diameter of a pencil making a full lap around the base. Snip.

I took some pics but don't feel the quality is in proper ratio with the job i did. I'm posting them.. not for criticisms, but for those of you who took the time to help. You can tell my bonsai was 'root-bound'.
I guess the next 6 weeks will be rough on my tree and I'm sure you'll hear from me again if things get too out of hand.

oh, btw... i've moved it from it's coffee table spot and underneath a desklamp (this was a couple days before the root trim). Some of the yellow'd ones are looking healthier, if not greener and not a single leaf has dropped since.... *whew*

Thanks so much again, and if you wish, check some pics in my updated bonsai gallery =)

[url]https://picasaweb.google.com/binary.keith/Bonsai[/url]

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

keither,
big thanks for the informative replies...I followed your links and read the articles. I really appreciate the help.
You're welcome, hope it was useful.
This was my first time (ever) root pruning and without having the proper tools (ie: leatherman multitool and foldable scissors), I think all went well.
I must admit I was a little surprised to read this I thought we were still discussing options/theory.
re-potting is in order but not until you get some decent mix and do a little reading.
Did you do any research regarding proper bonsai soil? I'm afraid that if you used conventional potting soil you may not have improved matters much. On the positive side it sounds as though you removed to correct type of roots. Pruning large and downward pointing roots in favor of smaller more horizontal ones.
I've moved it from it's coffee table spot and underneath a desklamp
What type of bulb is in your lamp? A CF would be a better choice than incandescent. While an improvement over the previous situation, realistically, that is a minimal amount of lighting.

Norm

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