anqeiicdemise
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How to get rid of mold on bonsai?

First and foremost: HI! I was looking up help online for the mold issue when I ran into your guys forums and I figured some live help would be better than wasting precious time on the internet.

I've never owned a bonsai tree and I figured its mostly my fault that my tree's suffering. I've bought books and read stuff online and that's what I'm basing the stuff I need to do for my tree. I've owned this gorgeous little Pony Tail Palm tree for about two months now (It was my birthday present from my husband).

I've kept the watering to a bare minimum since its so humid here in lovely Seattle. I don't do the 'submersion method' either because I can't see the 'water bubbles' that it speaks of. See, the tree was bought from a Sam's club and has all the rocks at the top glued or cemented on it so its hard to see the moisture levels. I've just kind of picked up the pot, felt the drainage hole and watered from the top if its too dry and let the excess run into a bowl then toss it.

Now, for the past week I've been smelling this strong , wet-earth smell in the house when I come from work. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from until I went to check the tree to see if it needing watering. Some of the fronds were black and the lovely little moss that was at the base was covered in black ad white mold. (I'll post pictures in a bit. I need to go find the sd card) Instinctively I moved it from where I had it next to a fountain (I'm guessing the splash effect overwatered it because I know I'm the only one who waters things around here. Husband even forgets to give the cat her water!) and to a sunnier spot in the house.

My question now is: how do I get rid of the mold? Its starting to spread up the bark and I'm scared of wood rot. I'm even tempted to re-pot the tree but I don't know how to get it off the pot because its pretty well glued on in there!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Kenshin14435
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I vactioned in Seattle one time. It was lovely except for the sickness I got on the airplane. And you say humid, you mean humid.
Anyway, I'm not familiar with this tree so I'll try my best to give you some advice(I can hardly give myself advice). I did some looking and the scientific name for your tree is " Beaucarnea recurvata ".
I went to wikipedia and found some good stuff. It may not be the best but it's worth a try.
Here's the link.
[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponytail_palm[/url]

This describes what kind of soil should be used.
I strongly recommend you do your best to repot your tree.(Although repot season has come and gone for most trees.)
If you can't get the thing out of the pot by hand, I'd use force.
At last resort you could use a hammer to break the pot.(You can always buy another.)
That's just some general info.
There alot of different ways to get rid of mold. As I have had no experience with mold, I recommend you wait for someone more experience on this part.
You could scratch it off. I don't think this is the best way.
I have seen some posts around here somewhere about spraying it with mix of 50 percent water and 50 percent rubbing alcohol.
I've offered what I can so again, I'd wait for some mor people to come around.
I bid you Good Luck![/i]
~ Ken ~

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Gnome
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anqeiicdemise,

Welcome to the forum. The first thing I would do is to remove the junk on the top of the soil, this is at the root of your problem. The glued on rocks are not for the benefit of the plant but are there as a shipping aid. Remove the moss as well. With this stuff in place you cannot judge when to water and when you do water the moisture is trapped. Once the soil is exposed you can decide if you need to re-pot. An old toothbrush can help remove any mold that may be on the plant itself.

Ken,

Are you perhaps thinking of Hydrogen Peroxide? I'm unsure about the rubbing alcohol.

Norm

Kenshin14435
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Norm,
I coulda' swore the post said rubbing alcohol. I cannot find the post but I will keep looking. I may be wrong. If I could only find that post.
~ Ken ~

Kenshin14435
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AH-HA
I found the post. And yes, it did say rubbing alcohol. It is in the topic "Moldy Schefflera". The post was by arboricola.
Heres the link to the page if ya want it.
[url]https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8885&highlight=[/url]
~ Ken ~

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Ken,

OK, just being cautious. You have a good memory. Here's the one I was thinking of, I'm sure there are more.

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8755

Norm

anqeiicdemise
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You guys are awesome, thank you. I would have cried had my Bonsai died.

Anyway, I'll go ahead and break off the damned rocks first and get rid of the moss and brush off the mold first. If the mold comes back I'll go with a more drastic approach such as re-potting it as I'm scared of shocking the plant.

Now, I a friend of mine told me that if I'm going to repot a plant to bake the soil in it first at 200 degrees for thirty minutes (thickness of three inches in a deep cake pan) to kill spores (if there are any) in this new soil and mix it a bit with perilite to help drainage and to wash my pot with a bit of water/bleach solution. Either wash it or just get a new pot with better drainage holes.

Does that sound like a good idea to you guys or is it not advisable for a bonsai tree?

anqeiicdemise
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Update!

So I sat down with a screw driver to remove all the moss and glued on rocks only to find this out upon closer inspection:

1.) The glued up gravel and moss made up just about HALF the potting soil in the pot.
2.) Now that I had removed all that crap from the top, I could see that the pot, indeed, was way too small for the main tree. Its just large enough for the cluster of baby palms off to the side but with both plants its just crowded. The plants were rootbound.
3.) The earth was muddy. It wasn't potting soil anymore, it was mud.

Well, I'm off to go get some perilite and marbles to help with drainage and a larger pot with holes. (I'm going to put a thin layer of pebbles or marbles along the bottom to help with the water because of the humidity up here.)
Last edited by anqeiicdemise on Sun Jul 06, 2008 8:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

alisios
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Pony Tail Palms hold water in thier trunks. For this reason, they are very forgiving if you don't water them as much. I have a poly tail, and I probably water it every 2-3 weeks.

anqeiicdemise
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alisios wrote:Pony Tail Palms hold water in thier trunks. For this reason, they are very forgiving if you don't water them as much. I have a poly tail, and I probably water it every 2-3 weeks.
Well, that explains why the trunk is spungy feeling to the touch. Thanks for the info, I'll do this from now on.

Kenshin14435
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I've never heard of baking the soil. I don't see why that would'nt work. But I'd be sure to let the soil cool down thoroughly.
~ Ken ~

alisios
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repotting these aren't so bad - you can do it just about any time of year, really. When you lift it out of the pot, you'll see this hollowed out portion on the bottom with these large, spongy, roots around the edge. Be careful with these. If you see any rot on them, cut them off. Hold the plant upside down and fill the little hollowed out part with some dirt, and then gently place the plant in it's new container, laying out the roots to the side.

They are pretty forgiving and hardy. If you see that a "tail" is drying out and dying, given time your pony tail will sprout a new one.

Good luck.

Getting your pony into some drier soil will help a lot.

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anqeiicdemise,
I'm going to put a thin layer of pebbles or marbles along the bottom to help with the water because of the humidity up here.
I would advise against this. Although this is what many of us were taught by our elders and in older gardening texts it is now accepted that this is wrong.

Although it is counterintuitive a 'drainage layer' actually inhibits drainage. It has to do with the cohesion and adhesion of water. The short version is that water will tend to 'cling' to the particles of a smaller size and create what is known as a 'perched water table'.

The best draining medium is one with a uniform particle size. If there is an issue with the medium falling out of the drainage holes use small pieces of mesh or screen. This can be secured from a number of sources. One might be the open type of drywall tape. If you are a craft person there is a product that is a coarse weave plastic mesh that is used for some sort of crocheting. I use small sections of hardware cloth.

Before you re-pot you might want to have a look at the two sticky threads that pertain to this, the soils and re-potting ones are the ones I mean.

Norm

alisios
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Gnome wrote:If you are a craft person there is a product that is a coarse weave plastic mesh that is used for some sort of crocheting.
I found sheets of this at a craft store called "Michael's" - it was the same stuff that a bonsai supplier sold to me, but at a fraction of the price. 1x1 foot sheets were like 79c or something like that...

anqeiicdemise
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Just wanted to give you guys an update.

The tree is flourishing at an astonishing speed. Hubs and I went out to get some soil that drained a bit better, the mesh and a better pot. We repotted the tree and have been moving it out to the porch on our days off to enjoy brighter sunshine than it would in our Dungeon-like apartment.

There is no more mold (yay!) and there is quite a bit of growth along the crown. It still has quite a bit to go to regain its gorgeous, long curled fronds because we had to prune back quite a bit. Today's the first day of watering since it got transplanted from that dinky pot to something larger and I made sure the soil was dry before doing such.

Thank all of you for the wonderful advice. I really appreciate it (though not as much as the tree).

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anqeiicdemise,

I'm glad to hear that your plant is doing better.

Norm

alisios
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Good work! These are very forgiving in the "Less water is more" mindset. These are native of the desert, so that should give you an idea of how much to water.

Don't be upset if this doesn't sprout new tails for awhile. Its a slow grower.

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