Carmona microphylla - leaves wilted, brown and dropping

zimzam101January 18, 2010

Hi there,

I really hope you will be able to help and that I will be able to save my tree.

Over the last few weeks, my carmona started losing its leaves, slowly at first, but since last week the leaves are turning brown and dropping dramatically. The handful of leaves that are left appear wilted and I really fear that my tree is dying!

I have had it for just under a year, and it is my tree's first winter. I haven't changed its watering habits and only water when it's dry, either by watering the soil or using a humidity tray.

It is placed on a table in front of an east-facing window, and I have recently moved it away in the kitchen (still in front of an east-facing window) where I believe the temperature is a bit more constant. I live in a one bedroom flat and only have 3 windows: 2 east-facing ones and 1 west-facing one (unfortunately the latter is a bit in the shade because of large trees).

I am in the UK and it's winter here, but I don't think it could have been cold, since I have a baobab on the same table and it is doing fine

I repotted it in may last year, in a mix of potting soil and clay beads (similar to cat litter) for drainage.

I have tried to attach a few pictures of my tree and the soil. Hope it did it correctly!][IMG]][IMG]][IMG]

If you have any questions or would like to see my tree, please let me know.

Thank you so much for any help you can provide!

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Your tree is a Fukien tea (C.m.) and very tropical. It can't be allowed to dry out except for the top 1/2 inch or so, but even more, it requires a lot of humidity, which means placing a wide tray of stones under the pot, and filling the tray with water which should never ever be allowed to touch the pot bottom or roots will rot (you should definitely never water that way for many reasons). Always water from above. Give your tree any supplementary light you can dredge up for up to 15 hours a day (we use high wattage fluorescents hung 6 inches above them). You're trying to grow it like a house plant and it won't work. Come back in a few weeks after you've given it a really good chance to recover using these tips, don't water if the soil is always sodden below the surface - you may need to mix a good handful of aquarium gravel with the mix to let it drain more freely and allow you to water without worrying about root rot. The idea is to water the roots, not keep the mix wet all the time, but potting soil is awful in that respect and often needs help! Give your tree time to come out with new buds, but if there are none within a month or so, you may just need to find a new tree. Fukien's are not the easiest for beginners.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 9:41PM
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Larke is pointing you in the right direction for it however, they arenÂt that difficult even for a beginner. The underlying problem is one big word in your post ÂwinterÂ. The fukien tea are very picky, in some ways one of the worst of the tropicals, change almost anything about their environment and they throw a complete fit. Make several changes, at the same time and they just sit and pout.

Winter in the UK, bone dry central heating, low light levels, you moved it to another area and itÂs probably in some real junk soil. You nuked it and didnÂt realize that.

They are one which will do ok even in lower light levels. More light is good but there is no need to overdo it, in the tropics they will thrive on only a few hours of direct sun a day. A few months ago I moved my big one off the bench and into a semi-shaded area of the courtyardÂit pitched a fit for about 3 weeks.

Watering will also always be a problem. Too wet and they develop yellow leaves and drop them, too dry and the same thing happens, you canÂt win. Somewhere in the middle the watering is just right but, I think itÂs a matter of hours, maybe minutes when the water level in the soil is satisfactory. A humidity tray will help some but in a small apartment with central heating not a lot. You would almost need a humidifier to do much good at all. Check the pot to make sure itÂs draining well. Yes, add something like Oil-Dry or clay based cat litter to the soil (about 50%) and see what the tree does.

Jerry Meislik has an excellent site with information about many tropicals, bonsai4me is another one. Jerry grows in a climate controlled room dedicated just to tropicals, far more expansive/expensive than the average person would want to or could go into. Due to your growing conditions the FT will always suffer ups and downs but will probably recover. I will suggestÂif it dies and you still want something to play with as BonsaiÂa ficus.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 11:38PM
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Well , after reading several posta on Fukien Trees , it's abit discouraging . I bought two medium size trees from Lowes today . Both trees are fresh , green and very bushy . When I got home , I pruned them way back , now it's back to it's original shape . Looks like they are planted in potting soil and spagum ( sp?) moss . I will keep them in the mix for a month or so since it seems they are full of drama anyways . They are absolutley beautiful trees and I would like to take on the challenge . On the flip side , I guess if they die , I'm keeping the reciept and will take them back before the year warranty is up , LMAO !
Maybe I missed it but I never hear anyone commenting the temps they prefer ? Right now it's 55 at night here in Southern Cali . I would assume that is too cold so I am keeping them indoors , I will be misting them down every couple of nights as well as keeping the soil moist .

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 10:05PM
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Hi, they are tropical so you were right to bring them in - 80 F. wouldn't be too warm provided they're humidified, though 70 is fine too. Spraying is not very effective, and a tray of stones and water is better, but be sure the pot on the stones never touches the water or roots can rot. I'm not really sure if pruning them "way back" was the best idea at a time when they'll be trying to adjust to your new environment... a few weeks would have been better, but it's done now. What they really need is a ton of full spectrum lighting (fluorescent) for 14-16 hours a day, six inches above them. Potting soil is terrible for bonsai, and a fast draining mix of grit (like small sized aquarium gravel) with maybe 40-50% organic component (nursery soil that's porous and doesn't compact like peaty potting stuff, or small pieces of an orchid mix bark throughout is good. Water when the top half inch or so is dry (once it's in the new mix, but give it a week or so before repotting), which usually ends up being every second day, but not always, so go by close observation rather than a schedule.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 11:02PM
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'Acclimitizing' is the key word for most trees, tropicals or other. They are native to China and I understand that they can survive below 50 degrees in nature (and probably in California) with no problem however, the adjustment would take time. They will probably drop leaves but will begin to push buds after a while.

They also don't need as much direct light as most people think. My big one was doing very well in a shaded part of the back garden and (after throwing it's initial fit from being moved) adjusted well and thrived there.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 8:04PM
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HC - a dull day in a Vietnamese yard is BRILLIANCE to a plant compared to indoors (or out) in N. America or the UK. Your tree may survive a light shade there, but it's also getting real humidity all day, and air circulation from being outdoors, and whatever else helps it along there. A F. tea indoors in England is living in the dark in a dry place and absolutely needs all the help it can get.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 8:54PM
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It was actually in an area which is about 50% of full noon sun, not light shade. We also have something here called a monsoon season which is 3-4 months of much lower than normal temps, zero sunshine and endless rain. I realize things are different in the UK as well as the US because I use to live there.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 3:44AM
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