help with identification and questions on care

isamaeJanuary 2, 2009

I have to take care of this bonsai plant for my parents while they are in Florida for a few months. It was given to them as a gift awhile ago but there was no information with it. My mom kept it on an east facing windowsill and she watered it 2x a week with tap water.

I was wondering if anyone knows what kind it is and if so is it ok to keep on a south facing windowsill?

The gravel is actually glued together at least at the top of the planter. Is this common practice? How often should this be watered? Is hard tap water acceptable? Thanks so much for the help! Melissa

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Melissa, I suggest you do both your mother and the tree a big favor (your mother because the tree might even survive, the tree for the same reason, of course :0). Use some kind of strong pick or tool to get under the stone layer somehow once you've let a little warm (NOT hot) water sit on top for a couple of minutes. Do your best to make a chink in the stones, enough to get a piece of that layer up (it will be surprisingly thick... possibly 1/8") because once that's done, the rest will come up in easy chunks except for the edges, and dribbling warm water on them from e.g. a facecloth squeezed around (the point is not to water anything but the glue) it should eventually come off as well. You may want to just top up the soil afterward as small roots may now be exposed. I personally would take the opportunity, instead of 'refilling' with soil, to get the whole rootball out of that pot as the top lip makes that difficult to begin with (so the sooner the better) and have a new pot ready. What you want must have 1-2 good size drain holes which you can cover with a piece of a 25 cent square of plastic canvas from the craft (needlework) section of Wal-Mart), The pot could be about 1/2 to 2/3 the height of the brown one, but somewhat wider to make up for the loss of height - you'll be spreading the roots from the bottom, which you can crumble off the bulk of the soil from before planting into the new pot with a faster draining mix of mostly small gravel (natural color) from an aquarium store. The mix (no pebbles or anything else on the bottom except the plastic hole covering) could also have some Perlite (not vermiculite) in it for lightness, and little chopped up bits (1/16") of bark mulch making up no more than 1/4 of it all - not layered, mixed. That will allow water to drain almost immediately, rather than sit at the roots and rot them - so never let the pot sit directly in any water, but held above the wide saucer of it on pebbles. Make sure there is always water in there for humidity (much more effective than misting, which in any case is inappropriate for this tree, which is some kind of Ficus). Water only when about 1/3 or so of the mix is dry in the pot (use a finger or unvarnished chopstick to test for moisture) and then do it well so all the roots get some. Do keep it in a very sunny place that stays bright all day. If you really want to go further, choose a few of the skinnier branches to cut off right where they join the larger ones, so as to keep a more open and 'bonsai-like' style, unless your mother likes 'bushy''.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 6:30AM
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Lucy, thanks for the info! I don't know why they do these things to the poor plants!! Melissa

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 8:50PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Doesn't look at all like a Ficus - not even in the Moraceae family. Looks more like something in the Myrtaceae family - perhaps one of the Eugenias like uniflora or close.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 3:43PM
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Al, you're right about the look - I actually think it could be a Hoya (not all 'vine') but as she bought it as a Ficus, I thought it had to be one of the usuals, and in any case, care is similar (at least short term). I don't think it's a Genie though.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 4:33PM
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