Chinese Elm Problems: Coming out of dormancy or dying

Keith_esqMarch 18, 2014

I saw all the great advice here and I was hoping for assistance. I have had a chinese elm small leaf variety for a little less than a year now. The tree started with a broken branch and pest problem that a soap solution seemed to work best. Also, the tree never became too used to being indoors despite being in a south-east window. The leaves would turn yellow and fall especially on extremely hot days (i�m in zone 9, Los Angeles). Needless to say the tree had a rough summer. Eventually as winter approached the leaves slowly all fell off. I thought it was just going into dormancy, as the leaf loss was only a yellowing then fall, rather than a dried death. I have recently repotted from the original (horrible) soil in anticipation of the spring, but it just doesn�t seem to be growing right. very few new buds have come, and many just quit after sprouting a few leaves with the tips drying out or looking slightly black. Also the very few new leaves appear to have tiny white speckles. The overall look of the tree doesn�t look like a normal winter dormancy, but it is certainly alive, as you can even see green in the branches without cutting. I really want this tree to survive! It cannot currently go outside, but gets a good amount of direct sunlight for roughly five hours. I have been religious about watering when appropriate and have done an incredible amount of research on that subject (I have a water meter and am sure to water when appropriate). I'm wondering if there may be something I can do, or otherwise if there is a systemic problem I must treat. I have attached a few pictures of the tree and the very few new sprouts.

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Hi - I don't know if that tree can be saved, but I do wonder if it hasn't been watered too often - yellow leaves are usually a sign of that. It's always best to learn a tree's water needs not from a meter or by a schedule, but by getting to know the tree itself and seeing how it responds to watering, how much, how often, in what season, how heavy the pot is at times directly after watering and then later on, etc. You do live in a warm place, and 'dormancy' there would be relative compared to e.g. what iut would mean in the NE. Water isn't always the answer to overheating, but a cooler, or at least partly shaded location might be. I wonder also if it may have had too much sun in a window there - I don't know and can't say of course, but it's another thing to consider. And not knowing your soil mix is another.

Sometimes it's best to just let a tree relax (along with yourself :-) a bit rather than treating it like a rigid mechanical thing... let the tree tell you who it is and hearing what it wants. I know how that sounds, but they are liviung things after all but haven't necessarily read the rule books! Good luck and don't be discouraged from trying again - we all lose trees along the way and sometimes it's not about 'us' at all.

This post was edited by moochinka on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 8:46

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Dear Moochinka: Thank you for your prompt, insightful and friendly response. I agree that given the region it should not have gone dormant to this extent. I believe keeping the tree in the original soil had much to do with the problem as it retained entirely too much water. I was concerned about repotting in the summer and winter, but in hindsight, I feel I should have. At one point, the plant stopped absorbing as much water as it had previously and I was watering it almost once a week when before it was taking enough water for me to water it every other day. My repot is in bonsai soil that allows great drainage, but it may be too late. Overall, the roots looked good, and I have not seen significant adverse effects after repotting (despite the overall look of the plant). In any event I have posted some pictures if you care to look at them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bonsai Pictures

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 1:26PM
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You never know - give it a month at least before deciding anything.... good luck.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:32PM
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I was instructed by a professional to use an insecticide so I have started using an organic insecticidal soap. My thought now is maybe there is a fungus, as the tips of new growth stop and the newest leaves turn black. Also, many branch stumps appear black. I never thought this as the tree was losing leaves, as generally they would turn yellow and fall rather than grow any black spots. I have added new pics and would appreciate any thoughts on the matter. In any event, I will continue to use the insecticidal soap. Elm Bonsai 1?sort=4&page=1

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:45PM
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Hi, very sorry to hear about the fungus, but again it's a sign of too much water too often. I personally wouldn't bother at this point because what you see above the soil is likely much worse below it. The soap (Safer's?) will deal with e.g. spider mites (usually present if conditions are too dry) but not fungus. I would say goodbye.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:58PM
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I am honestly not sure if there is a fungus. It was just a thought based on minimal observations re: the new growth and black branch stumps. Do you have any thoughts based on the pictures?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 2:17PM
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Make a small scratch on the trunk - if it's bright green underneath, there could be hope, but if not...

It's hard to tell from the pix about the black, but generally if there's more than a bit things aren't good and it definitely does indicate advanced fungus.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 7:25PM
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JimK1940(Zone 8a north of Seattle)

Hi Keith, I am sorry to see your Bonsai is such dire condition. I would like to ask a couple of questions, maybe the answers can shed some light on your problem.

You said, "I have recently repotted from the original (horrible) soil in anticipation of the spring". When did you perform this repotting? Did you prune the roots while you were removing the soil?

I am sure that you have put a lot of time and effort into your Bonsai. I'm not sure what you paid for it or where you made the purchase, the fact that your found the "horrible" soil shows that you care what happens to it.

Good luck with your Bonsai.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 4:57AM
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