I Need Emergency Help for a Juniper Bonsai

AmyKathleneApril 28, 2014

Hi, this is long but I'm hoping that by providing as many details as I can I can get the best advice for my problem, thanks in advance xx

I received a Procumbens "Nana" Juniper bonsai as a birthday gift from my boyfriends mom in February from proplants.com. The address on the box it was shipped in said San Diego Cali so I didn't put it outside right away, since Colorado has some major temperature swings that time of year but instead kept it in my shed to try to acclimate it to my climate. It had proper soil and was neatly wired to the pot. I took it out daily on mild days and kept it in on harsher days, so as not to shock it and eventually I started leaving it outdoors overnight as the temperatures were fairly decent. I still brought it in to spend the night either in the garage or the shed on nights that dropped to freezing and it seemed to be doing well.
About 2 weeks ago we had a "mini winter" and I decided it would do fine outside since although it snowed several inches, the temperatures didn't drop to freezing. I wrapped a few blankets around the pot to insulate the roots just for good measure, however I did not cover the top.
I also kept a toothpick in the soil and checked it every 23-48 hours to see how dry the soil was. I had a rough week and neglected to check it for 3 days in a row but when I did, it was dry but not bone dry so the roots didn't fully dry out. I noticed the needles were brittle and falling off when I touched them, and when I did a scratch test there was still the faintest hint of green. So, I watered it, and transplanted it into a larger pot with a mix of sand and potting soil under the soil and gravel that it was originally planted in. I did not inspect the roots because I didn't think it was necessary since root rot seemed unlikely. I placed it in my shed by a window to shelter it but still keep it exposed to outsideness, used a plastic ZipLoc baggie as a humidity tent a few hours each day, and hoped for recovery.
A week later (Easter day) I did another scratch test and it was a healthy shade of green, although the needles were turning more yellow were are much less brittle. I've checked it every single day and tended to it as needed-spraying the leaves and making a humidity tent, checking out the green spot.
Yesterday (Sunday, one week from Easter) I went to tend to it and I noticed the green spot that had suddenly turned brown. I did another scratch test hoping that maybe it had just healed over but this latest test revealed mostly whitish with a very faint hint of green much like it was when I first rescued it. I couldn't figure out what on earth could have happened because we had a drop in temperatures again but not a harsh one. Surely not enough to stress the recovering bonsai? It was in the 80's during the day and low 60's to upper 50's at night and it dropped to the 40's Saturday night.
Another incident that didn't cross my mind until last night was that my son had gone in there on Friday and decided to play with my gardening stuff. I spoke to him about it this morning and he admitted to that he "may have shook the tree a little bit". I'm not sure how hard or how much...there was no soil or gravel on the table but I had noticed the tree seemed a bit looser as if the trunk had been wiggled...so I've watered it again, put a tiny amount (about a half tablespoon) of organic fertilizer around it and am trying to give it sunlight and open air while the temperatures are cooler (60's for about the next week at least and partly cloudy with a breeze)
So what I need to know is, did my kid probably kill my tree? Was it the climate? Can it still be saved again? Is there something I'm doing wrong and/or something else I should be doing? It's not dead yet and it came back from this state before but the temps and weather won't stay consistent and I've never raised any bonsais before so I have little knowledge of what I'm doing or supposed to be doing aside from what I've read in the caresheet and some online forums.
Also, when it was "brand new" it had a few brown leaves on it close to the base of the trunk as should be seen in the photo I provided, but I never gave them a second thought until a couple of weeks ago. Could it have already had a problem before I even received it?

I have more photos I'd like to upload but I'm not sure how to do it here.

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Alright so I only have figured out how to post photos in reply so here goes, I hope this helps more. The OP photo is taken today, I open that window to let the sun shine on it on sunny afternoons but it's only a south facing window and it's somewhat filtered because it's going through a screen, so I try to gently take it out to get direct sun occasionally on mild mornings or early evenings.
This photo below is what it looked like the day it arrived at my house, as you can see it had some brown needles from day 1, but I didn't consider that a problem, I didn't consider they would have sent me a plant that was already sick.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 3:30PM
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Brown needles when it arrived...are a sign of it shedding it's old needles. Not a sign of ill health.

But the current photo seems a bit more than what it originally arrived with. Curious if it might have wind burn. I know many landscaped trees that are conifer are showing signs of it from such a hard winter. From it being outdoors as it was in snow.

But, I also suggest taking a sheet of white paper...and shaking a branch over it to see if you have any spider mites. They can also cause issues with the needles.

Still learning myself...wish you the best of luck...hoping someone else has something to add.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:03PM
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Evergreens such as conifers are very hardy so I really feel that once it was acclimated you should have left it outside. Conifers aren't meant to be inside ever. Where was the location of the plant when it was purchased.? They like well drained soil and to be slightly dry before watering. They are no delicate plants and are good for beginners.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 9:20PM
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