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char027June 17, 2014

A friend had a green mound juniper bonsai delivered to my home on Friday of last week. After reading some general instructions on caring for this tree and trying to decipher online tips about how to deal with it in the Phoenix heat I started to do the following.
1) I put it outside.
2) I kept it in direct sunlight during the cool of the morning (75-95degrees) and pulled it into the shade during the hotter parts of the day.
3) I watered it daily. (The pot has good drainage holes and is sitting in a drainage tray with rocks.)
4) I spritz the foliage daily.
By Sunday, it was starting to turn brown in some spots. I am not sure if it was too much heat, too much water, not enough water or some other problem. So Monday morning I brought it in the house and put it under the skylight. I figured it would still get sunlight without being "cooked" by the AZ heat. It's now Tuesday AM and it does not seem to be getting any worse so maybe I made the right move.

None-the-less, I need help. Any tips you can provide would be helpful. I don't speak horticulture language so please explain it as if I am clueless. Thanx

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Get it back outside, pronto! Watering every day is waaaay too much...unless the tree is in a tiny pot. If you can post a pic, the advice will be better.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:06PM
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It is back outside.

Here are some pics. You can't really see the browning. It started closer to the trunk so I can only see it when I look between the greener foliage, but it is spreading rapidly. The smaller part of the tree was already a bit brown when I got it but the larger part was all green.

I am so confused. The instructions that came with it (for example it is safe to bring it inside for up to 5 days) seem to contradict lots of what people say on this site and elsewhere (for example NEVER bring it inside). Plus lots of the tips online use language I do not understand. (For example, I am totally stumped by the suggestions as to what type of material the tree should be potted in.) Maybe I need to start with a dictionary of horticulture terms.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:29PM
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Another pic.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:30PM
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And another pic.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:31PM
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A final pic.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:33PM
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First - never, ever pay any attention to the tags on bought trees... they are invariably one-size fits all and do not indicate what climate the info is for. Secondly, junipers do not belong indoors. Period. Ever. Thirdly, if the majority of the foliage has gone hard and brittle, the tree's gone, even if it's still green, and the problem was watering too often as already stated. The mix should be gritty, lots of tiny pebbles, some bark bits and only a tiny bit of 'soil' - the purpose being that it all drains right out when watered, rather than sitting there rotting roots. I understand you're in a hot climate, but shade the pot with something so it doesn't overheat and if it makes you happy, move it to a shadier area at midday for a couple of hours, otherwise let nature do its thing as it would if the tree were in the ground (probably the best place for it anyhow).

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 6:31AM
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Thanks for the thorough feedback. Your tips are very clear.
I found a bonsai nursery in the area. I am going there in the morning so that they can "hand hold" me through the process of doing this right. I guess I will know tomorrow whether this tree can be saved or I will be starting with a new one.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 9:29PM
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I went to the nursery this morning and it was an excellent experience!

Things i learned.
1 ) The folks at the nursery are knowledgeable and helpful.
2) People don't start bonsai in Phoenix in the summer because of the very hot, very dry conditions. The best time to start is in the Fall.
3) During the AZ summers, trees should be watered daily.
4) A high quality, well-draining potting soil is the best for the tree I have and the AZ conditions. (Sounds like what most have advised on this site.)
5) Liquified kelp is the preferred fertilizer.

About my own tree
1) A scratch test revealed that it is not dead. Yeah!
2) Much of the foliage is dry and will drop off.
3) The problem was not over-watering it was under-watering.
4) The pot, the potting material, and type of tree that I have are all are appropriate to this area. (Its just a hard time of year to start.)
5) If I water daily, use the kelp fertilizer and keep it outdoors in a moderately shaded area, it may survive.

I started not to go to the nursery this morning. I was gonna drop the tree in the garbage and chalk this one up to experience. I am glad I did not do that. Although I still may not be able to save the tree, I am definitely excited about trying.

After we see how this goes, I will move on to matters of training and shaping it. But for now, just hoping it will survive.

This post was edited by char027 on Sat, Jun 21, 14 at 17:12

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:18PM
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Hi again - there are bonsai nurseries, and bonsai nurseries and some are knowledgable bonsai growers and others just middle men/women between the 'real' growers and buying public. Unfortunately you may have hit on the latter. Potting soil for a juniper? And forget the kelp fertilizer - a good, well balanced one for 'evergreens' should be used. You can water that tree daily in Phoenix IF you have the right mix - and potting soil is NOT it! Please read up a lot more on growing junipers as bonsai and once you have a consensus on things (from many sources, not 1 or 2) then make up your mind. A scratch test isn't a bad idea normally, but you have extreme conditions, what sounds like a more dead than alive tree and some bad advice. Remember that I said that many evergreens (not necessarily the rhododendron type, but pines, fir, juniper, etc.) remain green LONG after they die, and a scratch test is only one way to judge anything.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 6:00AM
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You are definitely correct that there is lots of mixed information about bonsai. While I tend to favor local information (Phoenix Bonsai Society and local nursery), I will definitely continue to keep my eyes and ears open for additional information.

So here are a couple more questions.
1) the liquid kelp[ fertilizer that was recommended has a combo of Nitrogen, Phosphates and Potash. From reading a variety of sources, this seems to be the definition of a "well-balanced" fertilizer. What about it made you suggest I "forget about it"? What would you suggest?
2) Do you have a suggestion for a specific potting material? (Name? Brand?) I recall you mentioning that it should have tinny pebbles, bits of bark and some soil. While I see bark and pebbles in the soil it came in, I am not sure if the proportions are right. It would be great to have the name of something to buy.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 4:16AM
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Most of us make our own, or else shell out for expensive Japanese mixes of Akadama (with which you mix nothing else - Google Image it to see what it looks like - the point is to allow rain (within reason, not deluges for juniper!) to drain through and be gone - don't leave the pot in a saucer of course or the water will wick back into the pot and rot roots. The pebble/bark bits/soil mix would be 30/30/30. And Kelp is not something junipers normally use, but if amounts are balanced (e.g. 15/15/15) and used carefully (better less, but fairly often) it should be ok... there are just lots of commercial ones available too. In the fall - stop fertilizing in August, and do the last 1-2 times (in Sept.) using e.g. Cactus fert. or whatever you find that has a loow nitrogen amount - they don't want more during dormancy, though how you're going to deal with 'cold' dormancy in Phoenix I'm not sure - being in Canada and only knowing how to work with 4 seasons!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 5:39PM
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