Question Regarding a Scheflerra (kind of) Bonsai

jefff(7a NY)July 30, 2007

Hi All :O)

I have an old Scheflerra which I needed to re pot yesterday... it had a bunch of exposed roots so I decided to wash all the soil away, take the thickest individual branch/stem/plant and cut it short, leave these roots exposed and plant it alone in a semi-bonsai style.

Would anyone be able to tell me if this has any chance of living and re-sprouting new growth? I know you can cut all the leaves off Jades and have them grow right back, so is it the same with the Scheflerra or did I just kill it?

Should it be even shorter (I left it this tall since I liked the bend)?

And if it will live then when exactly should water it? It had been out in the rain before re potting so after I re potted I didn't water (and figured it wouldn't need it since there are no leaves).

Should I water now or wait for any new growth first?

Also, there are these two roots which didn't reach the soil, so I temporarily placed some moist paper towel and then aluminum foil around them in hopes they will not dry out and die.

If I place some sphagnum moss and then foil around them will they live and grow long enough to reach the soil, or should I just cut them off now?

Thanks very much for any info or opinions... it was a spur of the moment plan so there was no time to research for the aswers first.


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Build up the soil around the exposed root ends - what you've done won't last. The soil looks like mostly peat, but that's awful for bonsai (holds water forever instead of letting it drain away fast - though it can be murder to get it wet to begin with). You need a mix with more grit than anything - only a little bit of organics. You shouldn't have had it out in the rain to begin with (though once it's in a proper mix it won't matter) but must always water after repotting - the roots may already be close to dead by now if not dead already.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 11:42AM
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jefff(7a NY)

Hi Lucy,
Thanks for the quick reply and advice. I can't build the soil around the two roots with the foil on them though since they're way too short... one is way above the rim of the pot so the soil would never even reach it and the other one (I added extra foil and bent it down into the pot) is also just too short to build the soil around since it would just end up covering too much of the surrounding roots.
I was hoping that I could just wrap some moss around those two roots or something of that nature and keep them alive until they reach the soil but I don't know if that'll work.
If they die I'll just cut them off, but I'd really prefer if they lived.

Yes, I'm guilty!! :O) The soil is unfortunately just a 50/50 mix of Schultz potting soil and perlite, not ideal at all but it's the same mix that the whole Scheflerra had been in and had been doing great so I figured it would be fine for awhile with this plant in these pics.

What I did was to just take my old Scheflerra which had about 10 individual stalks (or plants or trunks or whatever they'd be called individually) all clumped together in one pot and I re potted that last night... at that time I decided to also take one "stalk" out and just cut it short and attempt a semi-bonsai with the roots exposed (which is the one in the pics I posted).

It's in a 6 inch regular plastic pot, not a short bonsai one, so the roots you see are actually coiled around through the whole pot. They're pretty healthy... most of the very fine ones got pulled off during the removal of the old soil, but it has all those very thick ones and I only had to cut two that were growing straight down.

:O) I had had the whole Scheflerra in a 10 inch (or around that size) pot outside in the rain, not just this little stalk, so I was wondering (since it had just been watered very well) if I should water this one now that I cut all the leaves off or should I wait until it puts out any growth.

So just to be clear, you're saying that I definitely should water this right away?
Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 4:14PM
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I'm saying you should have watered immediately after repotting... you do the math :-). You cut off all the little new feeder roots in favor of the old woody ones? You left coiled roots around the ball (never mind using potting soil)? Please run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore (try and start reading. Find a local club to join and see how things are done as well as asking lots of questions. I'm afraid you really have a long way to go - bonsai are not house plants and can't be grown the same way. Styling, pots, etc. are the least of your worries now - just keeping a plant alive for a month would be a more realistic goal (I'm not trying to insult you - you've obviously grown other things, but not bonsai).

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 8:01PM
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jefff(7a NY)

But why would I need to have watered it immediately if it had been thoroughly watered in the day's before repotting it? I would think that it would just rot the whole thing since there's no leaves (and since I did make two cuts on the roots which usually need to heal awhile before watering)... but I wasn't sure.

No, I didn't cut off the feeder roots... they were pretty much torn off when I was untangling all of the branches, thicker roots and the entire root ball.

And no, I did not leave coiled roots around a root ball. There is no root ball since I removed all old soil and washed any remaining soil away in the sink in order to reveal all thicker roots. What I said was that the thick roots you see are coiled around throughout the pot... they were long and healthy and since it's a relatively deep 6 inch pot there was no need to cut them short so I coiled them in a tidy fashion and filled around them with the dreaded potting soil.

I'm really not THAT interested in becoming a bonsai master that I'm going to go buy a book or join a club... this is just an interesting experiment that I was hoping would live after having all leaves cut away.

Also, Scheflerra's are perfectly easy house plants which is why I chose to attemp a "kind of" bonsai with (and seriously... they live just fine in the potting soil).
If this one manages to sprout any new growth then I'm sure I'll manage to keep it alive for more than a month.

I also made this Jade "bonsai" which is also in a way too big pot but again I'm not going for anything official... just what looks good to me.

Anywho, thanks again for the info. :O)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 9:50PM
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Ok, heard you. The reason though to always water is that the soil being dry will suck any moisture left at the roots away, and while you may get away with it this time, with this plant, I wouldn't otherwise do it. The ideal situation is just a very little bit of organic matter and a whole lot of grit, allowing any water to run through in a way it never sits at the roots once the drink is absorbed. Little bits remain throughout the whole, but in such tiny amounts in any one place as to not matter.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 10:53PM
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Have been experimenting with those types of root and hair cuts for a long time. Some have success and others die. Since it is a freebie plant, I don't get caught up in the failures as much as I take satisfaction from the few that live a long and happy life. No plant police to put you in jail for a dead plant, and you may never know if you didn't first try! May you have many happy days trimming and pruning!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 10:37AM
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jefff(7a NY)

Thanks Lucy, after I read your post I gave it some water w/ a little superthrive.

Thanks to you too naturelover. I would love this to live but if not then I agree with you... it was just a portion of anothe plant so I can always try again.

I'll post pics if I get any growth from it.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 1:52PM
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This is just an aside from the watering/root issues. I once cut my small scheff. to the stalk in this manner. Some of the new shoots that came out were single-leaf shoots, not 5-7!. I was freaked out because I knew I had cut the right plant down. I thought it mutated on me. =0) Finally some of the regular leaves came out. Just prune the ones back that come out wrong and keep pruning back until they come out right. The hard thing with scheff. is they don't readily branch. You typically will only get one set of leaves on one stalk and it is difficult to get the ramification that one wants on a 'typical' bonsai. But since it's just an experiment, have fun with it and learn what this plant will do. IMO, which is by no means expert or even that knowledgable, you should be fine in you soil for the simple fact that you haven't really made your tree into a bonsai yet. It isn't in a bonsai pot, you haven't cut the roots, and you don't have any branches/leaves (which is why you think you don't have to water, but the xylem and phloem will still take water to the trunk of the tree). You are in training stages. Most would put it in the soil that it is going to grow in permanently, but I don't think it will kill it. I do have some bonsai books and I do have two bonsai scheffs. Both are in a 60/40 mix organic/inorganic, which is what the book said to do with tropicals. They both are happy and have been for some time. The peat is difficult to rewet, but I don't ever let it go bone dry before I water (at least not intentionally). Scheffs are actually quite forgiving. But like I said, I am only doing what a couple of my books said to do. There are thousands of books out there and thus thousands of opinions. I am not trying to contridict anyone who knows a lot more than I; these are only my experiences with my two trees.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 10:19AM
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jefff(7a NY)

Hey Tanyag,
Thanks for the reply/all the info. That's odd that you only had the one leafer's. I said I'd post pisc if mine sprouted and it has begun sprouting two little green bumps sticking out near the top. I'll wait a week or so until they're easily photographed to post (not that it'll be all that thrilling for anyone, but I'm so pleased it lived!! :O) )

And I know what you mean regarding the Scheff's not branching... so now I'll have at least two branches just growing out straight from the top and no idea what to do besides just let them grow and then I guess I'll just have a regular old Scheff w/ it's roots showing for now! :O)

I gave in (Lucy I hope you're reading) and also just ordered a bonsai book "Pachyforms 2- Bonsai Succulents" since I'm mostly interested in learning how to bonsai my variegated Jades (and learning how to wire them). I've been reading about that and get the basic idea, however I have no clue as to what size/mm wire(s) I'll need and I really don't want to have to buy a variety only to find they aren't the right size.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 1:06PM
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Most people don't wire jades because the stems are too fragile, though of course you could wait 20 yrs til you have a lot of fat woody ones, but I somehow don't think you want to do that. It's usually just a matter of pinch-twisting off the leaves you don't want, encouraging new ones to grow where you do want them, and using the sun like mad - they're very good about growing towards it in one direction or another and you can take advantage on occasion (for a few months) by e.g. propping the pot up on one side when you want the opposite one (facing the sun) to cascade, or by potting the whole thing on an angle, or using weights on branches to pull them (slowly!) down, etc.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 6:27PM
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Hey Jeff,
Just thought I'd send this link from Norm in Oklahoma. Wiring is VERY difficult to do on jade, but it can be done (if you're diligent). This link is from a search here on wiring jade. You might be able to e-mail the man who posted the pics for answers to your questions about wire size and stuff. I know that you have to be ever watchful and change wire frequently. You might try your wiring techniques on other things, including dead things, before you try to wire a jade. I practiced on fallen limbs for two weeks before I tried to wire my first. It is definitely an acquired skill. Most people just snip and pinch, but wiring is possible. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wiring Jade

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 7:32AM
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jefff(7a NY)

Hi Lucy, Hi Tanyag, :O)
Thanks very much for all the new info guys, and the for the link Tan... I've seen his before when I did a Jade Bonsai search which is basically where I got the thought of wiring mine. His are really stunning, I find, but I would be horrified to try all that wiring. I was just planning a basic few bends here or there so in lieu of the wiring (at least until I learn a lot more about it) I've used this green plant "tape" on one plant (it's not floral tape and not sticky... just stretchy and made to tie up your plants with) which I tied around a few different branches and just pulled them into position and then ( I hope you're all sitting down) I just masking taped the ends of the tape to the sides of the pot.
Yes, yes, it does look much more hideous than those nice thin wires with the protective tubes on them which I've seen used to pull branches or whatnot, but it is working buy giving a little better shape to it after it had been growing in a too cramped up area.

Uhg... you really do need patience for this and I so hate waiting to see results.

Oh, and ncidentally, I'm not great w/ the computer and didn't realize that when I changed the pics in my photobucket account that they would also change where I had posted them, so I've since made a separate plant folder for the future. And I'm just glad I didn't inadvertently post anything untoward... not that I would own anything the kind ;O) .

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 8:26AM
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