Chinese ELM winter care

zzzbonsaizzzDecember 15, 2011

Hi Everyone! I am new to the bonsai hobby and need a little help about winter care

I bought a Brussels Chinese Elm about 2 and half months ago in October. (It is 5 years old) I have left it outside on my deck since it is an outdoor tree. I live in Chicago and winters in January and February are pretty extreme. I was wondering what is the best winter care for a Chinese elm bonsai in zone 5. I have heard many different strategies, such as putting it in a garage during those months and letting it go into dormancy. I have also heard that if I bring it indoors around Christmas time and put it in a sunny window it will grow "slightly" and remain green as it would in spring, because we have had about a month of cold temperatures already.

Can I bring it inside and put it in a sunny window for a couple months during extreme weather? I have already had it out there for a couple months in the cold...Or does it HAVE to drop all of its leaves and go through a full dormancy

Currently the tree is somewhat thinning out, has some brown leaves but still mostly green. Even has a few new buds growing on some of the branches, even this late in the year (DEC 15)

I have read so many different ideas/strategies about winter care for Chi Elms that I'm really not sure and need some expert advice. What would you do, or what's the best thing to do in this situation? Pretty much just trying to get it through our severe winter

Appreciate any feedback,


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I would suggest you leave it in a garage or similar building where the tree will stay cold. Keeping it indoors weakens the tree severely, it needs a rest.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 1:06AM
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mike423(5 IL)

I agree with ryan tree, and also live in the Chicago land area. While I also have been led to believe that this species can be brought indoors and treated as a tropical during winter it is usually best a tree like this receive deciduous care. I would only say it would be alright to keep it indoors if you had an appropriate florescent or halogen light fixture to promote optimum health during the winter months.

It will be easiest for you and healthier for the tree to treat it as a deciduous tree and allow it to go dormant and then stored in an appropriate place for the winter. It is also unwise to keep it indoors if it has been kept outdoors up until now as the tree will be partially or fully dormant and will become confused and stressed out if it is jerked out of that dormancy by being suddenly brought inside.

While this winter has been unusually mild for us you should definitely have the tree in a protected cold storage area by now. If you are unsure as to how to give this tree appropriate winter care feel free to message me and I'll be glad to help you.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 5:17PM
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Thanks for the advice, I will let it go into dormancy then. What should I do to provide the best winter care?

Also does it need any light while in dormancy or can I just put it my dark garage with no windows

Thanks for the response/help


    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 9:11PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

No light required during dormancy.

You will want to keep the root-zone moist, though not soggy.
In other words, don't let the roots dry out and die.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 10:24AM
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mike423(5 IL)

Not only does the tree not need any sunlight once completely dormant but it is best if it is kept out of it as the sun can heat up the tree and possible contribute to causing a tree to prematurely come out of its dormancy early in winter which is not good. Not sure the exact cold hardiness of your tree but I would be sure the temps do not reach at or lower than 20 degrees for more than a few days as this can cause damage, also be sure the temperature does not stay at or around 50 degrees too early in the winter as this will cause the tree to come out of dormancy. Just below freezing is optimal but any temp is fine as long as you keep those high and low perimeters in check. Just be sure the tree doesn't consistently have its soil freeze and then thaw as if it fluctuates too much might cause the roots to split and die (from the water molecules constantly shrinking and expanding in cell tissues).


    Bookmark   December 24, 2011 at 12:56AM
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