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New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

Posted by RobertJames313 8 (My Page) on
Sat, Jun 1, 13 at 9:48

I have recently been given a Chinese elm as a present and I have discovered that the leaves are starting to curl up and brittle, with the newer looking stems looking very limp. Being new bonsai, any help with general care for bonsai would much much appreciated as I don't really know where to begin.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

Are you keeping this tree indoors or out?
How often do you water?

RE: New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

Also, what's the soil type?

RE: New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

I am keeping it indoors near a window where the sun reaches it, and I don't know the soil as it was a gift, and I water it once every day and when ever it is dry. Thanks for responding so soon

RE: New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

"I don't know the soil"

Take the plant out of the pot and look at the soil, or scrape away some of the debris on the surface of the soil and look at what's underneath. You're going to have to take it out of the pot sooner or later anyway, so you might as well do it early and see if the roots are okay while you're at it.

"I water it once every day and when ever it is dry."

When you say 'whenever it is dry', what's the 'it' that you're referring to? The soil at the bottom of the pot? The soil at the top? The plant itself?

A day indoors isn't going to dry much of the soil at all.

RE: New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

Okay thanks how am I supposed to identify the soil or should I completely repot it with new soil, are there any tips or useful sites t that you could guide me to for beginners and here is the link to the site that it was brought from.

I normally water it once every day and on Saturdays give it diluted bonsia plant feed. Thanks again

Here is a link that might be useful: Where I got the tree from

This post was edited by RobertJames313 on Sun, Jun 2, 13 at 12:07

RE: New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

I removed the plant from the pot and realised that the whole of the bottom soil was very dry so I am gonna heavily soak the soil and replace the majority of it. I also found that the soil was very compact so I freed the roots a little.

RE: New to bonsai, struggling with Chinese Elm.

The soil looks like it has a lot of peat in it, and peat does become hydrophobic when dry. Not a good soil for anything (it's alright initially, so long as it's kept evenly moist, but breaks down quickly into dust), and definitely not a good soil for a pot as shallow as a bonsai tray. Once you soak a pot full of peat, the bottom of it will stay soggy for a long time and not have enough air to keep the roots alive. And in a bonsai tray, that soggy bottom is all there's space for. If you've soaked the soil by the time you read this, let the soil drain into an old towel for a while (you might need to poke the towel up through the drain holes to get it to make contact with the soil -- the contact is essential). You'll still have some moisture in the soil, but more importantly you'll have some air in there as well.

Are you new to just bonsai, or to trees and plants in general? Trying to keep something alive in a shallow pot at the same time as trying to keep it alive in general is an unecessary added difficulty -- give it a larger pot and let it grow normally while you learn how to treat a bonsai. It'll get rather scruffy on top as that part begins to grow like a full-size tree would, but you can just chop that off next spring.

Some links:

General information on soil for plants in containers.

General informatian on growing trees in containers.

The subjects covered in the links above may not seem like beginner-level material, but they are where you need to begin -- you can't have a nice bonsai without there being a strong, healthy plant beneath all the cosmetic work.

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