Fukien tea crisis !

Discussion in 'Tropicals' started by edprocoat, Dec 13, 2011.

  1. edprocoat

    edprocoat Masterpiece

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    I have had a nice Fukien tea for the past 8 years. I wanted to put it in a new pot and it has been 2 years since I removed it from the old pot, I took a putty knife and worked around the edges of the old pot and lifted it out. This tree has never had anything you could call nebari, it always had fine roots, many of them hair-like in appearance while a few were a bit thicker and I could see fine roots on the soil surface. It came out with most the soil around it and I took a plastic pick up stick , the childs toy, and started to lightly pierce the soil to seperate the soil and the whole clump fell off revealing one small root almost 2 inches long and a little clump of hair-like roots half that size all on the same side of the tree. There was not even enough roots to safely hold itself up, so I wired around the trunk base and attached it to a piece of wire i had holding the screens in the two holes and either side and then wired it over the pot from front to back to stabilize the tree in a cross pattern with the wire and filled it with soil .

    I do not undertsand what happened to the roots? The soil in the old pot drained well, the tree has always looked vigorous and has thickened up at the trunk nicely since I got it. The leaves are all green and last summer I removed about half of them and they grew new ones. It is not showing any signs of stress, at least right now. I was thinking of maybe either trying some of that Superthrive stuff, or maybe trying to induce some roots above the wire by treating it like an air layer but I think it may just kill the tree. I am worried about setting it out in the Florida sun too as I am now down here for the winter, and I doubt it would help to leave it inside or in the shade either. Has anyone ever experienced this? I sifted through the soil that fell off and there was no sign of of either rotted roots or any type of bug that could have eaten them, its like they disappeared.

    I would like to keep this tree alive and would appreciate any ideas as it has always been a worry free little plant and is pretty nice looking. I am at a loss at how to proceed with it at this time.

    ed
     
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  3. JudyB

    JudyB Masterpiece

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    Hey Ed,
    I wish I could help you, but I've never heard of this happening. You say there were no roots at all when you sifted the soil? That would mean that it wasn't growing roots in the soil it's been in. What kind of soil was it in? What I would say is that if it's been surviving on the small amounts of roots that it has, is it'll probably still continue to live. But of course you should figure out why it's not healthier, and fix the issue. I would treat it like any other plant that's been repotted, and work it back into the sun slowly. I use a fert called quick start when I repot something with few roots, don't know that superthrive does anything...but I don't use it, so I have no actual experience with it. good luck.
     
  4. Bill S

    Bill S Masterpiece

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    Ed, had you seen roots before?
    This kind of sounds like a soil that held a bit too much water so the roots didn't really need to search for it , so stayed fat and happy in one place. What can you tell us about the roots prior to this?
     
  5. Dan W.

    Dan W. Omono

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    Some rooting hormone or the superthrive may help. I don't have any experience with fukien tea but I think shade would be better than full sun while it recovers for now. Wish I could help more.

    Best of luck!

    Dan
     
  6. edprocoat

    edprocoat Masterpiece

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    This tree has never had thick roots in the 8 years I have had it. The soil seems to drain well, I water it and a few minutes later it drains out the bottom. It used to have plenty of fine roots, most about the thickness of the lead in a pencil and many more no thicker than an average human hair which I thought was normal as thats the way it has always been, this is the first time the roots have disappeared though. It has one small root and maybe 10 hair size roots growing in a little clump on the backside of the plant that are still there. I guess the roots could have rotted and just absorbed into the soil like a compost, we did have a very wet summer this year in Ohio, way above normal rainfall amounts. Now that I am in Florida for the winter I am worried with that few roots if the sun would just dry it out, also if shade would lead to its demise as it would not get any energy.

    I repotted it on Dec 12, its late evening dec 14 now and the leaves still seem healthy. I have never used Superthrive either, I hesitate to use it as it seems like the old snake oil remedy, it says its good for everything and does not list any ingredients and also adds to use it along with your regular fertilizer, plus its $10.00 for a small bottle! I would feel like a real sucker to pay for this stuff and still have the plant die. I am not very familiar with the Fukien Tea either, especially dealing with problems, this tree has been trouble free until now.

    ed
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  7. Ang3lfir3

    Ang3lfir3 Omono

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    I wouldn't bother with Superthrive (and I do use it myself) ... the likely hood that it will help in this case is probably really low.... best bet... keep the tree in the most stress free environment that you can.... and hope for the best... if you repotted into a free draining soil and the tree survives.... then hopefully you will have better root growth in the coming years...

    I don't know Fukien tea either ... so I'm just making educated guesses (and trying to make you feel better )
     
  8. JudyB

    JudyB Masterpiece

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    You never know Ed, it may pull through. I have a fukien that I have never liked (old s curve that I chopped) and it won't die for me. I neglect it and don't give it enough light... the only thing it hates is insecticidal soap. But when it had scale I defoliated so I could spray it and get rid of the scale, and it came back really healthy. Maybe you could try a partial defoliation, so the roots would have less to feed right now. Just a thought, if it continues to look ok, maybe do nothing.
     
  9. treebeard55

    treebeard55 Chumono

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    From all you've said, I think a coarser soil mix may help the tree remedy the problem. I'm not talking about drainage as such, so much as pore size. Larger average pore size would let more air back into the soil, and quicker. At least, I would try that myself.

    And second the motion on babying it and keeping it as stress-free as possible for the next several months. I'd give it morning sun only; remember that it's an understory shrub in its native range.
     
  10. Smoke

    Smoke Imperial Masterpiece

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    I am still amazed at the people living in Northern latitudes that keep tropicals.

    I wouldn't even keep a tea here in California...they never thrive.
     
  11. edprocoat

    edprocoat Masterpiece

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    Treebeard, what do you mean by an " understory shrub " ? Does that mean it grows under under trees, or under something that shades it, the reason I ask is they are hard to find much more info on other than they are tropical, which causes me to think they need warm climate and sun.

    Smoke, I am only ever in the warm weather, I summer in Ohio and move to Florida for the winter months, when I am late in Ohio they go into a box with a light to keep them comfy.

    ed
     
  12. Smoke

    Smoke Imperial Masterpiece

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    Yes but do they thrive? A person can only really work on trees that are healthy and thriving. Lights put trees in terrible stress.
     
  13. edprocoat

    edprocoat Masterpiece

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    Thrive, its hard to say, they grow and put out lots of new leaves when I trim them back or defoliate them. I try to keep them small for moving with me, the Tea has never been as much a problem as the old Ficus I have to keep it from growing out of hand. The tea has flowered twice in all the years I have had it, so I guess it does not really thrive as I have seen it written that they flower profusely and this has never been my luck. The Tea was a semi cascade when I got it, a thin trunk which went straight up a few inches and bent off to the right going out over four inches beyond the pot and just below the rim of the pot. I then bent it up and wired it, then later I bent it back to the right and wired it and later still bent it back over itself breaking the branch and wrapped it in raffia and wired it into place, which eventually healed. Its not really any style now, almost a "S" shape yet really hard angles but I like it as it is fairly unique. My Ficus is 15 years old and has evolved into another near "S" trunk type of tree, well sort of. I will try and get some pics in the future when I am not working until dark and show you what I am talking about, maybe Christmas eve as I am not working for a few days, that is if my Tea is still alive at that time.

    ed
     
  14. treebeard55

    treebeard55 Chumono

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    Ed, your question prompted me to some fast research, because I hadn't focused much on Fukien tea as a species for several years. Here's what I turned up right now.
    1. Carmona microphylla and Carmona retusa are widely considered to be synonyms for the same species.
    2. Fukien tea is native to a range from India and Sri Lanka, to south China and Taiwan, to the Indochinese peninsula, Indonesia and (I think) the Philippines. That's both tropical and subtropical, and includes a lot of mountainous terrain, as well as lowlands.
    3. FT has naturalized in Hawai'i (where it's classed as a pest,) and other areas with suitable conditions.
    4. It colonizes/invades more readily in dry areas, which sheds some light on the whole drainage-and-water question.
    5. Mature height in the wild is usually about 4 meters (13 ft,) tho a 10-meter specimen has been recorded.
    6. To my surprise, I found only one reference to a specific habitat where FT is found in the wild: dry forest. To me, "forest" implies that it grows among full-scale trees that throw some shade on it. I expect it grows in other habitats, too; I just didn't happen across references in my looking right now.

    I'm going back to the research later, after my 11-year-old's friends go home. I'd like more info, even if only for myself. But I hope this helps. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011
  15. treebeard55

    treebeard55 Chumono

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    Al, "survive or thrive?" Valid question, very. (And a probable future topic for my monthly column in our club's newsletter.)

    All I can say is that some of us who live in the north enjoy tropicals enough to make the effort to give them the conditions they need. Jerry Meislik and Carl Rosner are two examples who come to mind right away. If you haven't already, check out Jerry's "bonsaihunk" website. (I love that tongue-in-cheek name, BTW.) Besides info on how he keeps his tropicals in Montana, he has a link to an article on Carl's setup in New Jersey.

    For me, tropicals are a natural pursuit. I grew up near the equator; the behavior of such trees is familiar to me. On top of that, I need green around me in the winter if I am to be lived with: 4-5 months of brown-and-white just feels wrong after a while! I actually notice a difference in my winter grumpiness, or lack thereof, according to how much time I've been spending with my tropical trees. I'm sure my wife and daughter notice too!

    I stopped growing Fukien tea about 5 years ago, because I couldn't keep the trees thriving. Then we moved, I have a better setup for overwintering tropicals, and I've gotten back into Fukien tea. My trees are thriving, if plenty of blooms and plenty of volunteer seedlings later, are any indication! :D I'll try to post a picture of my largest FT in a few minutes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011
  16. treebeard55

    treebeard55 Chumono

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    I'm still figuring out the new size limits for attachments here on B-Nut!

    Here's my largest Fukien tea, six weeks after repotting. You can see there's plenty of new foliage and even the odd flower! :)

    The little fern (bottom of picture) was a stowaway when I got the FT from Wigert's. I hope to see it develop into a nice accent plant.

    BN B126 status,  2011-12-17..jpg
     
  17. edprocoat

    edprocoat Masterpiece

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    Thats a nice looking Tea, treebeard. I keep pinching mine back and trimming off new growth to keep it small, I notice the deep pot yours is in, I assume that is to grow it larger? Does yours develop any thing one could call Nebari? How tall is it, fom the picture it seems taller than mine. I like the tree a lot, good work.

    ed
     
  18. edprocoat

    edprocoat Masterpiece

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    Treebeard, I agree with you in a way about the green on the trees. Its visually stimulating and cheery for me. I started out with a Ficus as a kid, I had a nice maple for a few years, the problem with deciduos trees is when the go bald I immediately start thinking they are dead, its stressful and I worry until they finally produce the first sprigs of green in the spring, I far prefer evergreens for that reason. I love tropicals though, especially Ficus varieties, which there seems to be a million types, that is until I want to buy one.

    ed
     
  19. treebeard55

    treebeard55 Chumono

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    Thanks for the kind words, Ed. The pot is a growing pot, yes; it's a cut-down 1-gallon Rootmaker (TM.) For details of the Rootmaker's design, I suggest you Google it. I'm not sure I could describe it adequately without pictures. But the purpose of the design is to encourage a compact root mass, close to the trunk. I've been using Rootmakers for a number of years, and I'm pretty satisfied with them.

    The tree stands about 9 inches high, maybe 10. I repotted it on November 1st, and that's when I saw the roots for the first time. (Just bought it about a year ago.) I changed the planting angle, and the front (by about 180 degrees) once I saw them. Developing a nebari is going to take a few years, but I see no reason why it can't be done.
     
  20. stacy allen muse

    stacy allen muse Chumono

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    Ed,
    not to be mean here... but I think that some of the prob. lies with the your statement of "trimming off new growth to keep it small".
    Teas, are relatively slow growers and take a long time to thicken up and produce a nebar.
    Constant trimming will stunt this process even further and will seriously jeporadize your tree's health.

    As a general rule of thumb... I usually only trim mine once, perhaps twice a year, allowing them to grow and maintain their strength inbetween...
    Remember, always keeping your tree in a perfect state is not neccessarily the best for the health of the tree.

    As far as roots... these will be affected by excess trimming as well and will remain few as well as small.
    Teas, can handle excess moisture retained at their roots as long as they are not maintained inside...
    I know there are alot of people who think these are hard to maintain... but I personally think they are pretty much the easiest plant I have ever worked on...
    I don't really think they are an indoor plant, even though they are often sold as such... but then again I don't think there is such a thing as an indoor plant !!!

    I plant mine in a fairly deep pot, in a normal coarse pine bark soil (NOT A BONSAI SOIL), in part to full sun, water every other day (less in winter), and trim as mentioned once or twice a year... that's about it...:)
    If one was to plant in a "BONSAI SOIL", I would either move it more towards the shade, or water more frequently...

    Watch the cold, do not let the roots dry out (watch for leaf wilt).
    Have to say personally I have had more probs. with soil drying out... than anything else.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2011
  21. edprocoat

    edprocoat Masterpiece

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    That could be Stacy, I have never had really good thick roots on it, but it did have plenty of fine ones and five or so thicker ones. I just never had them disappear before. By the way the size, smaller, is what I am after in a Bonsai. I never really paid much attention to the Nebar, or Nebari unless its the really wicked looking twisty crossed ones like you see in nature. In my opinion the radial Nebari that most people seek to obtain in Bonsai seems contrived, looking more unnatural than any real tree I have ever seen, almost like a Disney World plastic tree, but to each his own.

    ed
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011

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