A few questions from a noob

GoblinGirl

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Hello everyone

I've been reading here for a few days and I wanted to share my plans and ask a few questions.

I got my first tree - cheap Fukien mallsai. I really should've gotten it 2 months ago so if can spend summer on the balcony but that's that. I know they're finicky but I like a challenge and it wasn't expensive....So. Here's the situation:

- I'm based in London, England, summer is coming to an end and it's starting to get colder at night (10°-13°)
- I have a corner balcony, half is south facing, half east, but the east part faces a forest of buildings.
- I have a South facing window which gets cracked open during the day frequently
- I have a desk right next to said window
- I have a fukien tea
- I have a grow lamp ~2500 lumen (supposedly) at the desk

This is the amount of light the tree can get right by the window on a sunny day. It's definitely been enough for the sun loving VFT to thrive through this summer.



PXL_20210825_105908585.MP.jpg

This is now getting rare as we're approaching September. Yesterday was the only day this week it's been like this.

Here's what the light set up looks like - approx 1m away from window

PXL_20210826_102846872.MP.jpg


Here's my dillema - if I put the tree on the dresser directly under the window it will definitely get additional light but it will also get additional cold and the ratio of light benefit to cold disadvantage will keep getting worse with every day as we go into winter. Even if I stop cracking the window open during the day the closer you are to the window the colder it gets. What is going to be better for this tree until next summer when I can take it out on the balcony for a few months - move it on the dresser (and move the lamp with it) or keep it on the desk?

Second question: I know those buggers hate their roots touched. I think this guy can definitely do with more airy soil but I'm not feeling great about repotting him now when the days are getting shorter. The question is am I correct in my assumption that he can do with a repotting in spring or should I not touch the roots at all any time soon?

Final question - I am not even looking at the pruning shears right now because a. There's really not that much going on (except messy overlapping short branches) to get pruned anyway and all branches are very short and b. I want to get him settled and healthy before I consider doing anything. All the better - more time for planning. However do you see a potential in this guy to be turned into an interesting bonsai at some point? There's so much going on in the crown I can't really imagine what can happen with it... I'm glad it's not an exaggerated S shape, maybe I can get him a bit leaning? but other than that right now it doesn't look like much and he's fukien ugly bless his roots. I love him anyway.

Some more details:
- I got him delivered yesterday
- he dropped one leaf. ;( At least he didn't drop all of them overnight like my boyfriend expected
- Soil was damp when he arrived yesterday but it topped it up a tiny bit. This morning I stuck my finger in to my first knuckle and realised that the surface seemed wetter than it was inside. Watered over the sink until it started coming out of the drain holes. Waited 30 seconds and watered again. Prompted pot up on rocks
- It has a humidity tray. This is also an open plan living room/kitchen/my office so there's humidity from cooking. I was misting him yesterday but read that that kills the flowers and it doesn't do much so I've left him alone today.
- we have underfloor heating, no radiators and no AC
 

GoblinGirl

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I reckon if you've kept that carnivorous joint alive for more than 3 days, you'll do just Fukien Fine!

Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
Thank you! Schnappy joined my family in April with around 4 half dead traps and he was the healthiest of the sorry bunch at the home improvement store checkout. He's got 6x that many beautiful large red traps now and I'm preparing him for hibernation for this autumn/winter - that will be the true test!
 

Bonsai Nut

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Welcome to the site!

I agree with @sorce - a Venus flytrap is 10x more difficult to keep happy than a Fukien tea!

Ignore that little tray with pebbles that came with the tree; at least from a functional perspective it doesn't do anything but keep water off your desk. They call them humidity trays but I think it is just snake oil - it isn't going to do anything for creating a zone of humidity around your tree foliage. Otherwise Fukien tea is a true tropical and likes heat, humidity, and sun. If you had a sunny window in your shower that's where it would be happiest :) However as long as you don't keep the soil too wet or keep it in the dark it should be somewhat forgiving. Water heavily until water comes out the bottom of the pot, and then don't water again until the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, but if you dig down below the surface the soil is still damp... but not saturated. And it will enjoy having the foliage misted, if you feel like it! (just like your fly trap!)
 

rockm

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Your set up will likely work. Window sills, as you have discovered, are miserable places for plants. They're drafty and cold air in the winter can seep in and over time, cause issues. Definitely needs a soil change, as it's potted in crap. Repotting tropicals is usuallyl best done in the high heat of summer, so plan on that next summer.

In the meantime, you're going to carefully watch how you water the plant. Water it when it NEEDS it, NOT on a schedule convenient to you. Top inch or so should be dryish before watering. Watering is the most difficult bonsai task to learn. Most beginner trees die from overwatering. I use the "pick it up" method for my trees. That means watering the plant thoroughly, until water runs out the drain holes. I pick it up--noticing the weight of a fully-watered pot. Every day (all my trees are outside 24/7), I pick it up. The initial weight declines as the water in the soil is used by the plant, or evaporates. I wait until the pot is about a third to a half lighter (by estimate) to water again. Many people insert chopsticks into the soil and leave them. Every now and then, the stick is withdrawn to see how much moisture is on it, kind of like the oil dipstick in your car. You can do the pick up test every couple of days for indoor plants. They won't use as much water inside. A word of warning about that soil--if the top dries out and you don't notice, it will become as water repellent as a tin roof. That will force water to the sides of the pot and away from roots. Since it is dense and peat-based, you're probably going to have to physically stir the top inch or so every so often to prevent that from happening.

Another thing, the symptoms of overwatering--yellowing foliage that shrivels and drops in a day, blackened ends of shoots, etc.--are the same as underwatering. That's because over and under watering destroy the roots that supply water to the foliage. Most assume that those symptoms indicate the plant needs more water and drown their trees. Make sure you know which you're dealing if action is needed.

Inside, your tree is likely to lose leaves (sometimes a lot of leaves) particularly if has been kept in full sun outside in the summer. The tree is readjusting to lower light requirements in dropping leaves. Don't be too concerned with that (and don't fuss with trying to "fix it" immediately--which can make things worse). Let it progress. See where it goes.

Also get rid of the humidity tray. It's unnecessary and doesn't do much for the humidity around the tree. It complicates watering, as it can become a reservoir of water that gets drawn up into the pot, if the bottom of the pot touches the water in the tray. Those are also breeding ground for fungus and algae. Only a humidifier designed to work in a room will help bring humidty levels up enough to be beneficial to the plant. That can be done in a bathroom, but even then, it's temporary.

Above all, squash the desire to "do" stuff to "help" your plant inside. Benign neglect is your friend. Too many people who get bonsai think since the tree is a bonsai, it requires constant fussing and care. Overcaring, too much water, too much fertlizer, too much "snip here,snip there" kills most first time bonsai. Overwintering tropicals inside isn't an exercise in growing them, as much as it is getting them the basics to endure their time inside. Outside is ALWAYS best for ANY tree-ifthe conditions allow. There are no "indoor" bonsai...
 

GoblinGirl

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Your set up will likely work. Window sills, as you have discovered, are miserable places for plants. They're drafty and cold air in the winter can seep in and over time, cause issues. Definitely needs a soil change, as it's potted in crap. Repotting tropicals is usuallyl best done in the high heat of summer, so plan on that next summer.

In the meantime, you're going to carefully watch how you water the plant. Water it when it NEEDS it, NOT on a schedule convenient to you. Top inch or so should be dryish before watering. Watering is the most difficult bonsai task to learn. Most beginner trees die from overwatering. I use the "pick it up" method for my trees. That means watering the plant thoroughly, until water runs out the drain holes. I pick it up--noticing the weight of a fully-watered pot. Every day (all my trees are outside 24/7), I pick it up. The initial weight declines as the water in the soil is used by the plant, or evaporates. I wait until the pot is about a third to a half lighter (by estimate) to water again. Many people insert chopsticks into the soil and leave them. Every now and then, the stick is withdrawn to see how much moisture is on it, kind of like the oil dipstick in your car. You can do the pick up test every couple of days for indoor plants. They won't use as much water inside. A word of warning about that soil--if the top dries out and you don't notice, it will become as water repellent as a tin roof. That will force water to the sides of the pot and away from roots. Since it is dense and peat-based, you're probably going to have to physically stir the top inch or so every so often to prevent that from happening.

Another thing, the symptoms of overwatering--yellowing foliage that shrivels and drops in a day, blackened ends of shoots, etc.--are the same as underwatering. That's because over and under watering destroy the roots that supply water to the foliage. Most assume that those symptoms indicate the plant needs more water and drown their trees. Make sure you know which you're dealing if action is needed.

Inside, your tree is likely to lose leaves (sometimes a lot of leaves) particularly if has been kept in full sun outside in the summer. The tree is readjusting to lower light requirements in dropping leaves. Don't be too concerned with that (and don't fuss with trying to "fix it" immediately--which can make things worse). Let it progress. See where it goes.

Also get rid of the humidity tray. It's unnecessary and doesn't do much for the humidity around the tree. It complicates watering, as it can become a reservoir of water that gets drawn up into the pot, if the bottom of the pot touches the water in the tray. Those are also breeding ground for fungus and algae. Only a humidifier designed to work in a room will help bring humidty levels up enough to be beneficial to the plant. That can be done in a bathroom, but even then, it's temporary.

Above all, squash the desire to "do" stuff to "help" your plant inside. Benign neglect is your friend. Too many people who get bonsai think since the tree is a bonsai, it requires constant fussing and care. Overcaring, too much water, too much fertlizer, too much "snip here,snip there" kills most first time bonsai. Overwintering tropicals inside isn't an exercise in growing them, as much as it is getting them the basics to endure their time inside. Outside is ALWAYS best for ANY tree-ifthe conditions allow. There are no "indoor" bonsai...
Thank you!

I tried to insert a chopstick close to the edge of the pot but after a centimetre I heard soft tearing sounds and panicked that I'm tearing roots so I gave up on it!

I will instead start doing the weighing technique. Interestingly the top of the soil seemed wetter than the layer under it when I stirred it this morning. I'll be very careful with watering and figure out what works for this tree as fast as I can! All really helpful advice.
nice terrarium and fly traps. maybe best flytraps ive seen in a while. they look healthy and clean
Thank you! The fly trap has been thriving with benign neglect really. I keep hearing how horribly difficult they are but I never fuss with mine just stuck it in some distilled water and put it in the sun and let it have at it!

The terrarium is a few weeks old now and it underwent a surgery a couple of days ago because I feared a fungus infection. But I've noticed the calathea has started growing ~3 new leaves and so is the ivy so they seem to be happy :)
Welcome to the site!

I agree with @sorce - a Venus flytrap is 10x more difficult to keep happy than a Fukien tea!

Ignore that little tray with pebbles that came with the tree; at least from a functional perspective it doesn't do anything but keep water off your desk. They call them humidity trays but I think it is just snake oil - it isn't going to do anything for creating a zone of humidity around your tree foliage. Otherwise Fukien tea is a true tropical and likes heat, humidity, and sun. If you had a sunny window in your shower that's where it would be happiest :) However as long as you don't keep the soil too wet or keep it in the dark it should be somewhat forgiving. Water heavily until water comes out the bottom of the pot, and then don't water again until the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, but if you dig down below the surface the soil is still damp... but not saturated. And it will enjoy having the foliage misted, if you feel like it! (just like your fly trap!)
Haha for realskis I keep hearing that about VFT. We have two bathrooms but they're both windowless :( I'll look into a humidifier it seems like the tray isn't as good as I thought it is! I actually never mist the VFT it gets all its humidity from the room and the water in the ramekin :eek:

This is the same room as the kitchen so I guess the air is more humid than I thought!
 

hinmo24t

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Thank you!

I tried to insert a chopstick close to the edge of the pot but after a centimetre I heard soft tearing sounds and panicked that I'm tearing roots so I gave up on it!

I will instead start doing the weighing technique. Interestingly the top of the soil seemed wetter than the layer under it when I stirred it this morning. I'll be very careful with watering and figure out what works for this tree as fast as I can! All really helpful advice.

Thank you! The fly trap has been thriving with benign neglect really. I keep hearing how horribly difficult they are but I never fuss with mine just stuck it in some distilled water and put it in the sun and let it have at it!

The terrarium is a few weeks old now and it underwent a surgery a couple of days ago because I feared a fungus infection. But I've noticed the calathea has started growing ~3 new leaves and so is the ivy so they seem to be happy :)

Haha for realskis I keep hearing that about VFT. We have two bathrooms but they're both windowless :( I'll look into a humidifier it seems like the tray isn't as good as I thought it is! I actually never mist the VFT it gets all its humidity from the room and the water in the ramekin :eek:

This is the same room as the kitchen so I guess the air is more humid than I thought!
rad. my gf made this last weekend
20210822_074534.jpg
20210822_074422.jpg

 

GoblinGirl

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rad. my gf made this last weekend
View attachment 394099
View attachment 394100

Those fittonias are GORGEOUS! What variety is the dark green one? My white one is definitely WAY too white compared to your gf's but a few of her leaves were dying so I removed them to reveal beautifully coloured baby leaves close to yours!

What's the bright green plant on the left? It's so pretty..
 

hinmo24t

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Those fittonias are GORGEOUS! What variety is the dark green one? My white one is definitely WAY too white compared to your gf's but a few of her leaves were dying so I removed them to reveal beautifully coloured baby leaves close to yours!

What's the bright green plant on the left? It's so pretty..
variegated trailing jade for bright one (she didnt know it was a jade and i wasnt there to monitor, but they did have all her plants in a dedicated terrarium section...we'll see how it holds up)

not sure on the dark one but it is a cool looking little plant for sure.

fittonias are epic and thanks for compliments. good luck with yours, they almost need to be in a terrarium,
i had a nice one for awhile but it did succumb eventually


shes playing around with semi covering and getting used to the tank. with a 6" cork plant tray for the cover
 

GoblinGirl

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variegated trailing jade for bright one (she didnt know it was a jade and i wasnt there to monitor, but they did have all her plants in a dedicated terrarium section...we'll see how it holds up)

not sure on the dark one but it is a cool looking little plant for sure.

fittonias are epic and thanks for compliments. good luck with yours, they almost need to be in a terrarium,
i had a nice one for awhile but it did succumb eventually


shes playing around with semi covering and getting used to the tank. with a 6" cork plant tray for the cover
Thanks for the info. The jade looks like a succulent so I've got my fingers crossed for it. I guess you can always take it out and move it to a sandier drier open terrarium with other succulents if it starts being sad... I killed an aloe last winter and before that I waterboarded my mum's succulents while she was on holiday so I'm still recovering from those hits and I'm staying away from succulents. :')

Fittonias are absolute drama queens from what I know although I haven't seen mine faint yet. However I'm going to attempt to propagate them next spring :D maybe start another terrarium.

Modmins sorry for the offtopic o:)
 

hinmo24t

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Thanks for the info. The jade looks like a succulent so I've got my fingers crossed for it. I guess you can always take it out and move it to a sandier drier open terrarium with other succulents if it starts being sad... I killed an aloe last winter and before that I waterboarded my mum's succulents while she was on holiday so I'm still recovering from those hits and I'm staying away from succulents. :')

Fittonias are absolute drama queens from what I know although I haven't seen mine faint yet. However I'm going to attempt to propagate them next spring :D maybe start another terrarium.

Modmins sorry for the offtopic o:)
got a chuckle out of me with the waterboarding


keep having fun
 

rockm

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Thank you!

I tried to insert a chopstick close to the edge of the pot but after a centimetre I heard soft tearing sounds and panicked that I'm tearing roots so I gave up on it!

I will instead start doing the weighing technique. Interestingly the top of the soil seemed wetter than the layer under it when I stirred it this morning. I'll be very careful with watering and figure out what works for this tree as fast as I can! All really helpful advice.

Thank you! The fly trap has been thriving with benign neglect really. I keep hearing how horribly difficult they are but I never fuss with mine just stuck it in some distilled water and put it in the sun and let it have at it!

The terrarium is a few weeks old now and it underwent a surgery a couple of days ago because I feared a fungus infection. But I've noticed the calathea has started growing ~3 new leaves and so is the ivy so they seem to be happy :)

Haha for realskis I keep hearing that about VFT. We have two bathrooms but they're both windowless :( I'll look into a humidifier it seems like the tray isn't as good as I thought it is! I actually never mist the VFT it gets all its humidity from the room and the water in the ramekin :eek:

This is the same room as the kitchen so I guess the air is more humid than I thought!
that tearing isn't going to hurt much. Might even help. Sounds like the root mass is getting very congested. The repot and root reduction next summer will probably give you nightmares... 😁
 

GoblinGirl

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that tearing isn't going to hurt much. Might even help. Sounds like the root mass is getting very congested. The repot and root reduction next summer will probably give you nightmares... 😁
Getting flashbacks to my first time ever repotting something. The previous winter the supermarket was out of fresh basil so my boyfriend came back with a small potted basil plant from the shop. After stripping it for pizza sauce I decided I will not let it die no matter what and by summer there were ~10 plants sitting in all root barely any soil. I was nearly crying by the time I got them separated. Was convinced they will die. Only 1-2 didn't make it the rest thrived and became a proper bush with huge glossy leaves until some creep infested them in autumn and then the lack of sun finished them. I still consider a year of thriving supermarket basil as an achievement lmao.

Offtopic aside I'll stir up the top half inch or so a bit to get some air in there if you think it will help!, but I definitely don't look forward to repotting haha
 

rockm

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Getting flashbacks to my first time ever repotting something. The previous winter the supermarket was out of fresh basil so my boyfriend came back with a small potted basil plant from the shop. After stripping it for pizza sauce I decided I will not let it die no matter what and by summer there were ~10 plants sitting in all root barely any soil. I was nearly crying by the time I got them separated. Was convinced they will die. Only 1-2 didn't make it the rest thrived and became a proper bush with huge glossy leaves until some creep infested them in autumn and then the lack of sun finished them. I still consider a year of thriving supermarket basil as an achievement lmao.

Offtopic aside I'll stir up the top half inch or so a bit to get some air in there if you think it will help!, but I definitely don't look forward to repotting haha
Here's a part of a decent repotting video from a bonsai professional. There are five of them to watch. You will be doing the same thing (only on a smaller scale) with your tree.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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I reckon if you've kept that carnivorous joint alive for more than 3 days, you'll do just Fukien Fine!

Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
They're like pines, an insult four months ago can make it go belly up today. An insult today might not show sings of damage until next year.

I've had them for 10 years outdoors and handed out a looot of suckers. Their overall look can be deceiving, so are flowers. Those bulbs/rosettes can store a lot of rations! If they survive for a year, you know you're on the right track; rations are depleted and all it's building is from excess material - it gained something.
 

GoblinGirl

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They're like pines, an insult four months ago can make it go belly up today. An insult today might not show sings of damage until next year.

I've had them for 10 years outdoors and handed out a looot of suckers. Their overall look can be deceiving, so are flowers. Those bulbs/rosettes can store a lot of rations! If they survive for a year, you know you're on the right track; rations are depleted and all it's building is from excess material - it gained something.
Do you mean you've had pines for 10 years or carnivores? If it's carnivores, can I DM you a question? Thanks :)
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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I had VFT's in a miniature bog for 10 years.
Pines about 4 years, not in a bog though!
Questions are always welcome, but I have to admit that my carnivorous plant knowledge might be outdated; there's been a cultivar explosion since the last decade and I don't know any of them. I was crazy about them in the past, even tried to selectively breed a heart shaped drosera rotundifolia, but all I have now are some cape sundews.
 

GoblinGirl

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I had VFT's in a miniature bog for 10 years.
Pines about 4 years, not in a bog though!
Questions are always welcome, but I have to admit that my carnivorous plant knowledge might be outdated; there's been a cultivar explosion since the last decade and I don't know any of them. I was crazy about them in the past, even tried to selectively breed a heart shaped drosera rotundifolia, but all I have now are some cape sundews.
That's really cool! I'm thinking of making a potted bog to live out on the balcony next spring if the VFT makes it through hibernation!

I think my question is kinda timeless :') since I kept the plant inside I'll need to take it outside so the temperatures can drop for it so it can hibernate but I don't wanna shock it. Question is should I acclimate it somehow or should I just plop it outdoors now while it's still relatively warm during the day? It gets _very_ windy on this balcony sometimes and it's a tiny pot and there's annoying pigeons - should I pop it in a ventilated propagation box?
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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I think it's always wise to acclimate plants when putting them outdoors.
They get blasted by the sun compared to indoors, because sunlight is filtered a whole lot by windows. Even in the cold they can get a serious sunburn.
Outdoors and in the shade for two weeks, then half shade for two weeks and then fully exposed to the sun for the rest of the time. That is sun exposure.
I'm pretty convinced that plants can survive flash frosts and rapid cold drops with ease. A week or two outdoors should be enough to prime them for dormancy. Just don't let temps drop below -8°C or they'll show some damage. However.. Full dormancy in VFT in my case meant total dieback; all foliage died and the bulbs hybernated underground, then resprouted in spring with a bunch of suckers on the sides. I'm not sure if that's the best way of handling them. But if there still is a carnivorous plant society (CPS) then they'll be able to answer that question more thoroughly and way more accurate than I can.

Pigeons can and will be a problem, for all plant lovers. Some chicken wire mesh saved my vft's from the pigeons, blackbirds and sparrows. Wind might be another issue, vft's naturally grow in between other plants and get a bunch of windbreak. I don't know how they'd fare in high wind exposure for long periods. My guess is that they drink enough to combat that, but I'm not sure.
 

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