Chinese Elm...in my kitchen?

tanlu

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Does anyone have experience with Chinese Elms? I actually ended up purchasing one (imported from China) this past weekend at a local bonsai nursery for $25, a steal really. The Japanese bonsaist who overseas the care of all the bonsai there keeps them in a greenhouse with indirect light and high humidity. All seem extremely healthy. She says she waters them once a week.

Now I don't live in a greenhouse, but my tiny upstairs kitchen has the most humidity in the house, possibly 40% or 50% without the humidity tray. It's 65F daytime, 55F nighttime. It's also very bright since it's small and there are 3 windows (light from east, south, and west) and the white walls and white cabinets reflect it. I've been keeping it there for the past few days. Does anyone have any experience and tips on indoor care for this species?
Can I repot it now?
What is the best soil mix?

I'll post a pic soon

T
 

Redwood Ryan

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Like I said in the other post, this tree will live a short, unhappy life if kept indoors.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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If it's a smooth-barked variety, you'll have better luck keeping it inside. Treat it like a tropical, although it's really a zone 7-8 sub-tropical. Let it go "dormant" keep it a little on the dry side, and close to the window so it's cooler...no feeding. It will probably drop leaves, then re-bud in early March. When the buds start swelling in March (they look like Brussel's sprouts), you'll know that is the right time to repot.

You should be ok keeping it inside this winter, but outdoors is preferable next winter.
 

tanlu

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This is the smooth bark type and it has a gray/blue hue to the bark that is actually quite stunning. Before reading your answer (Brian) I was thinking the same thing. Since I recently purchased it, in the New York winter, I have no choice but to keep it indoors. I'm planning to bring it outside by late April or May, than bringing it back inside next October or early November.

I'm actually excited about raising as a deciduous tree since I read on: http://www.forestry.ok.gov/Websites/forestry/Images/trees,elmlace.pdf that the fall foliage is showy and can range from red, purple, or yellow.

Any recommendations for soil? I read about people using pure turface.
 

Redwood Ryan

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Turface with bark chips is fine.

This tree will not go dormant if left inside. Therefore, you will not experience the fall foliage unless you leave it outdoors. Why can't you do that? It won't get too cold and if you're afraid it will leave it in a garage, shed, etc.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Any recommendations for soil? I read about people using pure turface.
Slippery slope here! You'll get at least 1 answer per member. I've had good luck using equal parts of lava rock, Turface, and pine bark for years, but have substituted akadama for the bark with my better trees in recent years.

To me, pure Turface doesn't seem like it provides a stable structure, whereas lava, akadama, and pine bark kind of "lock in" as you work it in with a chopstick. Also, Turface is surprisingly retentive, so you may run into trouble with root rot.
 

rockm

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"This tree will not go dormant if left inside. Therefore, you will not experience the fall foliage unless you leave it outdoors. Why can't you do that? It won't get too cold and if you're afraid it will leave it in a garage, shed, etc."

DO NOT put the tree outdoors now. It will not go dormant if placed outside now. It will simply freeze to death. It has had no time to prepare for dormancy. Dormancy is NOT driven by temperature, but by shortening days that begins in June. Without that preperatory period, the tree has not been "signalled" to begin the dormancy process and has not prepared itself physically for winter cold.

The tree will be fine indoors for this winter. It might drop some leaves and look somewhat stressed by the spring, but if you get it outdoors once the frost danger is past and leave it outside after that it will thrive.
 

Redwood Ryan

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"This tree will not go dormant if left inside. Therefore, you will not experience the fall foliage unless you leave it outdoors. Why can't you do that? It won't get too cold and if you're afraid it will leave it in a garage, shed, etc."

DO NOT put the tree outdoors now. It will not go dormant if placed outside now. It will simply freeze to death. It has had no time to prepare for dormancy. Dormancy is NOT driven by temperature, but by shortening days that begins in June. Without that preperatory period, the tree has not been "signalled" to begin the dormancy process and has not prepared itself physically for winter cold.

The tree will be fine indoors for this winter. It might drop some leaves and look somewhat stressed by the spring, but if you get it outdoors once the frost danger is past and leave it outside after that it will thrive.
Sorry if I implied that it needs to go outside right now. Obviously it shouldn't. But he mentions bringing it inside every winter. Why?
 

jk_lewis

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Like I said in the other post, this tree will live a short, unhappy life if kept indoors.
Except that this one has been living in a greenhouse. It is much better to keep it inside this winter than to introduce it outside on the first official day of winter (tomorrow).

It probably will do OK in there. But use the chopstick method of determining when to water; keep a chopstick jammed into the soil. Remove it dail and feel the dirty end. If it is damp, do not water. If it is dry, water (from the top) until it flows through the drainage holes.. I assume it has leaves since it was greenhouse gown. If so it will continue to drink. BUt don't gt too excited if it starts losing leaves. That's what elms do in New York.
 

tanlu

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Ryan,
I plan on keeping it outside next year until the fall and then give it WINTER SHELTER, which is what I meant by "inside". No need to worry.

jkl, the tree is still in it's original potting soil. I have some antique-looking Chinese pots I want to use for repotting, but I don't know when its safe to repot it. The bonsaist at the bonsai nursery said it can be done anytime. Is that true??? If that's the case, I'll do it this week!

Honestly, in my opinion, there are just as many people passionately saying Chinese Elms are strictly outdoor deciduous trees as there are those saying can be raised in both indoor and outdoor conditions.

In terms of that argument, I'm going to stick with what I read here: http://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Ulmus.html
 

rockm

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You need to find another bonsai nursery. The guy sounds like he just keeps the trees handy for sale and has no real understanding of bonsai.

You can repot "anytime," but some times are vastly better than others. Some times can wind up killing your treee--even though you'd be doing the same procedure in both cases.

The best time to repot a Chinese elm would be in springtime, just before its leaf buds begin to break into actual leaves. When the tree is kept outdoors, this would probably mean sometime in late April in upstate NY--the idea is to allow as much time as possible for the disturbed roots to redevelop and the close of the growing season. Also plants need a lot more moisture when they are in full leaf. If you repot during late spring or summer, you risk killing off the foliage (and the tree) if you disturb the roots too much.

Your situation, with the tree indoors this winter, could mean you could repot as early as Feb. (IF you have a warm, humid place --and I doubt you have humidty levels of 50 percent anywhere in your house. Humidity levels inside inthe winter time are lower than most deserts. Youd be lucky to get 30...

If I were you, I'd wait an entire year before attempting repotting. You have much to learn about caring for your tree. Repotting can complicate that process. Unless the soil is extremely bad--smelly (a sour bad smell-- not sweetish "soil" smell) and takes more than a few minutes to drain completely--I'd leave things alone.

Repotting it just to get it into a prettier pot can cost you your tree...
 

jk_lewis

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I dunno what bonsai4me says, but Chinese elms CAN be kept indoors full time if you are an accomplishjed grower of bonsai. I would never recommend it for a neophyte to the sport.
 

tanlu

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rockm,

Thanks for the well thought out reply! I am new at growing this species and I want the thing to live. It's currently in a moist potting soil medium (that smells fine) on top of a humidity tray. In a small kitchen that stays around 60 degrees most of the day and 55 at night. It's next to 3 windows and gets sun from east south and west. There is noticeable moisture in the air, but I'm not sure the exact humidity level. There are lots of new bright green leaves and buds all over the tree and it looks quite vigorous, for which I'm glad. Does that mean I should still wait a year?
 

rockm

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I'd say yes. The plant is doing fine. You're not familiar with how to care for it. Repotting it just to get it into a prettier pot is not a good enough reason to potentially interrupt it's growth (and repotting does interrupt growth and if done incorrectly or too aggressively, can weaken or even kill the plant.)

There is always a temptation to "do" something with bonsai. Sometimes that urge has to be ignored in favor of a little patience and learning. You've yet to have the plant a fulll year and are unfamiliar with its needs. Repotting it so soon could complicate things unecessarily.
 

jk_lewis

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There is always a temptation to "do" something with bonsai. Sometimes that urge has to be ignored in favor of a little patience and learning.
Especially on the part of those who have only one (maybe two) bonsai.
 

Alex DeRuiter

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One way I've dealt with this is buying a bunch of trees -- most just to grow, but some to practice on -- and read read read! ;-p
 

DaveV

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I am surprised the person sold it to you this time of the year. Unless you told him that you had a greenhouse like his I would personally take it back to him and ask him to keep it for you until the spring. I think your risking it keeping it in the house his winter. Also, you should only water the tree when it needs water - not just twice a week. The other way to look at it is it's only $25 bucks.
 

tanlu

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Ok, so I was gone for the holidays for over a week, making sure I thoroughly watered it before I left. When I came back it had 3 times as many shoots and buds as before. Most of the new shoots were 5" long on an already small 9" tree, without any use of fertilizer. I believe this is evidence that the tree is in fact doing quite well. Once spring comes along it will be outside.
 

DaveV

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I think if you can keep it going until spring and then outside you will be OK.
 
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