Chinese Elm - need help

Forbes

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Hi all... I have about a 3-4yr old Chinese Elm that i got from a good supplier, it's in good soil, and has been growing pretty well for the last 4 months or so, that i've had it. I pruned it and repotted it when i got it, as I don't think it had been done much before. I pruned it WAY back... not knowing a lot about what i was doing. I've learned a lot since, and have been trying to grow a fuller canopy on top, as well some a few upper well defined branches. My problem is the first branch (or where I want the first branch to be). There was a week branch there, but it has dried out and about broken off. it was very thin. I'd like to try to grow a new branch here, although i know it will take a few years to get to the size i want. I have a new shoot growing there now that is about 6" long (the whole tree is about 10" high from the soil. My question is, if i let this shoot grow, will it become "woody", or will it just grow and die out? Should I prune it out further, and let new shoots grow from it, or just let it continue to grow straight out, on it's own?

It is currently being grown indoors with the aid of natural sunlight and a lot of flourescents. I do take it outside for some partial sun as well.

Any suggestions?
 

DaveV

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Chinese elms are not indoor trees - they would rather be outside. It will die if you keep it inside. In regards to your question, alot depends upon the health of your tree. From what you described, I would let the branch grow this year and re-eval. next spring.
 

rockm

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New shoots do become woody tissue and develop into new branches--under good conditions

I think your problems are you have the plant indoors and you're moving it around.

The plant should be outside all the time--even in the winter. Keeping it indoors under lights leads to weak growth, die back and other problems as you're discovering.

Indoor conditions are simply not ideal for the strong robust growth needed to develop the new shoots on your tree into woody tissue.

Moving a plant around is also complicating things. Plants evolved to NOT move around :D. They remain rooted in one spot (until a bonsaiist makes them portable) their entire lives. Moving them indoors and outdoors stresses them, since they are constantly having to adjust to conditions. Humidity and light levels vary tremendously indoors and outdoors, with indoors being very stressful. The humidity levels inside a house with central air in the summer, and heat in the winter approaches the humidity levels of a desert--humidity trays sold with some bonsai are mostly useless and are simply ways for the seller to make an additional $20 or so. Air movement, which is also required by trees is virtually non-existant inside.

Although this is hard news to take for many who bought their trees for indoor display, it can mean the difference between a healthy developing bonsai and a tree that just limps along in gradual decline until it eventually dies on the study shelf...

Some trees can take indoor conditions. Although there are some folks who believe that C. Elms are one of those, it's not really true in my 20 years' experience. Chinese elms can survive inside (for a while, as they are very tough trees), but they never thrive. If you want a better indoor performer, a tropical species, like ficus or schfflera are better choices.
 

Forbes

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Thanks for the advice, and wisdom. What you said about moving the tree makes a lot of sense. It's sad that i have to have someone tell me that in order for it to sink in. Go figure... It is currently inside at my desk, but i work in a large data center... so humidity and airflow are are there, and kept very constant. I'm working on an "area" in my back yard at home that is safe for my trees. I had two young red maples that my cats chewed all of the leaves off of. I don't want to subject the elm to that, or any of the stray cats around.

I'll head your advice and try to get better growing areas. I guess I can let the long shoot grow for now and hope it does well?
 

jk_lewis

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It is currently inside at my desk, but i work in a large data center... so humidity and airflow are are there, and kept very constant.
The only place I can think of that is a worse envionment for a bonsai is sitting on top of the radiator or furnace vent.

An office environment -- especially in a data center that has to be kept dry for all the machines -- is as far away from a natural outdoor enviuronment as you can get.

Trees need UV light, they need a breeze, and they need humidity.
 

rockm

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"humidity and airflow are are there, and kept very constant."

No, they're really not, at least not in the quantities the tree needs. Unless you have something like 60 -70 percent or better humidity inside, it's too dry for the tree. Unless you get 10-15 mph winds inside, there really isn't enough air circulation. Stagnant air leads to all sort of things, form spider mites to mold on the leaves. You also don't have anywhere near the light level required for strong growth from a Chinese elm inside,--unless you have some sort of high-powered, specialized halide fixtures directly over the plant.

Get the tree outside as soon as you can. You've already lost branching to indoor conditions. It's probably not going to get any better. Leave the new shoot alone for now.

Cats can be very bad for bonsai regardless of where you keep either :rolleyes:...To keep the cats off your trees, you could build wire mesh covers that could be place over the trees, depending, of course, on the size of the plants. Otherwise, you could find that bonsai and cats are sometime a bad mix. Chewing isn't the only thing they will do to trees. Cat urine sprayed into a bonsai pot can kill the tree--if the pot is small enough and the dose of urine large enough...
 
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Forbes

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Gotcha... as much as I like the tree here with me, I guess I need to start transitioning it outdoors, and soon. I'm headed to Lowes at lunch to get some brackets to make a shelf on the inner side of my privacy fence... hopefully that will help. the wire mesh or "chicken wire" as I'm thinking, may be a good idea... or perhaps a pellet gun? ;-)

I guess I wasn't saying the air flow and humidity are best, I was just saying they are very controlled, and constant... with that, the soil drys at about the same rate all the time. I undertand what you mean though, about the natural outdoor elements being better for the tree. I'm guessing while transitioning to being outdoors all the time, i should start with a few hours a day and work up to a full day...? Maybe in 3-4 hours increments? I just don't want to burn it up. Temps here in Pennsylvania have been in the mid to upper 80's with high humidity.

Thank you again, all of you.
 

rockm

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No. Plunk it outside and leave it there. Again, moving it in and out is not going to do it any good. It won't acclimate to either place if you keep moving it.

You can, however, make sure it gets only four or five hours of morning sun, avoid letting it sit in direct afternoon sun, as that might be too much for the leaves it has now--leaves that emerged inside will not have the same sun tolerance as leaves that grow in direct sunlight (on the same plant).

Once it is outside, you will have to watch it daily to make sure it gets enough water (and avoid overwatering). This can take some doing, as daily needs for trees outside can vary tremendously. Where you might need to water twice a day when it's hot and windy, the next day may be humid and still and the plant might not require any watering.

Watering properly is one of the most difficult things in bonsai.

BTW, depending on the source, many chinese elm bonsai are from stock that is originally from sub-tropical areas. They are extremely capable of handling a Pennsylvania summer...
 
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sean f

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i live in williamsport pa. i have a small chinese elm i leave in full sun all the time and growth has tripled since i started doing that.
 

sean f

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when i got it ,it was winter and greenhouse kept so i had to leave it inside. it showed all the symptoms you described i moved it outside that spring and its been out since,even with the harsh winter i had its been doing great
 

Forbes

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Awesome... This weekend it will get a new home outside with partial sun. I have a small backyard, and i'm out there everyday all year round, so it will be easy to check on them. I'll pay special attention until i get used to the new watering regimen. Thank you all... VERY much!
 

Redwood Ryan

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Awesome... This weekend it will get a new home outside with partial sun. I have a small backyard, and i'm out there everyday all year round, so it will be easy to check on them. I'll pay special attention until i get used to the new watering regimen. Thank you all... VERY much!
Don't put it directly into the sunlight. Place it in the shade for a week or two, then slowly transition it to the sun.
 

Forbes

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Thanks again for the advice all... The tree (chinese elm) has been outdoors about three days now, with shade and a couple of hours of evening sun. When it was in my office, soem of the leaves were turning yellow and falling. As I have read, this can be from several causes. More leaves have fallen, and a few of the shoots have died since being outside. It's being watered regularly but not on a schedule... i use the chopstick method, or with my finger. I'm wondering if this is mainly due to the condition of the tree from keeping it a static environment. How long might it take to start seeing the tree "come back to life" per say... I know many have said to ease it into full sun, but what about heat? My office is a VERY constant 70 degrees, with low humidity. My backyard has been in the high 80's - mid 90's with high humidity (which i think would be good). Would have a negative affect on a tree that may already be stressed?

Any thoughts? I know i'll kill trees sooner or later, but this was the first tree i bought, and i guess it has a little special meaning... so i want to take care of it, as silly as it sounds.
 

rockm

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The dropped leaves and dieing shoots are not due to outdoor conditions after three days, but to the prolonged stress the tree was under indoors. Be patient. Make sure the soil is moist --but not soggy. You should see new growth within two weeks.

Be aware that "evening sun" is really afternoon sun and will be hitting the tree during the hottest part of the day. Morning sun is a lot better since temperatures haven't had the time to climb as much. If it's possible, get the tree into morning sun.
 

Forbes

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Well, after taking advice from all of you (thank you), My Chinese Elm has been outdoors for just over a week, and even though we had two of the hardest thunderstorms in years, it's doing very well. It did drop some more leaves, but now has fresh green buds starting to pop all over the existing limbs and trunk. I'm going to just let it do it's thing for the rest of the summer. Would it be okay to do some small branch trimming after it drops leaves for the winter, or should I just wait until Spring?

My Japanese Red Maples are doing just fine in their new outside home as well. They have turned a little deeper red, as I understand they will do in the stronger sun. My Fukien Tea tree, I'm afraid, isn't doing as well. It had started dropping leaves when indoors. They turned brown, some with a lot of tiny white dots on them, and would fall off. The room it was in didn't get much sun at all, so I don't know if the tree had started to die, or if it had just started to go dormant. I'm hoping the latter. I'll leave it in some fresh sun, and keep it watered and see if it will recover. My hopes aren't too high at this point, but I'm hoping for the best. Thank you all for your advice.... It was hard to make that step to get my trees outdoors, as I wanted them inside where I can see them a little more... but obviously, it's much better for the trees. They seem happy. :D
 
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your tea should pick up as well, unless it is to far gone... the white spots are actually part of the leaves, they just show up more when the leaves turn brown. Probally a case of to much water when inside???
 

Forbes

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Well, it's been a while since my last post, and unfortunately, things are not going well... The Tea tree died. The elm grew well for a few weeks, then started losing leaves. I kept it outside, and never the soil get completely dried out, but careful not to overwater. I did move it to a location that got more of the earlier day sun than the late afternoon sun. It has since dropped all of it's leaves again, to the point it was completely bare. I scratched a small place on the bark after a couple of weeks and it was still very green. New leaf sprouts came out right at the base of several small branches, but now they look to be dying as well. I don't really know what to do at this point. It's not really dead, and I live in Pennsylvania, and our temperatures have started to drop and the days are getting shorter, so regular trees will start dropping leaves in the next few weeks. I'm assuming the Elm probably won't sprout much more this year, correct? I guess just ease back on watering through the winter and hope for the best?
 
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forbes, when your elm dropped it's leaves, were they still green ???
so they are getting partial sun , how many times a week are you watering ???
and what type of soil are they in ???
 
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