Dehydrated Natal Plum Tree Help

Rachael

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Hello Bonsai Enthusiasts,

My Natal plum Bonsai went without water in a south facing window for about 5 days to a week. When I got to the little guy, the leaves were still green but shriveled & brittle to the touch.

I plucked off a bunch of the leaves that were bone-dry and left the ones that... had give to them... in other words the leaves wouldn't snap when bent.

Then I watered it in shade and let the bottom really soak in water for an hour.

I took it out of direct sun and left it in the shade for a few days. Been misting the leaves and watering it every other day and it has been a week.

Today I put it back in the south facing window, because it was cloudy and snowing today with breaks of sun. I'm wondering if I should keep it in shade a while longer.

There is still green wood and I've seen new growth in the past on the trunk too. I'm hoping that this coming spring will let it fill out more.

My questions:

Is there anything I can do to make it recover faster?

Should I keep it out of the south facing window for a while?

The leaves are still brittle, but they are green. I'm wondering if I should pluck them all off and let it grow new leaves? I know you can do this for many bonsai to make ramifications to the branches. Is it too early in the year to do this?

If there's anyone out there that has experience with this type of tree?

All knowledgeable information and advice is appreciated.

Before dehydration:
IMG_3186.JPG

After Dehydration & Pruning:
IMG_3613.JPG
IMG_3616.JPG
 
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Bonsai Nut

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Don't worry. They are extremely hardy. We use them for landscaping in our community, and in the last month the landscapers just pruned them hard with weed wackers :)

You did the proper thing in terms of removing the desiccated leaves. Also check the branches and stems and any of them that are turning purple - they are dead and can be removed.

Otherwise keep it warm... keep it humid... and don't let the roots sit in water. One of the reasons we use carissa in our landscaping here in SoCal is that it is a "water-wise" plant. It is almost a succulent in its ability to go long periods without water. I know it isn't what you want to hear when yours has been water-shocked, but consider that if it were another tropical like a Fukien Tea, it would probably be dead.

Speaking of which... I see some decorative top-dressing on the soil. Is it planted in good bonsai soil? Have you re-potted recently? Don't do it now... I'm just saying that if you haven't repotted it recently/ever, consider doing so as soon as it warms up outside. Often times water problems are directly related to root and soil problems.
 

Forsoothe!

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The very last thing I would do is move it out of light. No light, no photosynthesis, interrupt recovery. The internodes are pretty long and should be trimmed to keep them closer and more compact. You decide what length you want and trim anything that is longer than your standard.
 

Rachael

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Don't worry. They are extremely hardy.

I see some decorative top-dressing on the soil. Is it planted in good bonsai soil? Have you re-potted recently?
Hello,

Thank you for your feedback. I just purchased the tree last winter from Bonsai West in Littleton, MA. They use bonsai soil there to pot up their trees for sale.

I was having trouble with soil erosion every time I watered at the base of the root ball... because it sits higher. The soil they used is different than my other bonsai. I think they mixed more sand in it, not sure. The glass pebbles are there to weigh the top soil down so it doesn't wash away.

They told me it didn't need to be repotted for a while but I'm thinking I should this spring, just to see what I'm dealing with.

So do you think I should hold off on watering for a while?

Thanks Again!
 

Rachael

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The very last thing I would do is move it out of light.

The internodes are pretty long and should be trimmed to keep them closer and more compact.
Thank you for your reply.

I was unsure if the south facing window was too much sun to a plant that was dehydrated. It gets quite warm in the sunlight too. I'll place it back and see how it goes :)

I haven't done any trimming yet. Was also wondering if I should do that now or wait. I might have to remove all the leaves because they didn't recover the way I wanted them to. So no photosynthesis for a while I'm guessing.

So if I remove all the leaves should I also trim? Or should I leave the green wood to encourage recovery?

Thanks again!
 

Bonsai Nut

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So do you think I should hold off on watering for a while?
No - definitely make sure you water. What I meant to say is water deeply... and then let the soil drain out and become dry on the surface and "moist" below the surface before you water again. Sometimes people forget to water... and then they compound the error by watering so frequently that the soil becomes water-logged swamp.
 

shinmai

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It might be helpful to consider the tree's native climate. Many, if not most, people in bonsai mispronounce the tree's name as 'natal' with a long a, as pertaining to birth. Correctly, it is pronounced as in Natal province in South Africa, now part of KwaZulu-Natal, to which the tree is native. The area has a climate categorized as 'humid oceanic', and generally sandy soil. In the ground, the tree is considered drought-tolerant, but that obviously would not be the case for a tree in a pot. What I'm getting at is once you get the tree stabilized, it will do best with consistent, moderate watering, but free-draining soil is paramount.
To my knowledge, removing all of the leaves [defoliating entirely] would not be a good move. Instead, I would suggest letting the dead leaves fall on their own--they're not doing any harm being there, and any live leaves are helping with transpiration. After watering as mentioned by Bonsai Nut earlier, you might consider misting the remaining leaves occasionally. I would not trim the bare ends of the branches until the tree is healthier, as you might well see new growth from those internodes as the tree recovers. Once it's healthy, it will respond very well to pruning, producing new growth almost immediately. Carissa generally is a very good candidate for propagation with cuttings, so keep that in mind for future prunings.
Best of luck with recovery--that looks like a nice little tree with a lot of potential.
 

Rachael

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Once you get the tree stabilized, it will do best with consistent, moderate watering, but free-draining soil is paramount.

I would suggest letting the dead leaves fall on their own--they're helping with transpiration.

You might consider misting the remaining leaves occasionally. I would not trim the bare ends of the branches until the tree is healthier, as you might well see new growth from those internodes as the tree recovers. Once it's healthy, it will respond very well to pruning, producing new growth almost immediately.

Best of luck with recovery--that looks like a nice little tree with a lot of potential.
Thank you for your reply!

I'll leave some of the less desiccated leaves on the tree then. I already pulled off the ones that are completely dried up, thinking that new ones would grow in their place.

I have misted the leaves but they got a whitish residue on them... I wiped them off hoping it wasn't a fungus due to too much watering and humidity. It also could be residue from using tap water.

What do you think it looks like?

image.jpg

Also I feel if I misted the dead leaves they would rot on the tree. It has hardy/leathery little leaves and they felt like they wouldnt fall off on their own.

Thank you for answering my question about when to trim back the green wood. It makes sense to let it recover first. But I agree with the past post that it needs a trim.

Thank you for the luck and complement of my little tree. I named it "Natalia" ;)
 

Carol 83

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They are pretty resilient trees, it will most likely be fine. Just be careful with your watering, they don't like sitting in soaking wet soil.
 

shinmai

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Thank you for your reply!

I'll leave some of the less desiccated leaves on the tree then. I already pulled off the ones that are completely dried up, thinking that new ones would grow in their place.

I have misted the leaves but they got a whitish residue on them... I wiped them off hoping it wasn't a fungus due to too much watering and humidity. It also could be residue from using tap water.

What do you think it looks like?

View attachment 231727

Also I feel if I misted the dead leaves they would rot on the tree. It has hardy/leathery little leaves and they felt like they wouldnt fall off on their own.

Thank you for answering my question about when to trim back the green wood. It makes sense to let it recover first. But I agree with the past post that it needs a trim.

Thank you for the luck and complement of my little tree. I named it "Natalia" ;)
Probably from tap water. If the tree got too dry so recently, it’s not likely to have been wet enough for a fungus to develop so quickly.
The second tree I ever got was a Natal plum, and it died from a root fungus. A wonderful person, whom I knew only from this forum, very kindly sent me a cutting from one of theirs, and not only is that cutting now a nice little tree, it’s made two ‘babies’ as I’ve rooted some pruned-off branches. I named my original tree ‘Natalie’, so we are on the same wave length.
When I still had few enough trees that I was naming them, I had a little bucida Spinosa forest planting that was destroyed when a squirrel knocked it off a wall. I named that one ‘Jenny’. Care to guess why?
 

Carol 83

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Probably from tap water. If the tree got too dry so recently, it’s not likely to have been wet enough for a fungus to develop so quickly.
The second tree I ever got was a Natal plum, and it died from a root fungus. A wonderful person, whom I knew only from this forum, very kindly sent me a cutting from one of theirs, and not only is that cutting now a nice little tree, it’s made two ‘babies’ as I’ve rooted some pruned-off branches. I named my original tree ‘Natalie’, so we are on the same wave length.
When I still had few enough trees that I was naming them, I had a little bucida Spinosa forest planting that was destroyed when a squirrel knocked it off a wall. I named that one ‘Jenny’. Care to guess why?
Run, Forest, run.
 

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