Did I just kill my chinese elm gift?

ahmedakram

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Hello everyone,

I was too excited when I get this chinese elm and couldn't wait till I got my tools and soil and jumped into repotting and wiring the tree. I did this in late June, which I've learned is not advised since it can risk the health of the tree. I don't think it liked it at all and now I'm worried I might've killed it. Can you please help!


Although some of the photos are indoors, the tree has been living outdoors since early June

This is how the tree looked when I first got it in mid May
61213085979__E9FFAE5B-1EC4-4E66-AB4E-60F64B0E4550.jpeg

Mid June after some growth during the hot summer
IMG_2226.jpegIMG_2228.jpeg

After repotting and pruning/wiring by end of june
IMG_2248.jpeg

I removed around 15% of the roots during the repot. After repotting, it dropped some of the leaves few days after the incident. It then stopped which got me hopeful, but didn't put out any new growth. I thought it was just focused on recovering and putting out new roots and didn't think too much about it. However, lately I've seen all the leaves turning purple/yellowish and drying up.

IMG_2721.jpeg

I tried to check whether it's alive by scraping the bark a bit in different areas:

IMG_2720.jpegIMG_2719.jpegIMG_2718.jpeg

In upper parts of the trunk and branches, it's green. However the green color disappears with in the lower parts near the base. I know this is not a good looking bonsai and has the weird S shape, but it was a gift from my fiancé and I really don't want to kill it. Sorry for the long post, but wanted to give as much details as possible.

Is this normal since we're going into fall? and if not, are there any measures I can take to improve it's chance of survival?
 
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jaco94

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Hello, this little tree is not dead in my opinion, elms are an extremely resistant variety, they can lose all their leaves, due to stress for example, then restart normally.
When the scraped bark is still green it is a good sign (brown and dry: bad sign).

Also, you did well to repot them in a good substrate as they are usually sold in a very poor quality substrate.

You can remove all the brown leaves, they are dead and will fall off.
Then, if the conditions are right for him and he is no longer under stress, he should slowly restart and re-foliate.

I think repotting , plus wiring , plus the change in growing conditions were too much for this little elm tree, if it was mine, I will gently remove all of the tying wire .

One of my first trees was a small elm similar to yours, it survived several years and I watch without really understanding this little guy lose his leaves then redo them and so on, I didn't know anything about it and my conditions of culture was inadequate.
But it is with this kind of small tree that we learn a lot.

Good luck
 

DonovanC

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Give it plenty of sun, water and some fertilizer and wait. If you repotted into proper bonsai soil you’ll be watering more often than you would with the soil that it seems to have been in - it looks like a peat based soil in the first pictures. So likely the tree didn’t get enough water after the repot. What’s your watering schedule? With good soil you’ll be watering at least once a day - hot days require 2-3 waterings sometimes. Keep an eye on your soil and don’t let it dry out.
 

rollwithak

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I know that it can be tempting to want to work on your trees, especially when you are first getting into the hobby, but we want to make sure we are executing the proper techniques during the right time of the year. Also, chinese elm can be grown indoor, but I would imagine this tree was grown outdoors and probably likes being outdoors. Not sure if you just took the pics inside or what, but you should put that puppy outside.

Chances are, your tree is probably just going through some shock, but I agree, tree is probably alive and well. Keep hydrated, in these bonsai mixes, they can be very unforgiving if you let the roots dry out.

Goodluck 👍🏼
 

ahmedakram

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Hello, this little tree is not dead in my opinion, elms are an extremely resistant variety, they can lose all their leaves, due to stress for example, then restart normally.
When the scraped bark is still green it is a good sign (brown and dry: bad sign).

Hey @jaco94, thanks a lot for the reply really appreciate it!!

Also, you did well to repot them in a good substrate as they are usually sold in a very poor quality substrate.

Yes, that's why I was so keen to repot it, the substrate it came in was very muddy and compact and didn't allow for any aeration.

You can remove all the brown leaves, they are dead and will fall off.
Then, if the conditions are right for him and he is no longer under stress, he should slowly restart and re-foliate.

I think repotting , plus wiring , plus the change in growing conditions were too much for this little elm tree, if it was mine, I will gently remove all of the tying wire .

One of my first trees was a small elm similar to yours, it survived several years and I watch without really understanding this little guy lose his leaves then redo them and so on, I didn't know anything about it and my conditions of culture was inadequate.
But it is with this kind of small tree that we learn a lot.

Good luck

As you mention, I put him under a ton of stress with the work all at once and not in the appropriate season. So happy to hear your experience with elms and how resilient they are. Hopefully this one recovers and comes back stronger next spring 💪
 

ahmedakram

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Give it plenty of sun, water and some fertilizer and wait. If you repotted into proper bonsai soil you’ll be watering more often than you would with the soil that it seems to have been in - it looks like a peat based soil in the first pictures. So likely the tree didn’t get enough water after the repot.

Very good point on the soil absorption difference, the new medium is a lot aerier and drains faster than the old one.

What’s your watering schedule? With good soil you’ll be watering at least once a day - hot days require 2-3 waterings sometimes. Keep an eye on your soil and don’t let it dry out.

I tried my best to feel the soil and water when top couple of inches are dry, but probably I should give it more since it's staying outside and it's currently boiling hot here. Do you think I should water when the very top just looks dry during these hot days? (I'd guess I'll need to relax on the watering comes winter)

Thanks a ton for your suggestions and remarks DonovanC and for helping a newbie out 😊
 

Bonsai Nut

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Hello, this little tree is not dead in my opinion, elms are an extremely resistant variety, they can lose all their leaves, due to stress for example, then restart normally.

Agreed! Give it time and more importantly... leave it alone! Do not kill your tree with kindness...

"Alea iacta est!" as they say. The die is cast... and you can't undo what has been done. Give it time, and proper conditions, but whatever you do don't mess with it again until it is throwing 6" of new growth everywhere and looks like a mop. :) Don't trim it, don't prod the roots, don't move it around. I say this as someone who, years and years ago, used to worry his trees to death. Mother Nature is a powerful force. Let her work her magic!
 

ahmedakram

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I know that it can be tempting to want to work on your trees, especially when you are first getting into the hobby, but we want to make sure we are executing the proper techniques during the right time of the year.

I was so excited that I watched tons of videos and articles on HOW to repot, but totally missed to check on WHEN to do it 😅 (it was probably mentioned in these videos, but I must've just skipped over them xD)

Also, chinese elm can be grown indoor, but I would imagine this tree was grown outdoors and probably likes being outdoors. Not sure if you just took the pics inside or what, but you should put that puppy outside.

Yeah, I've been leaving it in my balcony outdoors for the past couple of months

Chances are, your tree is probably just going through some shock, but I agree, tree is probably alive and well. Keep hydrated, in these bonsai mixes, they can be very unforgiving if you let the roots dry out.

Goodluck 👍🏼

Is there anything I can do to help it recover/relax faster? I know humidity helps house plants for example when they're stressed, would the same go for elms? maybe I can put him in a plastic bag or something?

and for course greatly appreciate the reply and your help rollwithak 💚
 

DonovanC

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Very good point on the soil absorption difference, the new medium is a lot aerier and drains faster than the old one.



I tried my best to feel the soil and water when top couple of inches are dry, but probably I should give it more since it's staying outside and it's currently boiling hot here. Do you think I should water when the very top just looks dry during these hot days? (I'd guess I'll need to relax on the watering comes winter)

Thanks a ton for your suggestions and remarks DonovanC and for helping a newbie out 😊

Right - it’s not unusual this time of year to water in the morning and need to hit them again mid day and sometimes even another time in the evening. But generally if it looks dry it is dry.
Keep at it! Even if this tree doesn’t work out, if you keep at it you’ll get the hang of it. Watering is commonly thought of as the most important and possibly one of the most difficult things to master. We’ve all killed trees lol especially at the beginning, so don’t stress too much.
 

rollwithak

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I was so excited that I watched tons of videos and articles on HOW to repot, but totally missed to check on WHEN to do it 😅 (it was probably mentioned in these videos, but I must've just skipped over them xD)



Yeah, I've been leaving it in my balcony outdoors for the past couple of months



Is there anything I can do to help it recover/relax faster? I know humidity helps house plants for example when they're stressed, would the same go for elms? maybe I can put him in a plastic bag or something?

and for course greatly appreciate the reply and your help rollwithak 💚
Take @Bonsai Nut advice and leave him/her alone. The tree needs to recover and gain strength. We are headed towards fall and winter and your elm will lose its leaves and go dormant. Keep happy and hydrated. I would even try to not move it around as much as possible. Let it stand and get comfortable in its place.

Do as you’d like, but it was my goal to learn how to keep a tree alive first, and learn to Bonsai second. No point in the second if you can’t keep the tree happy and healthy.

Did you root prune when you repotted?
 

bluesky

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Plenty of watering but no fertilizer at all until new leaves have unfurled.
 

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