Dwarf jade in recovery - need help!

Ben1124

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Hello Bonsai Nut community!

I bought a Portulacaria Afra from Brussel's about 5 months ago and need some help reviving it. I started getting into bonsai about 5 years ago and this is my first Port. As usual, the nursery soil was a bit too water retentive so I've tried to be very careful with how often I water. The tree gets plenty of sun in a south-facing window. I did an initial hard prune in September after a period of vigorous growth, and the tree was doing really well until about a month ago when I started seeing signs of overwatering. The trunk/branches were healthy, and the foliage looked perfectly healthy and green, but right after Thanksgiving, the leaves started dropping. Leaves had no visible problems but the condition worsened and they continued to drop even at the slightest touch.

I backed off watering and let it dry out completely and have finally repotted it into some well-draining bonsai soil (50/50 mix of Akadama and black lava rock). The tree seems to have stabilized and is no longer dropping leaves but I'm not sure how/if to handle some of the residual damage. Taking a close look at some of the newer growth, I found some dark/black colored patches and bumpy blister-like tissue on secondary branches which definitely isn;t normal for this species. New branches are usually a glowing red color and totally smooth in between internodes.

So, my questions are: do I need to prune off these discolored, bumpy branches? Are these branches rotting, and if so, will it get progressively worse or can a partially rotted branch on a port. afra safely remain on the tree, or does it need to be pruned off? See pictures for reference. Branches in question are circled in red in two of the photos. The yellow circled branch shows normal color but is blistery/bumpy.

Thanks for your help!!

-Ben
 

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Ngidm

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Hi Ben,

I've dabbled in and out of bonsai for a while, but I've grown a lot of P. afra continuously for decades. From what I can tell, their only real enemy is water -- they're real susceptible to root rot. I've had branches get discolored and wilty like that, and they eventually just shrivel and fall off. I think this the plant trying to wall other (healthy) parts of itself off from the rot. Do you see any new growth on those wilty areas at all? I see there is growth at the tip of the branch, but I mean at those nodes in stretches where it is wilty. Odd as it sounds, I've had the tips of mine survive while part of the branch wilted and eventually dropped off. It was like the plant walled itself off from the infection on both sides. The tip, even if you cut it off, will continue to live for weeks without any water supply (that's why cuttings are so easy to strike).

I don't think it makes a big difference if you prune or not (hope to hear some others chime in with advice there), and I'd probably not prune. My advice would be to keep it warm and sunny, water sparingly (if at all, and be sure to avoid watering the trunk/foliage), and be sure to remove any fallen/dead pieces of foliage from the surface of the soil to avoid encouraging more rot.

These things bounce back typically well with some patience. Fingers crossed for you!

--Nick
 

Carol 83

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I would just cut off all those wilty, shriveled branches. It will bounce back. I would water very sparingly until you see new growth.
 

Ben1124

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Thank you so much for the feedback, @Ngidm and @Carol 83 !

I'm still a little torn on whether to prune off the dying branches, especially the ones that still have some foliage hanging on. I feel like this might be a 'less is more' situation, so I think I'll wait a couple weeks to let the plant do its thing before cutting off anything :)
 

Ben1124

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Hi Ben,

I've dabbled in and out of bonsai for a while, but I've grown a lot of P. afra continuously for decades. From what I can tell, their only real enemy is water -- they're real susceptible to root rot. I've had branches get discolored and wilty like that, and they eventually just shrivel and fall off. I think this the plant trying to wall other (healthy) parts of itself off from the rot. Do you see any new growth on those wilty areas at all? I see there is growth at the tip of the branch, but I mean at those nodes in stretches where it is wilty. Odd as it sounds, I've had the tips of mine survive while part of the branch wilted and eventually dropped off. It was like the plant walled itself off from the infection on both sides. The tip, even if you cut it off, will continue to live for weeks without any water supply (that's why cuttings are so easy to strike).

I don't think it makes a big difference if you prune or not (hope to hear some others chime in with advice there), and I'd probably not prune. My advice would be to keep it warm and sunny, water sparingly (if at all, and be sure to avoid watering the trunk/foliage), and be sure to remove any fallen/dead pieces of foliage from the surface of the soil to avoid encouraging more rot.

These things bounce back typically well with some patience. Fingers crossed for you!

--Nick
These are great insights, Nick! I really appreciate your help with this little tree. I can already see what you're saying about the tree almost quarantining the sick parts of branches, as the bare tips of several damaged nodes have already started to shrivel and fall off in the last few days, while older growth on the tips of other damaged branches has remained intact.

In response to your question, there is some new growth coming from wilty branches (at both the tips and from internodes) but it doesn't seem to be doing well (new leaves are circled in red in the pic). As you can probably tell, some of the new growth has already died and most of the other new growth is either deformed or discolored (pale green/almost yellow). And like you said, some of the older growth at the end of wilty branches is holding on for dear life and still looks strong(circled in yellow); however, even some of these have started to wilt and fall off over the past few days.

These plants do seem to have a very unique/evolved capacity to handle bad/dying tissue, and I'm relieved to hear that it will likely bounce back! Great suggestion to avoid watering the trunk btw. I hadn't thought of that and I'm sure it will help

Thanks again for your great feedback!
 

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