First Bonsai, Question about Soil

nrhickman

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Hi All, I'm very new to bonsai and have had a few issues with my first tree. I have a Chinese Elm that had an aphid infestation so I cleaned them off defoliated as needed and treated the tree with neem oil and it seems to be recovering well and new buds are forming. I have a soil moisture gauge and only water after the soil starts to get dry, I mist the tree daily and keep some water in the humidity tray regularly. I have it under grow lights and it's toughly 62-65 degrees F with about 50% humidity where I keep it. I keep noticing the small piles/lumps of soil appearing around the tree and I have no idea where they come from. I don't know if this is an insect I'm not seeing or something that the soil does on its own. I'm hoping someone on here can let me know what is happening and if I need to do something different. I have included pictures of where I keep the tree and some pictures of the soil. Any help is appreciated!
 

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penumbra

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Sounds like you might have fungus gnats at work. If you put this tree outside in the sun where it belongs, the problem will probably go away.
Grow lights or not, you are going to lose this if kept inside. This regardless what you have been told or heard.
Also, upon looking at the picts, soil is really bad for bonsai culture. If you re-pot in bonsai soil and put it outside, it just might live.
 

rockm

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you are keeping the tree far too wet. Misting doesn't do much good. Moisture meters with bonsai soil tend to give bad readings because of the more porous nature of bonsai soil. And about your soil--it's not great. It is too dense and stays way too wet--which is contributing to your fungus gnat and aphid problem

Insects tend to attack weak trees. THis one look pretty weak judging from the photos.

Indoor conditions are extremely hostile to plants (even with a grow light). Humidity is far too low (even with misting and a drip tray--both of those are not up to the job of keeping the environment humid enough. If you don't have a humidifier for the entire room, you're not getting enough humidity for the tree.

All of this is solved simply by placing the tree outdoors. You don't say where you are geographically--that is important information for any advice we provide. Fill out the info at the left of your posts.

If you don't have the option of keeping the tree outdoors, you'll need brighter lights and better soil (repotting as soon as possible -- spring is the best time--is a must with this tree). Bonsai soil is not "soil" as much as it is gravel of sorts. Here's an example:
 

sorce

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Probably a worm!

Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
 

nrhickman

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you are keeping the tree far too wet. Misting doesn't do much good. Moisture meters with bonsai soil tend to give bad readings because of the more porous nature of bonsai soil. And about your soil--it's not great. It is too dense and stays way too wet--which is contributing to your fungus gnat and aphid problem

Insects tend to attack weak trees. THis one look pretty weak judging from the photos.

Indoor conditions are extremely hostile to plants (even with a grow light). Humidity is far too low (even with misting and a drip tray--both of those are not up to the job of keeping the environment humid enough. If you don't have a humidifier for the entire room, you're not getting enough humidity for the tree.

All of this is solved simply by placing the tree outdoors. You don't say where you are geographically--that is important information for any advice we provide. Fill out the info at the left of your posts.

If you don't have the option of keeping the tree outdoors, you'll need brighter lights and better soil (repotting as soon as possible -- spring is the best time--is a must with this tree). Bonsai soil is not "soil" as much as it is gravel of sorts. Here's an example:
Thanks for the info, I'm just north of Minneapolis in Minnesota, zone 4a. I'll have to order some stuff to repot and try ro figure out a way to potentailly split time for the tree to be outside. We have a lot of wildlife that live around our area that like to try to eat our plants, and I was hoping to keep this in my office as working from home had me feeling a bit isolated and the plant helped to cheer me up.
 

rockm

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Thanks for the info, I'm just north of Minneapolis in Minnesota, zone 4a. I'll have to order some stuff to repot and try ro figure out a way to potentailly split time for the tree to be outside. We have a lot of wildlife that live around our area that like to try to eat our plants, and I was hoping to keep this in my office as working from home had me feeling a bit isolated and the plant helped to cheer me up.
You can't split its time outdoors and indoors. That will make things worse by constantly changing conditions the tree has to adapt to. Trees and plants don't like moving around. The tree will die inside. If you want an "indoor" tree, a tropical species, like ficus or schefflera are more appropriate. They can handle indoor conditions better.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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I live near Chicago, and my Chinese elm lives outdoors ALL YEAR ROUND, for winter it just gets set on the ground. Minneapolis is a little colder, so you might have to protect it a little bit, but not so much that you would have to bring it inside a heated house. An elm tree is an outdoor tree, it will die indoors. It needs to be outdoors. ( especially if you don't know what you are doing). If you have brought in an under lights crop of marijuana, well then you know what sort of light intensity you need to grow an elm indoors. The lights in your photos are clearly not bright enough.

Here is a thought. Move the elm to the back yard. For the home or office, get a Ficus. There are 5 or so species of Ficus that do very well in low light intensities. Ficus like temperatures above 60 F thru 85 F and most Ficus will thrive in relatively low humidity of indoor growing.

WAter meters -electronic water meters that cost less than $4000 are notorious for giving erroneous answers. The most accurate water meter ever invented is the human finger. Just stick your finger into the pot to the depth of the first knuckle or one third the depth of the pot if it is a pot that is really small. Feel the soil. If it feels cool, its moist. If it feels dry, time to water. At the same time notice the weight of the pot. Light pots are dry, heavy pots have soil saturated with water. Simply using your finger and noting the weight, or heft of the pot, within a week or two you will be able to calibrate your sense of weight or heft so that just picking up a pot you will know if it needs water or not.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Ficus really do make fine Bonsai, and grow well indoors. Here is a link to Jerry Meilik webpage. He specializes in Ficus, (and is a friend of mine) read, read and read, to learn all things Ficus.

 

nrhickman

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Thanks to you all for the responses, I have moved my elm to my deck for now, ordered the soil mix recommended and will repot it soon. I have also ordered a lucky bamboo plant for the office and am now researching the ficus info you have shared. Thank you again!
 

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