HELP!!! Fukein Tea tree took a turn this week for the worse.

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So back in August I got my first bonsai, the Fukein tea tree (ehretia mircophylla).Anyhow after reading hours of content and watching 3 start up videos in a row, I was ready for the transplant. My pot has to weep holes in the bottom about the size of a nickel, so I covered them with plastic mesh. Next I ran copper wire, 3 strands through the holes and mesh to secure the roots once it was placed. I then focused on the tree, I named him Boris so if I mention that name think of the Fukein Tea tree, I knocked off all of the soil in the original pot until I could see all the roots. Indiscriminately I trimmed back all the roots, and then moved it to my new pot. I used tinyroots premium bonsai soil blend to cover the roots, and wrapped the copper around the root masses as this was being done. After my primary pack down of the soil, I ensured the tree would not fall and so on. I did a final pack down of the soil using the end of a pencil at first then moved to thumbs and palms to be certain no air was trapped between that rock type soil. After that I did a watering. My typical water is every few days, as I notice it getting dry, and the way I water is briefly running the pot and tree under the shower setting of the kitchen faucet. As of the past few months this is all I have done and he was growing new branches and leaves. At the start of this week some of his leaves would get hard, a few with brown spots but not all of them. I then did an extra watering because I know the temp change here lowered the relative humidity to 30 percent. But this only made my stress go up as now leaves wilted and hardened..... now boris as no leaves at the end of the week. I really dont want to lose this plant. I was even saving up for some nice tools, not that matters to what I need. So as a complete beginner, throw me some possibilities of saving Boris, the tea tree. Note some of the branches ate stiff but not brittle. Some are twig like and springy. I'm not sure where I went wrong but I think he can come out of it. Nonetheless thank you everyone for any advice, I will be surely checking this all weekend as I think about repotting again. Have a wonderful day!

I also just added the little pool of water today, to help raise humidity by him. Hydrometer says its 38 rH. I was packed to soil a little bit.
 

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Zach Smith

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You have a challenge facing you. Fukien tea is a tropical shrub, so it won't take the freezing weather we're experiencing down South right now; so it does need to remain indoors when the temps are low. It sounds like you've kept the tree indoors the whole time, so this will add stress unless you already have a great indoor bonsai setup. Keeping tropicals indoors is not as easy as it sounds, and frankly isn't something you should do all year long. So you root-pruned and repotted in August. With the tree indoors, the tree would have an uphill battle recovering and putting on new growth. Ideally, you'd repot and maintain the tree outdoors so it could get well-established before bringing it in for winter. What to do now? If temps moderate in the coming days, it must go outdoors in order to have a chance to regain strength. Keep the tree outdoors until the next freeze, at which point it'll need to come back inside. Whatever you do, don't repot this tree again until next spring or summer at the earliest. Good luck!
 
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You have a challenge facing you. Fukien tea is a tropical shrub, so it won't take the freezing weather we're experiencing down South right now; so it does need to remain indoors when the temps are low. It sounds like you've kept the tree indoors the whole time, so this will add stress unless you already have a great indoor bonsai setup. Keeping tropicals indoors is not as easy as it sounds, and frankly isn't something you should do all year long. So you root-pruned and repotted in August. With the tree indoors, the tree would have an uphill battle recovering and putting on new growth. Ideally, you'd repot and maintain the tree outdoors so it could get well-established before bringing it in for winter. What to do now? If temps moderate in the coming days, it must go outdoors in order to have a chance to regain strength. Keep the tree outdoors until the next freeze, at which point it'll need to come back inside. Whatever you do, don't repot this tree again until next spring or summer at the earliest. Good luck!
Hey Zach, I appreciate the input and I feared it wouldn't be something simple that I could remedy. Do you think an atrium would be sufficient for tropical setting, or too hot? And ok I wont replant but would any kind of pruning or trimming help, my thinking is lower the nutrients it needs throughout and preserve his "energy"? I mean this week it seems it was doing that on it's own, the oldest leaves went first and etc.
 

Forsoothe!

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I don't know if there is a place in the world where Fukien Tea is easy to keep as bonsai. Novices fall in love with their appearance (me, too) and then often do exactly the wrong thing, which in the case of FT is anything other than put it into the same situation with the same exposure to light. How can you know what that was?

Repotting of tropicals north of their range should be done when they are growing vigorously, not at the end of the vigorous growing season, at the beginning. Even before that as a consideration, we only repot happy plants when they need it. This tree was repotted because you needed to do it. Novices, and everyone for that matter, should first get used to taking care of a new resident in the new situation (for the tree) before making any other major changes.

It probably would have shed all it's leaves, anyway!
 

Zach Smith

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Hey Zach, I appreciate the input and I feared it wouldn't be something simple that I could remedy. Do you think an atrium would be sufficient for tropical setting, or too hot? And ok I wont replant but would any kind of pruning or trimming help, my thinking is lower the nutrients it needs throughout and preserve his "energy"? I mean this week it seems it was doing that on it's own, the oldest leaves went first and etc.
I doubt the heat would be an issue, more likely low humidity. The best advice I can give is to move outdoors when the temps are warm enough, then back indoors when it's going to freeze overnight. And be sure to resist the urge to do something (anything) to it (besides watering) until next year. More bonsai are loved to death by newcomers than lost due to other problems.
 
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I don't know if there is a place in the world where Fukien Tea is easy to keep as bonsai. Novices fall in love with their appearance (me, too) and then often do exactly the wrong thing, which in the case of FT is anything other than put it into the same situation with the same exposure to light. How can you know what that was?

Repotting of tropicals north of their range should be done when they are growing vigorously, not at the end of the vigorous growing season, at the beginning. Even before that as a consideration, we only repot happy plants when they need it. This tree was repotted because you needed to do it. Novices, and everyone for that matter, should first get used to taking care of a new resident in the new situation (for the tree) before making any other major changes.

It probably would have shed all it's leaves, anyway!
Hah well put my friend, Boris and I are going to ride it out trying different amounts of light and an open type of atrium that I have, hopefully it makes a good environment for him. Thanks for your input.
 

Silentrunning

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I think I have found a way to keep FT alive. After killing 3 of them by applying best bonsai practices, I decided to just leave this one alone. I left it in its crappy Walmart pot, crappy soil and crappy glued stones. It has spent the last 2 summers outside in the shade. When I bring it in for the winter it pouts and throws a few leaves. The only care it will receive is having those long branches trimmed. I won’t fertilize until it goes back outside. In a couple years it may outgrow the pot but until then I won’t touch it.

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Just Rosie

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Bonsai beginner here, but from what I have read, it seems the FT trees are rather finicky. Thank you guys for the information! I fell in love with the FT too, but I will be avoiding it until I'm more comfortable with the art. OP, let us know if/when your Boris starts showing some life! We're cheering for you guys.
 
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