HELP! Fukien Tea Bonsai

BeccaBoo

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Hi,

I got given a Fukien Tea Bonsai by my sister for Christmas!! Best Christmas present ever. However I need some help. My tree has grown well however it seems to be shedding it's leaves and the flowers are dying.

I water it every 2-3 days, it is on the window seal where we get most of our light. I also have a plant light for days that is is cloudy. I use bonsai feed at least once a month and water with Luke warm water like the lady in the shop said. Does my tree also need a humidity tray ???

I am also wondering what is the best way to shape and prune the tree, I haven't done any of this yet due to fear of killing it. Also when do I report the tree as well. I brought a bonsai book but it's very generic and doesn't seem to be helpful at all.

Please some one help. I don't want this tree to die.
 

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QuantumSparky

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What kind of soil is it planted in? Make sure it's not soggy all the time (an inch or so below the surface). The big culprit that comes to mind is over/underwatering or the soil is not draining properly through the drain holes that *I certainly hope* the pot has.

I've heard so much argument over humidity trays being good or useless. I'd say misting the leaves daily is more effective
 

BeccaBoo

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Thank you, the pot has drainage holes and I make sure not to over water, that photo was taken just after watering. And okay misting it is for now :)

It is also the soil that it came in.
 

just.wing.it

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Wow!
Wait a minute.....
You mean to tell me, that you have a Fukein Tea tree, you know its a Fukein Tea, and its not dead yet!
Round of applause!
You're doing well, I suppose.

I'd love to give you advice, but all I know how to do with Fukein Tea is make firewood.

Oh.....and Welcome to the NutHouse.
 

just.wing.it

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Can safely say though....that that soil is a mess.
I'd get it outdoors if its summer time where you live, and let it gain vigor....then repot into something that doesn't resemble tar.
 

BeccaBoo

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Wow!
Wait a minute.....
You mean to tell me, that you have a Fukein Tea tree, you know its a Fukein Tea, and its not dead yet!
Round of applause!
You're doing well, I suppose.

I'd love to give you advice, but all I know how to do with Fukein Tea is make firewood.

Oh.....and Welcome to the NutHouse.
Yeah I've had it since Christmas and I am impressed as I can kill a cactus so I'm doing good.
 

BeccaBoo

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Can safely say though....that that soil is a mess.
I'd get it outdoors if its summer time where you live, and let it gain vigor....then repot into something that doesn't resemble tar.
I watered it that's why it looks like tar but I am going to get a better pot for it as the roots are now coming through the top and the pot is too small to allow good drainage and humidity hence why it's in plastic tub but don't think that is doing it any good.
 

sorce

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Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
 

Bonsai Nut

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I bought a Fukien Tea tree from Costco last year just to have one in my garden, even though I know I have to protect it over the winter, and I am trying to minimize the number of trees I have to protect :) It has been sitting outside since March. They are generally not my favorite species because they are shrubs with weak wood and a strange angular growth habit that looks like a bunch of match sticks, but the leaves when healthy are a pretty shiny dark green, and the blooms are nice.

As a true tropical, your tree blooms in the late spring/early summer and that is when it will drop its interior/old leaves in preparation for the big summer growth push. It is looking for heat, humidity, and sun. These trees are notorious for weak roots, and since they often arrive in bad soil, it is easy to kill them by over or under-watering. If you repot it, be extremely gentle. It is best to use the same method that is recommended for azaleas (which have fine hair-like roots). Tree the root ball like a pie, and when you repot, remove 1/4 of the pie while leaving the rest of the rootball alone. In four years you will have completely repotted the tree and gotten rid of all the crappy old soil without stressing the tree too much.
 

QuantumSparky

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Fair point that the wet soil makes it look worse than it is haha, but I'd definitely recommend getting it into better soil. I'm new to matching soil with species but I've settled with a generic Akadama/pumice/volcanic rock mixture in a 1:1:1 ratio. I want to try adding sphagnum moss to the mix because it seems to be a staple in the Bonsai enthusiast's "toolkit". But definitely consider repotting with soil that drains much better than the original soil.

They ship the plant to distributers in crappy soil that retains moisture so they dont have to water it every 5 seconds. This is obviously a problem for buyers because the chance of root rot damaging the tree before you even buy it is quite high. Like was mentioned, keep some of the soil in the root ball when you repot it. Bottom layer bonsai soil, then insert the tree, then fill the rest of the pot with the Bonsai soil again. Hopefully that doesn't shock it too much!
 

penumbra

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I am not sure about your climate as you do not indicate where you live, but for me it is an excellent time of the year for a re-pot. The pot is plenty large enough for your little tree and I think re-potting into a good bonsai soil is the best thing you can do for it. Don't keep it in the plastic box it is in any longer than it takes for the plant to drain after watering. In your case a tray would be much better than this plastic box. There is a lot of wrong advice about potting on YouTube, but there is also some good advice. Watch a few to get an idea of root pruning, soil mixes etc. The absolute best thing you can do for your little plant is keep it outside in light shade and a wee bit of sun (but not deep shade or full sun) for the summer to let it build up all the strength it can before cold weather (I assume, again not knowing your climate).
These plants do have a bad reputation, but you have the plant, it is a special plant and I think you have done well with it. They can sulk a bit and they will drop older leaves as all plants do, but assuring the growth of new leaves is your major consideration. And of course dropping old flowers is completely normal for all plants. Keep a close eye on your little guy for insect or mite pests, and for general observations about changes, as you seem to have done well.
I had no experience with this plant until about three years ago when I bought three online from an eBay seller. One of these succumbed due to an overzealous re-potting and allowing the plant to go too dry. The other two plants have done very well. I have great hopes for your little tree.

Without any attempt at criticism, I would encourage you to work on your grammar a bit. Miss-spelling is common and I always have to check my responses for multiple miss-spellings, but I have found that poor choices of grammar stop the smooth flow of communication. And fair or not, it will generally get a better response.
 

BeccaBoo

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Fair point that the wet soil makes it look worse than it is haha, but I'd definitely recommend getting it into better soil. I'm new to matching soil with species but I've settled with a generic Akadama/pumice/volcanic rock mixture in a 1:1:1 ratio. I want to try adding sphagnum moss to the mix because it seems to be a staple in the Bonsai enthusiast's "toolkit". But definitely consider repotting with soil that drains much better than the original soil.

They ship the plant to distributers in crappy soil that retains moisture so they dont have to water it every 5 seconds. This is obviously a problem for buyers because the chance of root rot damaging the tree before you even buy it is quite high. Like was mentioned, keep some of the soil in the root ball when you repot it. Bottom layer bonsai soil, then insert the tree, then fill the rest of the pot with the Bonsai soil again. Hopefully that doesn't shock it too much!
Thank you. You wouldn't happen to have any links or videos or tip on how to report, I have a small understanding of how to report but what to do with the roots I'm lost
 

BeccaBoo

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Thank you for your help. I was typing quickly because I am actually at the garden centre trying to find the best things for my bonsai tree.

I shall have a look through some videos before I re-pot my little fuki. And I live in England so the weather is unpredictable at best.

But thank you for the advice.
I am not sure about your climate as you do not indicate where you live, but for me it is an excellent time of the year for a re-pot. The pot is plenty large enough for your little tree and I think re-potting into a good bonsai soil is the best thing you can do for it. Don't keep it in the plastic box it is in any longer than it takes for the plant to drain after watering. In your case a tray would be much better than this plastic box. There is a lot of wrong advice about potting on YouTube, but there is also some good advice. Watch a few to get an idea of root pruning, soil mixes etc. The absolute best thing you can do for your little plant is keep it outside in light shade and a wee bit of sun (but not deep shade or full sun) for the summer to let it build up all the strength it can before cold weather (I assume, again not knowing your climate).
These plants do have a bad reputation, but you have the plant, it is a special plant and I think you have done well with it. They can sulk a bit and they will drop older leaves as all plants do, but assuring the growth of new leaves is your major consideration. And of course dropping old flowers is completely normal for all plants. Keep a close eye on your little guy for insect or mite pests, and for general observations about changes, as you seem to have done well.
I had no experience with this plant until about three years ago when I bought three online from an eBay seller. One of these succumbed due to an overzealous re-potting and allowing the plant to go too dry. The other two plants have done very well. I have great hopes for your little tree.

Without any attempt at criticism, I would encourage you to work on your grammar a bit. Miss-spelling is common and I always have to check my responses for multiple miss-spellings, but I have found that poor choices of grammar stop the smooth flow of communication. And fair or not, it will generally get a better response.
 

penumbra

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Thank you for your help. I was typing quickly because I am actually at the garden centre trying to find the best things for my bonsai tree.

I shall have a look through some videos before I re-pot my little fuki. And I live in England so the weather is unpredictable at best.

But thank you for the advice.
I have a good feeling about you and your tree.
 

QuantumSparky

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Thank you. You wouldn't happen to have any links or videos or tip on how to report, I have a small understanding of how to report but what to do with the roots I'm lost
Peter Chan at Heron's Bonsai on YouTube has tons of great videos. As for tips, I can only parrot what I've learned thus far but it's not too complicated.

Gently remove your tree from the pot, flipping everything upside down if you have to. Don't yank it out roughly for risk of damaging roots. Once it's out, wash the pot out completely and make sure the mesh is covering the drain holes properly. If there isn't any yet, you can thread some bare copper wire through the mesh and out the bottom of the drain hole, to keep the mesh in place. Fill the pot with a thin layer of new soil and make it level. Then take your tree and remove maybe 1/4 of the soil still left in the roots. You'll probably wanna keep some of the old soil stuck to the roots so it doesn't shock the tree too much. Then just plop your tree in the pot and fill the rest with new soil, stopping about 1/4 inch or so below the lip of the pot. Before that step though, if you think your tree will need help standing upright, you can thread more copper wire through the drain mesh and use the ends to "tie down" the root system like you're wrapping a bow on a present. That'll hold the tree steady and keep it stable. Then just get used to how fast the soil dries out and water accordingly.
 

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