Indoor Elms

djlen

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I have been keeping Ulmus parvifolia for many years as an outdoor plant and enjoy them a lot.
Recently I've been reading that some people grow them indoors exclusively. I have, in the past allowed them their dormant period outside and then brought them into the house in order to enjoy their budding out and to get them a jump on the season before putting them out when the temperature was
warm enough to support the tender new growth.

But I'm intrigued by the idea that they can be grown indoors 12 months a year. I wonder how they can get their needed dormant period if kept under light and warm during the cold months.

I also hear that the ones that are kept like this must be germinated from seed and grown indoors from the start. That if they are exposed to a cold season they can no longer be kept indoors thereafter.
If someone can shed some light on this for me......tell me how they do it from a lighting, fertilization etc. perspective, I'd appreciate it.
 

rockm

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Elms of any species are not indoor trees. Never have been. Never will be. Chinese elms (ulmus parvifolia) given correct care can tolerate growing indoors, sometimes for years, if the particular tree you have is one of the semi-tropical (but definitely not a tropical) cultivar, special lighting and humidifiers. They will NEVER, repeat NEVER, live as long indoor as they will outdoors.

Indoors they do not go dormant. They just limp along with too little light and not enough humidity--which is a testament to their overall hardiness. They're tough plants, but not tough enough to stand indoor growing for more than five years at the outside.

The lack of a dormancy indoors, along with arid conditions, low light and other assorted problems, plays a big role in their eventual decline inside. They simply wear themselves out over a period of years. Growth becomes sparser (and sparse growth indoors is a rule as there is never sufficient light indoors for more than that), roots start to rot, etc.

The nonsense about cold exposure is just that--nonsense. Temperature tolerance is not created through one-time exposure. It is genetically programmed--it cannot be altered short of a genetic mutation of some sort.
 

TrsH

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when started wth bonsai i bought myself 2 ulmus paviblabla lol
i read about it on nternet that could be kept as indoor aswell as outdoor.

so as a bonsainewbie i kept them inside.
after 2 weeks i had lots and lots of yellow leaves on them.
i started reading about watering since that was my first thought that i was doing wrong, but it wasnt.

maybe they were ill?
started reading about that aswell, they werent.

so finally i put them outside and the trees were getting healthy again.

i'm on a dutch forum about bonsai aswell where lots of new people buy Ulmus Paviblabla... and all of them keep them inside... all of them post on the forum after 2 weeks that there ulmus isnt doing very well.
so i tell them to put it outside.
after a week they say its doing fine again.

ulmus paviflorablabla = outdoor!
 

djlen

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I have wondered how it could be done myself because deciduous trees need a period of rest or
as is stated above they will 'wear themselves out' over time.

This regimen (scan down to Notes for bonsai cultivation) sounds do-able as long as one is careful
about supplying mist and good light during the cold months.

http://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Ulmus.html
 

rockm

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This method will kill your tree--eventually. Misting the tree will further aid in it demise. Placing it on a window sill could kill it outright if it's cold enough outside the window.

Elms are not indoor trees--even for overwintering.
 

Wm Tom Davis

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Elms do quite well indoors...

As an indoor bonsai enthusiast, I've had very good experiences with my Elms indoors.
They are very hardy trees and if you set-up and keep a light bench, and keep them well watered, you should be able to keep them just fine for many years.
The key is: setting-up an area with a lot of light and steady temps of about 68 degrees F.
Elms need a lot of light, so in order to keep them indoors you must meet their requirements for light.
I also keep a stern eye on watering and my humidity trays. Elms don't like to be drenched, but they do need to be slightly damp, not dry.
I occasionally mist as well.
I also use a timer for the lights, which I have timed for 16 hrs a day.

Here is a picture of my bench made from an extra plastic storage shelf, PVC, and two adjustable cheap four foot fluorescent light fixtures. Total cost = $49.67 for lights, PVC, and dowel.
Add your own trees...

DSCN1745.jpg


DSCN1749.jpg


DSCN1746.jpg



It can be done and is definitely worth the effort for those of us who are limited and don't have access to a yard.
 
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rockm

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Great set up Tom. Shows what is absolutely necessary for most any indoor bonsai in the winter.

How long have you been growing elms indoors?
 

djlen

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As an indoor bonsai enthusiast, I've had very good experiences with my Elms indoors.
It can be done and is definitely worth the effort for those of us who are limited and don't have access to a yard.

Thank you Tom for this. I had read everywhere that Elms could be grown inside and except for some skeptics here the feed back has been positive as was yours.
I appreciate it.
 

mcpesq817

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Just out of curiosity, if you grow elms indoors, do they end up getting any sense of dormancy, or are they always in full growth mode?
 

Yamadori

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Here is confusing information from House of Bonsai. I saw this on their site and scratched my head. I consider it to be bad advice from a reputable dealer. No wonder people get confused

"Chinese Elm is a good indoor or outdoor bonsai, so It is listed in both indexes." "Like the Chinese Elm, Seiju Elm is a good indoor or outdoor bonsai." "Hokkaido Elm is a good indoor or outdoor bonsai, so It is listed in both indexes."
http://www.houseofbonsaiinc.com/
 

rockm

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When I first started bonsai, I bought a Chinese elm from a vendor who told me it was "indoor or outdoor." I coudnt' get my head around that thought. It was very confusing. However, I've found it's standard advice from vendors selling "mallsai" chinese elm. They're looking to sell a tree and widen their market with such advice--getting not only first time buyers, but buyers with only a little experience.

This is only a bit of a slap at "mallsai" vendors. Chinese CAN be grown indoors, sometimes three or four years--which is two or three years longer than most first time buyer mallsai trees survive in any conditions. These sellers don't tell buyers that the "tree won't thrive inside" as that's pretty much a buzz kill.

Additionally, some sellers have absolutely no idea about how to care for what they're selling. They've never taken care of a tree for more than a month. They're a sales conduit.
 

djlen

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You're right, it's very confusing. I've been growing Elms for over 40 years and never dreamed of
trying to grow one indoors. They are, in my experience, a deciduous tree that need a rest/dormant period in order to thrive and live out their normal life expectancy.
Some people I've spoken with swear that they can be grown indoors, year 'round with not issues at all.
The rub is that I've not spoken with anyone who has kept them for more than 3 or 4 years. So this remains a mystery to me.
The theory is that if an Elm is bought, originating from Sub-tropical area, and not ever gone dormant, it can be kept like that for the life of the plant (whatever that is).
My feeling is that they do need some rest period and given a cool, dimly lit room for say 2 - 3 months, that they can then be brought back into the well lit environment and brought out of dormancy with no harm to the longevity of the tree. That is the way I'd approach it anyway.
I have put them into an unheated garage in mid-December and then brought them into the house in March to bud out and get a jump on their growing season.
I am germinating some seeds currently and will be experimenting with 24/7/365 growth with a couple of them just to see how they react.
 

Tachigi

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I am germinating some seeds currently and will be experimenting with 24/7/365 growth with a couple of them just to see how they react.

Len, If you were to run the Boston Marathon and when finished were asked to run it again...THAT is how your elms will feel when asked to keep it UP 24/7/365 :D
 

Wm Tom Davis

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Elms are truly unique in that they can be either indoor or an outdoor bonsai. As there are different species of Elms, some of the ones used for bonsai are indeed subtropical and being so do not need a dormancy period. In essence, they are evergreen deciduous trees, as they do not drop their leaves.

The reason for a dormancy period is to help them survive in colder climates. With the lack of humidity and sunlight in freezing winters the leaves can no longer produce what the tree needs and so the turn yellow, die and then drop off so as to help the tree conserve energy during the winter months.

The opposite is true for Elms that live in warmer climates. There is no need for them to drop their leaves because the leaves stay green (hence the term evergreen deciduous) and can still produce chlorophyll to feed the tree. In these climates there is enough light all year round, hence no dormancy period is needed for the tree to thrive. The tree will not "wear-out" because it has not had a dormancy period. In fact, as with all trees that get what they need, Elms will live a very long time provided they get the right amount of light, water, and occasional ferts. One thing Elms do need every so often is a good prune to provide better ramification and improve styling. With indoor Elm bonsai, this can be done just about any time, as Elms, when well kept, are hardy trees and grow quickly.

So for the person like myself, who keeps indoor bonsai, I must provide an environment that will meet my trees needs and thrive. My trees get 16 hours of timed light everyday, and they get watered when they need it, sometimes two times a day depending upon the tree and how the soil is. I do keep a small aquarium and so when I do my water changes, I save the water and use it for my trees every couple of weeks (saves $$$ on ferts) and my trees respond in kind.

I think that as with all bonsai husbandry, you must find what works for you and your trees. You must provide a good environment for their needs, and if you can't do that then find trees that will. It takes some experimentation and investment, but in the long haul you will have trees that meet your needs as well. Remember that not all trees do well everywhere, but most Elms will do well in most places.
 
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rockm

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Elms are not indoor/outdoor trees. Ulmus Parvifolia (Chinese elm) alone can be classified as one, technically, as this species habitat ranges into subtropical territory. Other elm species, American, European, Cedar, slippery, red, etc. are all outdoor trees that will die inside in short order.

Chinese elms, as said, can survive inside, but I'd also add that I've never talked to anyone who has been successful keeping Ulmus Parvifolia inside for more than five years, even with supplemental lighting and humidification.

It should be noted that subtropical species not only require light, but can require INTENSE light. Sunlight in subtropical zones is not only long, but pretty direct. Unless they are understory natives, plants from such locations--(like buttonwood)--can begin to decline and die in Northern climes indoors without intense supplemental lighting systems. Halogen and other lighting systems can help.
 

Wm Tom Davis

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I must say that I'm not trying to be polemic, but there are people out there who raise some terrific bonsai indoors and some for many years.

My most humble apologies for being so unsemantic and generalizing Elms. As I wrote, they can be "either or..." I should add that some of the Elms you mention are probably not commonly used for bonsai as their leaves would be too large.

You are correct in saying that indoor bonsai "can" need "intense" light. Bonsai will "do" quite well under fluorescent lights, LED lights or metal halide lights (the best for indoor bonsai). The key to lighting is providing enough light to meet and/or exceed their requirements. As I mentioned, my lights are on a timer for at least 16 hours a day. I also keep my bonsai close to my lights.

To see a wonderful example of lighting, take a look at Jerry Meislik's website. I drool every time I see pictures of his indoor bonsai room. He has kept many of his trees for over ten years or more with indoor lighting.

Here's a couple of pictures of another Elm I have that I gave a good pruning to a few weeks ago, and wouldn't ya know it, I got these green things popping up all over it. You can tell by the trunk that it's got some age to it and doing quite well.

DSCN1798.jpg


DSCN1799.jpg
 

rockm

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"I should add that some of the Elms you mention are probably not commonly used for bonsai as their leaves would be too large. "

American elm, cedar elm, slippery elm, and other elms have been used quite successfully for bonsai for some time. Leaves on all elms reduced substantially and all species are quite hardy and forgiving. They are among the hardiest trees used for bonsai.

http://www.whitebearbonsai.com/product/24Elm

http://www.bonsai-nbf.org/site/north_american.html
See panel five for smooth leaf elm and another cedar elm

http://blogs.knowledgeofbonsai.org/...nt/files/2007/02/200702-florida-elm-order.JPG
Florida Elm--a subspecies of American elm

http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/bonsai-f1/oklahoma-collected-winged-elm-first-work-t1596.htm
Winged elm

American elm main species on this page:
http://pabonsai.org/exhibits.html

And here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25360950@N06/2820004216

I'm not being combative. I'm trying to dispell the notion that is, unfortunately, very very common among newcomers to bonsai that chinese elms are great subjects for indoor locations. They really aren't. They don't perform nearly as well, tend to die after a few years (how long have you had them inside?), and generally don't live up to their great potential. Ficus and other tropicals used to lower light and drier conditions are much more adaptable to indoor culture--a quick query to Jerry Meislik will probably confirm that.

After having grown chinese elms both inside and outside, I found the differences between the two locations as different as night and day. I also thought my elms did pretty well inside, until I put them outside. The growth I thought was good paled in comparison to the growth they put on outside. The trunk I thought was spectacular inside, looked skinny and rather pathetic compared to the trunk that developed on the same tree in three years outside.
 
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Yamadori

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Rockm, That last link to the Pennsylvania Bonsai show exhibit was really interesting. This is off the thread topic but.... that display is one of a kind. The "moon gate" tokanome lit at night are beautiful. What a classy show!
 

Dav4

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After having grown chinese elms both inside and outside, I found the differences between the two locations as different as night and day. I also thought my elms did pretty well inside, until I put them outside. The growth I thought was good paled in comparison to the growth they put on outside. The trunk I thought was spectacular inside, looked skinny and rather pathetic compared to the trunk that developed on the same tree in three years outside.


QUOTE]

I think this is it in a nutshell. Can you grow certain trees like Chinese Elm indoors...yes, with significant effort. Would the same tree be happier, healthier, and more vigorous if grown outside...absolutely. If you want your trees to be as healthy and vigorous as possible, they need to be outside (this really goes for all trees). In colder climates, they might need significant winter protection, but they will grow better if given a meaningful dormant period and adequate growing conditions are present (light intensity, ambient humidity, ambient temperature, etc.) when they awaken from that dormancy.

Dave
 

Wm Tom Davis

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Yes rockm, I would agree that there is no substitute for actual daylight.
I have been growing my Chinese elms indoors for a couple of years.
I'll continue to share my progresses and failures.
Thanks for your informative remarks.
 

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