My first Bonsai! Schefflera Aboricola

Sassafras

Seedling
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Hi all!
I was able to go to New England Bonsai over the weekend and found my first tree :D

In my excitement I forgot to take a before pictures, but there are 2 branches and a fair amount of leaves missing now!
It's a Schefflera Aboricola (dwarf I assume, due to the small leaves)

I know it's not perfect, nor was I expecting it to be! Any tips on wiring, and general care tips for this guy are welcome.

Schefflera Aboricola are supposed to be good trees for aerial roots, so I've tried to create a "crawling" effect with them. (Don't worry, there are a bunch of subterranean roots as well).

Thanks for reading!
 

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badatusernames

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Heh, so, my first tip would have been not to trim it til mid summer, unfortunately. Fortunately, schefflera are super forgiving, so depending how MUCH you took it might not be as big of a deal as it would be with pruning at the wrong time for another species.

TBH I would suggest taking the wire off and letting it grow wild, which i know isn't what someone with a new bonsai tree wants to hear. In terms of what you can do, again, I'd take that wire off as it's too tightly and closely wrapped and I don't believe it is good for the tree. You'll want to look up some videos on wiring on YouTube.

If that's the pot it came in, you may want to look at getting it in some free draining soil this summer. That doesn't look like the soil NEBG uses, so I'm curious if you've already put it in a new pot, or if it came that way.

Aerial roots are difficult to encourage around here and I believe it will require some kind of humidity structure around the tree. Looks like what you've done is create neagari, exposed roots from the base, rather than aerial roots coming from the branches. At least I think I'm explaining that right.
 

Sassafras

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Heh, so, my first tip would have been not to trim it til mid summer, unfortunately. Fortunately, schefflera are super forgiving, so depending how MUCH you took it might not be as big of a deal as it would be with pruning at the wrong time for another species.

TBH I would suggest taking the wire off and letting it grow wild, which i know isn't what someone with a new bonsai tree wants to hear. In terms of what you can do, again, I'd take that wire off as it's too tightly and closely wrapped and I don't believe it is good for the tree. You'll want to look up some videos on wiring on YouTube.

If that's the pot it came in, you may want to look at getting it in some free draining soil this summer. That doesn't look like the soil NEBG uses, so I'm curious if you've already put it in a new pot, or if it came that way.

Aerial roots are difficult to encourage around here and I believe it will require some kind of humidity structure around the tree. Looks like what you've done is create neagari, exposed roots from the base, rather than aerial roots coming from the branches. At least I think I'm explaining that right.
Thanks for the quick reply! Neagari is the perfect word for what I'm trying to do actually, I wasn't aware there was a term for it!
I was told that Schefflera's are extremely tough, and actually the words verbatim were "Just try and kill it!". So I'm hoping everything will turn out ;)

It is a new pot, it came in a plastic potter. I put a base of small stones on the base for drainage, and a mix of potting and succulent soil to encourage draining - do you think I should add perlite or something for even more drainage?

I'll venture over to YouTube for some wiring advice, I've heard they are difficult plants to wire, which is why I wanted to start early!
 

badatusernames

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Thanks for the quick reply! Neagari is the perfect word for what I'm trying to do actually, I wasn't aware there was a term for it!
I was told that Schefflera's are extremely tough, and actually the words verbatim were "Just try and kill it!". So I'm hoping everything will turn out ;)

It is a new pot, it came in a plastic potter. I put a base of small stones on the base for drainage, and a mix of potting and succulent soil to encourage draining - do you think I should add perlite or something for even more drainage?

I'll venture over to YouTube for some wiring advice, I've heard they are difficult plants to wire, which is why I wanted to start early!

I can't speak to the impact of repotting a tree twice in one year, or if because you did it so recently it's still "in shock" and it might not be as bad if you did it so recently. My knowledge has lead me to believe repotting twice in one year wouldn't be good.

And yeah, he was right, they're very hardy trees, but you can kill them. I suspect you're fine for the year, just be sure the soil isn't still too wet from last time when you water, and repot next summer into something a bit more free draining. I think your biggest concern for the year would be root rot from too much moisture being held by the soil against the roots, but I know scheffleras can take a good amount of over and under watering as well. It's certainly not as serious as it would be if it were a different species at the very least.

For color, I did a repot of mine mid-winter at possibly the worst time of year because I was sick of fighting the fungus gnats, knew I should have done it last year, and was getting very concerned for the roots. It didn't miss a beat as far as I can tell.
 
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Sassafras

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I can't speak to the impact of repotting a tree twice in one year, or if because you did it so recently it's still "in shock" and it might not be as bad if you did it so recently. My knowledge has lead me to believe repotting twice in one year wouldn't be good.

And yeah, he was right, they're very hardy trees, but you can kill them. I suspect you're fine for the year, just be sure the soil isn't still too wet from last time when you water, and repot next summer into something a bit more free draining. I think your biggest concern for the year would be root rot from too much moisture being held by the soil against the roots, but I know scheffleras can take a good amount of over and under watering as well. It's certainly not as serious as it would be if it were a different species at the very least.

For color, I did a repot of mine mid-winter at possibly the worst time of year because I was sick of fighting the fungus gnats, knew I should have done it last year, and was getting very concerned for the roots. It didn't miss a beat as far as I can tell.
Yeah, definitely not planning on repotting this year. It gets a lot of sun and I've been monitoring the soil to prevent root rot!

Question if you can answer it - I wanted to put a bed of moss over the soil, but I'm not sure how to check on the soil if it's covered, do I just stick a chopstick in the side?

Thanks again!
 

Wulfskaar

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Yeah, definitely not planning on repotting this year. It gets a lot of sun and I've been monitoring the soil to prevent root rot!

Question if you can answer it - I wanted to put a bed of moss over the soil, but I'm not sure how to check on the soil if it's covered, do I just stick a chopstick in the side?

Thanks again!
Last week, I followed some advice to put, and leave, a wooden chopstick in the soil. Pull it out like a dipstick to check if there's enough moisture and then put it back in. I think this has saved me from overwatering because it's wetter under there than I thought.
 

JonW

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Here is a 16-year old PVN-1 from Gary Thompson. This is in the fall - I just brought it outside for summer. The roots will naturally grow in an... interesting... pattern. I actually wire these roots down rather than outwards so they look more natural and add scale: you want it to look big and old - big, old growth is heavy and falls more-so vertical. If you look up neagari, the direction is primary downward with a little movement. Also, that type of soil might be ok over summer while the tree is outdoors (and of course you need to adjust it to full sunlight over the course of a week or two), but it could be a death sentence over winter unless you have lots of light and warmth (more than a window at room temp). I plant mine in mostly pumice (you can see some lava and other stuff in the soil in this pick, but I'm currently using just pumice).

Mine goes outdoors when nights are above 50F. Ideally, repotting and pruning should be done when nights are around 70F, but as long as it's been transitioned outside for a few weeks and you see signs of growth (vigor), it will respond well to work.

I also agree with the suggestion above not to worry about wiring yet. I actually rarely wire this tree. I just use clip-n-grow. For the past few years, I just hard-pruned 1x every summer. I cut back to 1-3 internodes of new growth, using directional pruning. It gained a lot of vigor and I plan on trying to prune 2x this summer (once at the end of summer when there is still time to get a few nodes of compact growth before winter).
IMG_20201129_192004.jpg
 

Sassafras

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Here is a 16-year old PVN-1 from Gary Thompson. This is in the fall - I just brought it outside for summer. The roots will naturally grow in an... interesting... pattern. I actually wire these roots down rather than outwards so they look more natural and add scale: you want it to look big and old - big, old growth is heavy and falls more-so vertical. If you look up neagari, the direction is primary downward with a little movement. Also, that type of soil might be ok over summer while the tree is outdoors (and of course you need to adjust it to full sunlight over the course of a week or two), but it could be a death sentence over winter unless you have lots of light and warmth (more than a window at room temp). I plant mine in mostly pumice (you can see some lava and other stuff in the soil in this pick, but I'm currently using just pumice).

Mine goes outdoors when nights are above 50F. Ideally, repotting and pruning should be done when nights are around 70F, but as long as it's been transitioned outside for a few weeks and you see signs of growth (vigor), it will respond well to work.

I also agree with the suggestion above not to worry about wiring yet. I actually rarely wire this tree. I just use clip-n-grow. For the past few years, I just hard-pruned 1x every summer. I cut back to 1-3 internodes of new growth, using directional pruning. It gained a lot of vigor and I plan on trying to prune 2x this summer (once at the end of summer when there is still time to get a few nodes of compact growth before winter).
View attachment 366124
Oh wow, what a beautiful tree! Would it be too much to swap out the soil for something more drainage-friendly at the end of the summer? I plan on using a grow light in the winter. Thanks for the advice on wiring (or not lol)!
 

LittleDingus

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Be a little patient and you'll soon have too many arabicola to know what to do with!

Here's a thread on mine:


I got 4 new decent sized plants off mine last year by trimming off basically one season's worth of growth!

Your mileage might fall a little shy of that since it sounds like you're in New England (it will help others tailor advice if you update your profile with the nearest metro and your zone). My growing season is likely a bit longer in Missouri than yours. Still, my point is, let some branches extend...it'll help thicken the trunk. When you do prune them, they root pretty readily...

I'm in the "no wire" camp with these. Not that they can't be wired....I just haven't had a need to yet. Shoots will grow in the direction of the bud pretty readily. Twine works well for rigging to pull branches the direction you want. The leaves are incorrigible no matter what you do...they will ALWAYS bend to the light.

Aerial roots only form on old wood. Mine starts to develop aerial roots on year old, barked up, wood.
 

JonW

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Oh wow, what a beautiful tree! Would it be too much to swap out the soil for something more drainage-friendly at the end of the summer? I plan on using a grow light in the winter. Thanks for the advice on wiring (or not lol)!
If you repotted it very recently, you could switch to better soil before the tree puts energy into growing roots into the current soil (ie a week or so). Otherwise, the best time to repot is mid-summer when growing vigorously. If you are planning on doing end of summer, make sure it is early enough that the plant has time to grow some roots because in winter, it won't grow much. If you have good grow lights, temps above 70, etc, you can do this work any time of the year. I thought about getting an HLG 100 and a grow tent for this and maybe a couple other tropical trees, but I'd rather have them on display in my living room in winter - those lights are probably too bright for a living room. Any light that is appropriate for a living room might not be enough light to allow you to do stuff like trim and repot in winter. Timing is key in bonsai - if you prune when the tree is growing strongly and has time to recover, it back-buds and gives you several new shoots. If your timing is off, you get 1 or 2 new shoots (or maybe the branch dies), and those new shoots might not be any better than the one you removed.
 

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