Live2explore

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I’m pretty new to bonsai, have Experience with plants and “full” size trees from growing food to landscaping and lawn care. I have about 6 bonsai and I just picked up this old elm ( nursery estimated it around 100years old) for a great price, they said it has been declining over the last few years. I’m looking for any tips to help get it back to full health. It has new growth coming in on it. Ive pulled all the stuff around it. Is it ok to repot this late? Or should I wait till winter? After 3hrs of removing all the fern and weeds I can see some of the older roots have rot looks like it’s been holding water around the trunk. I pulled some of the “muck” back let it dry over night a bit. Looks like the last repot was from garden soil to bonsai soil without removing all the garden soil off the root ball. This is where it looks like it has been holding water . Thanks I’m advanced.
 

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leatherback

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In my garden this would indeed be repotted. But if you are new to bonsai, maybe seek some help.

Do not go to the nursery where you bought this. First, I cannot believe they told you this is 100 years old. Secondly, if they have trees of which they think they are 100-years, which are unhealthy and declining "over years" it is not the place to go for advice / trees
 

Live2explore

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In my garden this would indeed be repotted. But if you are new to bonsai, maybe seek some help.

Do not go to the nursery where you bought this. First, I cannot believe they told you this is 100 years old. Secondly, if they have trees of which they think they are 100-years, which are unhealthy and declining "over years" it is not the place to go for advice / trees
He said he wasn’t sure. But what he guessed. It it’s a lot bigger then it looks in the pictures . Ive seen 2 that where 40-50 for sale a lot smaller. But I have no clue. But for the price I got it was definitely worth every penny. They got a group of trees from an elderly lady that was no longer able to care for them and this was one of them. She let them go for a few years before she finally realized they where going to die if she didn’t do something with them.
 

Woocash

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Lovely bones on this tree. Has active growth started yet or are they last years leaves? If not in active growth yet then a repot is a great idea.

If you add your location info to your profile then people can much better offer advice suited to where you live.
 

sorce

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That's a lotta weed!

Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
 

Shibui

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Normal Chinese elm can be repotted almost any time of year but Hokkaido seems to be a bit less strong.
In my view if the soil is causing decline it needs to be removed unless you have some way to counteract the problem. Leaving the bad soil will just cause further decline so damned if you do and damned if you don't. You may be able to manage watering and care well enough to nurse the tree through to next winter.
After considering bot sides I would probably repot now but I have no idea of your climate as you have not bothered to give any sort of location in either the post or in your personal profile. The call to repot or not will have to be yours.

I hope you are aware that Hokkaido is EXTREMELY brittle. Branches will drop off if you just brush past the tree. Wiring is next to impossible so clip and grow is used to style and develop branches and ramification.

Mine have a habit of shedding entire branches during winter and early spring. One section will just turn brown and die. So far that has not caused any real problem as the trees are so dense that any spaces are soon filled. Looks like there are a couple of trunks on this one that have died recently. just remove them and work with what's left.

On bonsai ages: I see many trees that are estimated to be 100 years old. Not sure who started growing all those trees in 1920/21 but if all the trees that are estimated to be 100 are that age then he /she was a very busy bonsai pioneer. Have you ever wondered why some are not 90 years? or 110?
While Hokkaido do grow very slow they can put on a fair bit of thickness (much of it is actually the corky bark) One of mine is around 30 years old and around 4-5" thick
 

Bonsai Nut

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nursery estimated it around 100years old

I hate when nurseries do this. First, there is no way this tree is that old. Second, why does it matter?

Hokkaido is the weakest dwarf cultivar of Chinese elm (at least that I am aware of). It is temperamental, and prone to branch die-back. The branches are brittle and hard to wire. That said, it naturally grows in a twisted, gnarled fashion with extremely corky bark. It is probably best to prune for rough shape - but otherwise let the tree do its thing.

You definitely did the right thing by getting all the top growth off the soil. It appears at first pass to be in good soil... but that might just be top dressing or slip-potting. Looking closely at the photos, it appears that the tree might actually be sitting in a core of old, mostly organic soil. I would gently remove the tree from the pot, and inspect the roots. If the roots are weak, or if the tree is badly pot-bound, or if it has old soil directly under the trunk due to poor repotting skills, you will need to repot... but be careful about being too aggressive. I would try to remove all the old soil while trying to not damage any of the roots (easier said than done) and without removing much of the old root mass.
 

Live2explore

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I hate when nurseries do this. First, there is no way this tree is that old. Second, why does it matter?

Hokkaido is the weakest dwarf cultivar of Chinese elm (at least that I am aware of). It is temperamental, and prone to branch die-back. The branches are brittle and hard to wire. That said, it naturally grows in a twisted, gnarled fashion with extremely corky bark. It is probably best to prune for rough shape - but otherwise let the tree do its thing.

You definitely did the right thing by getting all the top growth off the soil. It appears at first pass to be in good soil... but that might just be top dressing or slip-potting. Looking closely at the photos, it appears that the tree might actually be sitting in a core of old, mostly organic soil. I would gently remove the tree from the pot, and inspect the roots. If the roots are weak, or if the tree is badly pot-bound, or if it has old soil directly under the trunk due to poor repotting skills, you will need to repot... but be careful about being too aggressive. I would try to remove all the old soil while trying to not damage any of the roots (easier said than done) and without removing much of the old root mass.
Yeah it looks like the last repot was from garden soil to bonsai without getting it off the root ball. It looks to be holding a bit of moisture there looks to be some root rot, I pulled back what I could while pulling the fern sand weeds and replaced with the nonorganic soil in the pot.
Normal Chinese elm can be repotted almost any time of year but Hokkaido seems to be a bit less strong.
In my view if the soil is causing decline it needs to be removed unless you have some way to counteract the problem. Leaving the bad soil will just cause further decline so damned if you do and damned if you don't. You may be able to manage watering and care well enough to nurse the tree through to next winter.
After considering bot sides I would probably repot now but I have no idea of your climate as you have not bothered to give any sort of location in either the post or in your personal profile. The call to repot or not will have to be yours.

I hope you are aware that Hokkaido is EXTREMELY brittle. Branches will drop off if you just brush past the tree. Wiring is next to impossible so clip and grow is used to style and develop branches and ramification.

Mine have a habit of shedding entire branches during winter and early spring. One section will just turn brown and die. So far that has not caused any real problem as the trees are so dense that any spaces are soon filled. Looks like there are a couple of trunks on this one that have died recently. just remove them and work with what's left.

On bonsai ages: I see many trees that are estimated to be 100 years old. Not sure who started growing all those trees in 1920/21 but if all the trees that are estimated to be 100 are that age then he /she was a very busy bonsai pioneer. Have you ever wondered why some are not 90 years? or 110?
While Hokkaido do grow very slow they can put on a fair bit of thickness (much of it is actually the corky bark) One of mine is around 30 years old and around 4-5" thick
I am in north Georgia USA,
Lovely bones on this tree. Has active growth started yet or are they last years leaves? If not in active growth yet then a repot is a great idea.

If you add your location info to your profile then people can much better offer advice suited to where you live.
yes it has active growth from this year.
 
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Colorado

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I hate when nurseries do this. First, there is no way this tree is that old. Second, why does it matter?

Hokkaido is the weakest dwarf cultivar of Chinese elm (at least that I am aware of). It is temperamental, and prone to branch die-back. The branches are brittle and hard to wire. That said, it naturally grows in a twisted, gnarled fashion with extremely corky bark. It is probably best to prune for rough shape - but otherwise let the tree do its thing.

You definitely did the right thing by getting all the top growth off the soil. It appears at first pass to be in good soil... but that might just be top dressing or slip-potting. Looking closely at the photos, it appears that the tree might actually be sitting in a core of old, mostly organic soil. I would gently remove the tree from the pot, and inspect the roots. If the roots are weak, or if the tree is badly pot-bound, or if it has old soil directly under the trunk due to poor repotting skills, you will need to repot... but be careful about being too aggressive. I would try to remove all the old soil while trying to not damage any of the roots (easier said than done) and without removing much of the old root mass.

Completely agree - if you do repot, I would focus on removing the old soil very carefully and not CUT the roots unless they were already damaged by the soil removal. The tree is completely leafed out and well past the ideal repotting window.

If the drainage isn’t too bad, I might wait until next year so you can do a proper repot. Maybe this isn’t an option, though.
 

BrianBay9

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One other note. Like all corked bark varieties, the bark can be very delicate. When you repot, try not to hold or pull the tree by the trunk. You may break off much of the corked bark, and that bark is a large part of the charm of the tree. Try to handle it by the root ball, and maybe gently by the upper portion of some of the more substantial limbs.
 

penumbra

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On bonsai ages: I see many trees that are estimated to be 100 years old. Not sure who started growing all those trees in 1920/21 but if all the trees that are estimated to be 100 are that age then he /she was a very busy bonsai pioneer. Have you ever wondered why some are not 90 years? or 110?
This is also a common misrepresentation thought the antique and art market.
 

Live2explore

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This is also a common misrepresentation thought the antique and art market.
It was more of his guess then anything. I didn’t purchase based on age. Was just a question that came up in our conversation. I purchased a couple from them and was just curious as to what
I hate when nurseries do this. First, there is no way this tree is that old. Second, why does it matter?

Hokkaido is the weakest dwarf cultivar of Chinese elm (at least that I am aware of). It is temperamental, and prone to branch die-back. The branches are brittle and hard to wire. That said, it naturally grows in a twisted, gnarled fashion with extremely corky bark. It is probably best to prune for rough shape - but otherwise let the tree do its thing.

You definitely did the right thing by getting all the top growth off the soil. It appears at first pass to be in good soil... but that might just be top dressing or slip-potting. Looking closely at the photos, it appears that the tree might actually be sitting in a core of old, mostly organic soil. I would gently remove the tree from the pot, and inspect the roots. If the roots are weak, or if the tree is badly pot-bound, or if it has old soil directly under the trunk due to poor repotting skills, you will need to repot... but be careful about being too aggressive. I would try to remove all the old soil while trying to not damage any of the roots (easier said than done) and without removing much of the old root mass.
how old would you guess it is? Just curious, the truck is about 5 1/2 inches wide. and he didn’t sell it with an age in the “Description” it came up as a question I asked after I purchased it. The nursery I got it from has a great reputation and where very helpful. And as you said it doesn’t really matter, but still nice to have an idea.
 

River's Edge

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I would try to remove all the old soil while trying to not damage any of the roots (easier said than done) and without removing much of the old root mass.
This is the best advice. Hokkaido are prone to rot and it is important that the roots not stay in highly water retentive soil. The repot ws probably just incomplete and the core compacted area left toot long. This is the most common problem for Hokkaido Elm that leads to their decline. That and their very brittle branches and tendency to lose a branch when the roots are declining! Had the same issue with mine when it was acquired.
 

River's Edge

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can these be bare rooted?
They can with care, rinse carefully, cut fewer roots and repack with free draining soil carefully! Like most techniques if done correctly, works fine with elm. The key is to keep the roots in a healthy environment, more frequent repotting with younger trees 1-2 years, older specimens 3-4 years.
Important to always remove any dead or rotted roots each time repotted.
 

BobbyLane

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I hate when nurseries do this. First, there is no way this tree is that old. Second, why does it matter?

Hokkaido is the weakest dwarf cultivar of Chinese elm (at least that I am aware of). It is temperamental, and prone to branch die-back. The branches are brittle and hard to wire. That said, it naturally grows in a twisted, gnarled fashion with extremely corky bark. It is probably best to prune for rough shape - but otherwise let the tree do its thing.

You definitely did the right thing by getting all the top growth off the soil. It appears at first pass to be in good soil... but that might just be top dressing or slip-potting. Looking closely at the photos, it appears that the tree might actually be sitting in a core of old, mostly organic soil. I would gently remove the tree from the pot, and inspect the roots. If the roots are weak, or if the tree is badly pot-bound, or if it has old soil directly under the trunk due to poor repotting skills, you will need to repot... but be careful about being too aggressive. I would try to remove all the old soil while trying to not damage any of the roots (easier said than done) and without removing much of the old root mass.
probably just wanted to sell it quickly. 'how old is it' is usually the first question newbies ask
 

River's Edge

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They can with care, rinse carefully, cut fewer roots and repack with free draining soil carefully! Like most techniques if done correctly, works fine with elm. The key is to keep the roots in a healthy environment, more frequent repotting with younger trees 1-2 years, older specimens 3-4 years.
Important to always remove any dead or rotted roots each time repotted.
Mine was ready to do by chance so here is a couple of photos! Just starting to leaf out, still risk of frost here so will keep in greenhouse for
a bit.
aIMG_0513.JPGIMG_0514.JPGIMG_0522.JPG
 

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