New to tropicals

Adam Maul

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New Jersey
Hi, I'm new here and also new to growing tropical bonsai. This past summer I purchased a ficus and a chinese elm. I have both plants next to windows on my second floor. Both plants are losing their leaves at an alarming rate. I'm not sure if this is normal or not? I have the heat vent in that room closed so it doesn't blow directly on the plants(the temp in the room is about 67 degrees all the time) and I have made sure not to over or under water them so I'm a little concerned. Any ideas?
Hi Adam; welcome to the site!

Tropicals (particularly ficus species) will drop leaves in a response to changes in their environment, especially light intensity and humidity. Make sure to keep the area as humid as possible (consider a humidifier during the winter or a humidity tray) and mist the leaves. My chinese elms are left outdoors all year (in Southern California) and they drop all their leaves for about 1-2 months. The ficus do not - but they stop growing until the weather starts to warm up again.
The light is an issue for the ficus, probably more so than the humidity, although if your heat is on it is dry, so unless you were checking the soil for moisture, you vary well could have been drying too much. Keep an eye on the soil, now that it has dropped leaves (more to follow probably) it will use water more slowly so keep an eye on that.

In the window is less light than these need, try to find a way to put the tree under a florescent fixture for 12 to 16 hours a day, timers work well for this part. If they all drop, just keep the soil evenly just moist until you can get it outside in the spring, it can take quite some time at this time of year to regrow leaves, even under lights.

On the window sill is probably more like 60 degrees, regardless of what the thermometer says, unless it is in/on the tree or pot, trops on a winter window sill are less than happy, try it yourself, it is colder on that sill than most of the room.
Thanks for the help. I borrowed a humidifier yesterday from a friend and today i'm going to pick up a couple of lights. I hope it does the trick.
Hi Adam,
One thing not yet mentioned. The Chinese Elm is not a tropical, they benefit from going through seasonal changes. Mine stay out year round with all my other D trees. They go through color change in fall just like maples and hornbeams. I had some great orange yellow & burgundy colors on mine this year.

Hope this helps,

Bob O
If your elm has not been outside this fall, it's best to keep inside this winter. It has had no time to prepare for winter. If you plunk it outside now, it will die.
Thanks for the help both plants are looking much better and the elm already has new growth.
One other thing that I didn't see mentioned that would effect the ficus more than the elm (I think) would be being too close to a cold window frame which causes a cold draft. I am not certain where you live, but in Colorado where I am this is an issue. I move my ficus about 18 inches - 2 feet from the windows during the cold months if I can.
Thanks madoherty, it is close to a window but not up against it for that exact reason.
I gave my parents a ficus, and I swear you just cant kill the thing. They live in upstate New York, and the tree has survived outdoors for most of the year. It was only brought indoors during the late fall. It's been next to north facing window and it seems to be doing fine.

When is a good time to repot ficus?
Ficus should be outside in full sun from late spring to late summer. This gives them a break to recuperate from overwintering indoors.

Repotting on ficus should be done in high summer--the hotter the better. The heat and humidity help them bounce back quickly.
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