Serissa Problem

spunog

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Hi,

I have a Serissa, 6 years old.

1.)
I have noticed now that one of the main branches has next to no leaves on it. Other areas of the tree has lots of leaves. One of sides of the apex also has very few leaves while the other sides are fine. The bare branch and bare apex are on the same side. Are these branches dead? Am I doing something wrong? I didnt fertilize for the winter but started again last week to see if that will help the bare areas.

There is lots of fresh growth on the other areas of the tree.

2.)

There is a white furry fungus type of thing on the soil of this tree. Whats the deal with that? Will this damage the tree ? Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks

Spunog
 

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rockm

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Your soil is extremely bad and is killing your tree. It is soggy and wet. Bonsai soil should be granular, more akin to kitty litter than to soil.

The white fungus is another sign that the soil is killing roots. It might be rot from dead roots under the surface, or a simple mold that is sustained by the constant wettness.

The best thing to do is an emergency repot of the plant into better bonsai soil.
 

spunog

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Hi,

Ok thanks for the reply.

This is a store bought bonsai, I would have thought they would know what they are doing. I guess they save money on the soil eh? I actually bought some kitty litter for doing my bonsai repotting so I will use a mix of that and some regular bonsai soil.

If I repot now, should I avoid trimming roots completely? Given the lack of foliage on some of the branches.

Thanks,

Spunog.
 

Attila Soos

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Roots that are cleary rotten, need to be trimmed of. Roots that are still alive, to be left alone.

Also, it's important that you keep the plant in a warm environment (and humid, if possible). They need warm temperature, to be able to start growing.
 

rockm

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You don't say where you are located, but if you are in the U.S. DO NOT USE KITTY LITTER. It is very very bad in bonsai soil. I said LIKE kitty litter in texture. Sorry I should have used another term...

Get a bag of decent prepared bonsai soil from a reputable online vendor. Go here to look:
http://bonsainut.com/links/browselinks.php?c=9
Brussels, Dallas Bonsai, BonsaiMonk, and a few others, sell good soil mix. You'll probably only need one bag to repot your tree.
 

jk_lewis

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I would have thought they would know what they are doing.
They do. They're taking your hard earned money. After that tree leaves their shop, they care not what happens to it.
 
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Serissas are semi-tropical and have a dormant period during the winter months. The leaf drop you describe is typical, especially if you have them indoors. I would not re-pot this until mid summer. For now, watch your watering carefully since the soil is very fine and looks like it's retaining water.

Move it outside as soon as danger of frost is over and you will see it regain vigor. Fertilize more frequently as growth increases, re-pot during the warmest summer month and bring it inside again before frost hits in the fall. No matter how good your care during the growing season, serissas look like crap all winter long. That's when most freak out and give up because they don't understand the habit of the tree.

I was given one in 2001 (It's one species I never would have been interested in myself) and I kind of took a liking to it. That one tree became many as I propagated the suckers and took cuttings through the years. Now is about the time they look their worst. Just be observant and have faith they will revive come spring.
 

Mike423

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Rockm is correct I don't care what anyone says DO NOT USE KITTY LITTER. The granules degrade almost instantly upon use making it the same as planting you tree in cement mix. There are many post where people have dove into this subject and as always the result is that Kitty litter is bad (anyone that tells you otherwise doesn't know what they are talking about). If proof is what you need take a glass of water fill 1/3 of it with the kitty litter, and the rest with water. As the water dissolves or is absorbed refill it as needed. Do so for about a week and then check the kitty litter and you will see its consistency is that of mush. Some kitty litter also contains chemicals that in itself will harm or kill your bonsai.

If you are looking for bonsai soil look for an online dealer or check your local nursery. I too have a Serissa and have it in a mostly inorganic high draining soil. Keep in mind that during the colder months when its inside it likes its soil to stay on the dry side (don't allow it go completely dry). It also should be sitting in a humidity tray or misted (or both). when concerning light, try to place it in a window where it will get the most optimum light exposure. Also in general Serissas don't like to be moved around too much and will protest this by dropping their leaves. That being said if and when you do decide to move it to a new location do so slowly to prevent this.
 

spunog

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Does a humidity tray have to have stones in it? How about if I place the bonsai pot + drip tray in a larger box and fill water to just under the level of the drip tray? Do the stones add a bigger area where the water is in contact with the sides? (Not sure if I'm explaining that very well)

Thanks,

Spunog
 

Bill S

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Don't worry about the Humidity tray, it doesn't accomplish much.

As much as I agree with rockm I'm thinking wait til it warms up and do it in the spring, over watered for some time will rot the roots and do this, just don't go the other way and let it dry out, it will kill it for sure. If you can water it only when it needs it, letting it dry down to just moist(not wet) before watering. If you do the repot now, use a little extra organic matter in the typical bonsai mix, for the extra moisture, but maintain the bonsi soil drainage, I know sound like a contradiction. Some chopped up long fiber spaghnum moss will work well, but top dress the soil so that the moss isn't sitting out on top of the soil(it dries out like a wick).
 

treebeard55

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Spunog, I've seen crocuses in bloom and daffodils pushing up in late February in Ireland. So spring may have arrived for you, which makes moot the question of "waiting for spring."

And I would repot now, if you haven't already. No offense to Greg intended, but I'm bothered by the fact that one large part of the tree is affected and the rest isn't. That doesn't sound like seasonal leaf drop to me; it sounds more like trouble in the root zone.

From the picture, the store soil looks like the bonsai soil from Cromwell's -- well, you get my point. ;) You've been told correctly: you need something porous, granular, that retains some moisture but lets excess water drain away and air re-infiltrate the root zone.

I've not seen the Tesco brand cat litter, so have no comment on it. It may well be different from the instant-mud sold as cat litter in this country. If other bonsai owners in the Republic and the UK use it and get good results, go with it!

And let me add another voice to what Attila said: remove any roots that are unquestionably dead, but leave the rest strictly alone. Don't even trim the tips, and handle them as gently as you can. Your tree needs all the working roots it has right now!

Slainte to it, in the literal meaning of the word (health.)
 
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rockm

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That doesn't look like "winter leaf drop" to me. It looks like dead roots killing part of the trunk. The uneven sickly green growth adds to that impression.

I'd repot ASAP, removing the perimeter soil on the root mass by about a third, as well as removing obviosly dead roots. Even with that treatment, I'm afraid you have an uphill battle.

Ditto on the humidty tray. They're mostly useless in maintaining humidity and can actually do more harm than good if the water wicks up into the pot (happens when the bottom of the pot touches the surface of the water...
 

spunog

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Update

After repotting the Serissa into good draining Kitty Litter, There was a 100 % drop of foliage. The leaves all blackened and curled up. So I assumed the tree was in the throws of a death rattle. As well as the repotting I also moved the tree into a bright location. There are now tiny green shoots appearing in all areas of the tree. Perhaps there is a chance it will make a recovery now. Fingers and toes crossed.

Thanks for all the advice.

Spunog
 

treebeard55

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Things sound hopeful, to me. That last leaf drop was probably the response of an already-stressed tree to the trauma of repotting. But I think the repotting was worth it! :)

I came across Harry Harrington's little article on Tesco cat litter. He actually considers it superior to akadama! Here's the link, if anyone's interested: <http://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm>.

Now I wish it were practical for my wife to bring back some Tesco cat litter when she goes to Ireland next week!
 

GailOD1

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Humidity Tray

Hi Spunog,

How is that Serissa doing? Did you make any changes, and what was the result? I am amazed you have kept it alive for 6 years. Nice job. Was it thriving with new growth? When was the last time you repotted/trimmed? I see from your posts that you are in Ireland. There is a big difference between Northern and Southern Ireland, and East/West coast as to climate. Do you know your zone? Do you keep your Serissa indoors/occasionally outdoors? I am in Zone 7, fairfax, VA USA. It is (just recently) warm 85 F and humid here in the day, cool 60 F at night. Serissa are an outside plant, so if you are in a similar zone you may want to think about gradually getting that Serissa to accclimate outdoors. My son gifted me with a Serissa, not knowing I have never had luck. Now that I have it outside, it is thriving. Lots of new leaves and buds. I read that they are tolerant of temps up to just above freezing!

PS - humidity trays: pebbles are unnecessary IMHO and can grow fungus etc, at least in my area. I keep my serissa in a small tray inside of a bigger tray. The bigger tray has fresh water every day. I am going to take a picture and post it. You will see I have a tooth pic in the pot - that is a moisture guage. I do not let my serissa get wet feet, it is well drained. Regards,

Gail O'D
 

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spunog

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Unfortunately it didnt pull through :( Ah well, live and learn.
 

GailOD1

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notorious

Better luck next time! Serissa are notoriously difficult to keep alive outside of a greenhouse. When I repot mine it will not be into a bonsai pot. I'll put it into a deeper pot so it can do some real growing. Regards, G
 

treebeard55

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Serissa do have a reputation for being finicky. I'm becoming convinced that one big reason is that they are usually treated as tropicals in the winter. But it's becoming more and more apparent they are in fact warm-temperate shrubs that need, I repeat, need, a winter cold rest for their long-term health.
By "cold," in their case, I mean anywhere from 40 F down to about 25 F (or about 5 C down to about -4 C.) Yes, I have personally overwintered serissas at those temperatures with good results.
 

GailOD1

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cool temps

I think I agree with you. I am going to try to let the Serissa have cool temps this autumn/early winter. I see you are in Zone 5. How do you manage when it goes below 25? Do you have a place where the temps are stable at 25? Thanks. - G
 
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