Young Jacqueline Hillier (Elm) Already Struggling

ShortTree

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Hello all!

I'm a noob in the Twin Cities (Zone 4b). Just purchased my first two young trees for bonsai a month ago (Ficus and miniature Elm). But both seem to already be struggling even though I haven't done anything to them yet (other than possibly overwatering/underwatering or giving them too much/too little light).

This one is the Elm, a Jacqueline Hillier. It had a bunch of little leaves all along its branches when I bought it, but many of them have shriveled up to nothing very quickly.

All I care about at this point is keeping it healthy and getting it growing. This will be an indoor tree. I have south-facing windows and some LED grow lights, if needed.

Any general advice to not instantly kill this little guy? Should I be hitting it with as much light as possible? Should I get it into another pot with very specific soil? Or just be patient for now?

Thanks much!
 

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Cofga

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This is not an indoor plant. It can take zone 5 conditions so might be marginal in your 4b setting. But is needs full sun and a change of seasons including a winter chill period. You maybe able to get it through the winters by keeping it in a shed or an unheated garage. You are killing it if you are keeping it inside. In the future when you purchase a plant do a quick internet search to see what kinds of conditions it requires.
 

ShortTree

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This is not an indoor plant. It can take zone 5 conditions so might be marginal in your 4b setting. But is needs full sun and a change of seasons including a winter chill period. You maybe able to get it through the winters by keeping it in a shed or an unheated garage. You are killing it if you are keeping it inside. In the future when you purchase a plant do a quick internet search to see what kinds of conditions it requires.
Hi Cofga,

I'm not sure what to make of that as, A) I bought the tree from a local nursery, and B) I know multiple people here in town who have houses chock full of exotic plants that are positively equatorial—far from loving zone 4b. If a large(ish) palm tree or meyer lemon tree can thrive in a Minneapolis living room with good light, why can't a little Elm?
 

Cofga

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Did the local nursery tell you the tree was a tropical house plant or that it would survive in your house? What this comes down to is biology. Some plants, called tropicals make good house plants and need temps above about 60 degrees to survive. I have a brazilian raintree bonsai that would be dead if I left it out past October in my zone 7a weather so I have to mvoe it inside for the winter. Other plants have evolved in temperate conditions, and others in the far north. Because of this they require different conditions to survive. Temperate zone plants require a certain period of rest in winter during which they are subjected to a certain number of hours in the 32-45 degree range. If they don’t get this they will die. Maybe not the first year but in a year or two. They also need a certain amount of light, your elm needs 6-8 hours of full, unfiltered, direct sunlight every day, it won’t get that in your house. And it definitely won’t get it’s chill hour requirement unless you put it in the refrigerator. Our local arboretum actually has a large cold room for wintering some of their special bonsai and some folks have an old refrigerator where they keep theirs in winter. I suggest you do some reading about how to grow plants and what their requirements are before you buy more. And remember that salespeople make commissions by selling you plants, some of them don’t care whether you kill it or not. I’m not saying your nursery did that but it really is up to you to learn something about plants before you start buying them, if for no other reason than you at least know which questions to ask at the nursery.
 
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ShortTree

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Did the local nursery tell you the tree was a tropical house plant or that it would survive in your house? What this comes down to is biology. Some plants, called tropicals make good house plants and need temps above about 60 degrees to survive. I have a brazilian raintree binsai that would be dead if I left it out past October in my zone 7a weather so I have to mvoe it inside for the winter. Others have evolved in temperate conditions, and others in the far north. Because of this they require different conditions to survive. Temperate zone plants require a certain period of rest in winter during which they are subjected to a certain number of hours in the 32-45 degree range. If they don’t get this they will die. Maybe not the first year but in a year or two. They also need a certain amount of light, your elm neds 6-8 hours of full, unfiltered, direct sunlight every day, it won’t get that in your house. And it definitely won’t get it’s chill hour requirement unless you put it in the refrigerator. Our local arboretum actually has a large cold room for wintering some of their special bonsai and some folks have an old refrigerator where they keep theirs in winter. I suggest you do some reading about how to grow plants and what their requirements are before you buy more. And remember that salespeople make commissions by selling you plants, some of them don’t care whether you kill it or not. I’m not saying your nursery did that but it really is up to you to learn something about plants before you start buying them, if for no other reason than you at least know which questions to ask at the nursery.
As I mentioned, I have grow lights, which I had assumed could sufficiently boost the natural light I already get from my south-facing windows. I also have a fully-enclosed porch, which I don't usually heat at all during the winter, but could, just enough to control whatever temps wintering bonsai plants would need (I also assumed this little guy wouldn't survive -20 degrees outdoors in February). I'm definitely new to this, but it's not like I've given it zero thought.

Apparently having an Elm bonsai tree in Minnesota is simply impossible though.
 

Wulfskaar

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I think what many people do is keep it outside to let it breathe and grow until the super cold part of winter and then they put it in their bright, south-facing windows. That's what I would probably do.
 

sorce

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Just forget ole Jackie H and get a REAL elm!

Welcome to Crazy!

I believe we assume tropicals thrive in MN living rooms, till we go to the jungle and see what thrive is.

Sorce
 

Agriff

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Where did you get your hands on one of those @ShortTree ? I am also a Minneapolitan noob and bought one of those for my first trees. It was from the Friends plant sale and I think it's already dead, so I'd like to redeem myself. Have you joined the Minnesota Bonsai Society yet?
 

AlainK

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In "zone" 8-9, they don't mind staying outside all year long.
The cultivar is from a British nursery, they have winters there, milder than in Michigan of Minesota of course, but it's definitely an "outdoor" tree.
Of course, it needs protection when in a shallow pot, like some mulch above the soil, but if you can't keep it outside in your location, maybe that's not a good candidate for bonsai where you live ;) .
Here, with the ones I have, or had, the problem is more how not to have them fry in global warming when they're in a small pot (32.2°C today, wow...)
 

Tums

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As I mentioned, I have grow lights, which I had assumed could sufficiently boost the natural light I already get from my south-facing windows. I also have a fully-enclosed porch, which I don't usually heat at all during the winter, but could, just enough to control whatever temps wintering bonsai plants would need (I also assumed this little guy wouldn't survive -20 degrees outdoors in February). I'm definitely new to this, but it's not like I've given it zero thought.

Apparently having an Elm bonsai tree in Minnesota is simply impossible though.
The porch overwintering sounds like a better idea than keeping it indoors all the time.
 

AlainK

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I have grow lights, which I had assumed could sufficiently boost the natural light

Do as you please, but to me a "bonsai" is a tree that can grow in your natural environment without led-lights, central heating and loads of chemicals. Minimum winter protection, OK, but I think it's a vain attempt to make a tree that is only kept in artificial conditions a "nice bonsai".

But you can grow Ficus (the kind that stay outside all year-long in southern China or Vietnam), or even try Premna Serratifolia : Robert Steven has awesome specimens, but who else outside where he lives ? To what result ?...

The kind of "ordinary" ficus bonsai you can find in China (first result from Google, apart from the ads) :


It's about the same with other species like "native" Ulmus.
 

ShortTree

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Where did you get your hands on one of those @ShortTree ? I am also a Minneapolitan noob and bought one of those for my first trees. It was from the Friends plant sale and I think it's already dead, so I'd like to redeem myself. Have you joined the Minnesota Bonsai Society yet?
Hi Agriff,

I got mine at the Friends sale. too! Also got a Willow Fig Ficus.

So, this afternoon I put both the Elm and the Ficus outside. We'll see if I can get them to pep up. And I'll still stick with trying to winter them on the porch.

I have not joined the MN Bonsai Society yet. But that certainly seems like the thing to do. There's not as much info online as I'd like for bonsai folks in our climate.
 

Wulfskaar

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Hi Agriff,

I got mine at the Friends sale. too! Also got a Willow Fig Ficus.

So, this afternoon I put both the Elm and the Ficus outside. We'll see if I can get them to pep up. And I'll still stick with trying to winter them on the porch.

I have not joined the MN Bonsai Society yet. But that certainly seems like the thing to do. There's not as much info online as I'd like for bonsai folks in our climate.
I think you've come to the right place. I know there are people here from MN and surrounding states that have had success and most of them are willing to help.

Hopefully you post some updates down the road!
 

Carol 83

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Hi Agriff,

I got mine at the Friends sale. too! Also got a Willow Fig Ficus.

So, this afternoon I put both the Elm and the Ficus outside. We'll see if I can get them to pep up. And I'll still stick with trying to winter them on the porch.

I have not joined the MN Bonsai Society yet. But that certainly seems like the thing to do. There's not as much info online as I'd like for bonsai folks in our climate.
Welcome! Unless it's heated, a Willow Leaf is not going to make it on a porch in MN for the winter. It will enjoy being outside for the summer/fall though.
 

ShortTree

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I think you've come to the right place. I know there are people here from MN and surrounding states that have had success and most of them are willing to help.

Hopefully you post some updates down the road!
Thanks. The adventure begins…
 

Agriff

Mame
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Hi Agriff,

I got mine at the Friends sale. too! Also got a Willow Fig Ficus.

So, this afternoon I put both the Elm and the Ficus outside. We'll see if I can get them to pep up. And I'll still stick with trying to winter them on the porch.

I have not joined the MN Bonsai Society yet. But that certainly seems like the thing to do. There's not as much info online as I'd like for bonsai folks in our climate.
Dope!! Welcome to the hobby =D You should definitely join the club, it's super active and the bonsai basics workshops are an invaluable resource. I feel you on finding info for 4b, it can be really hard to know what info to trust because chances are they're not writing with our climate in mind.
 

VAFisher

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If I were you guys in zone 4, I would be looking into Black Hills Spruce, Ponderosa Pine and Larch.
 

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