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callygirl085

Newbie with a Bonsai

callygirl085
17 years ago

Hi All, I just got a brush cherry bonsai at a local nursery and would like all the help I can get. First of all I bought a different pot for it and would like to repot it. The problem is I'm not sure what kind of soil to get or make, it looks like it's potted in regular potting soil which I know is wrong. Also, can this kind of bonsai survive indoors or should I keep it outdoors? I already plan on keeping it outdoors during the summer, but the winters here can get down to 20-30 degrees. Also, what kind of lighting does it need and how wet should the soil be? I've looked online and have gotten conflicting information. If you could help me out that would be great.

Thanks everyone!!

Comments (25)

  • lucy
    17 years ago

    It's definitely an 'indoor' (sub-tropical) tree - look under Eugenia for more info., and would have to live inside, but with a humidity tray (full of stones and water that never touches the pot bottom) underneath, and really high sun for many hours a day. Don't rush to repot yet as keeping it alive now is more important, but when you do, make sure a lot of the mix is gritty and not full of peat. Water only when most of the soil has dried now, but once it's in a better mix (in a couple of months) then you need to check daily to see how it's doing water-wise.

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Thanks Lucy, will a plant lamp work in the winter?? Since it rains alot here? Also, even though it's in regular potting soil I shouldn't repot it?? I thought it was deadly for bonsai to be in that kind of soil.

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  • lucy
    17 years ago

    A plant grow lamp depends on what you mean by that- how bright is it, how many lumens does it give out (10,000-12,000 are good and wattage can be deceptive. Don't use incandescents as they're not very suitable and do keep the tree 4-6 inches away from the light if you get full spectrum fluorescents (usually the best and most affordable way to go). Even good bonsai soil can be deadly if you don't water properly, but if you're very careful now to only water when most of the soil you have has gotten dry, you should be o.k. for a while. It's always a toss-up as to which is more stressful, leaving a plant in what it's used to, or moving it into an entirely new mix.

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Thanks for all the help. I've been doing as you suggest. I'm going to try and get a lamp as soon as possible, since it's been raining and there is NO sun. Also, do you know if a brush cherry is toxic for pets?? I've looked online to no avail.

  • lucy
    17 years ago

    I'm not aware that it's any more toxic than any other plant - certainly I haven't heard anything serious about it (as I have about a few other obvious ones like datura, dieffenbachia, etc.).

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Called poison control and they say it's not toxic. Yay!! I'm happy.

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    I've been looking online and have found a "dayspot bulb" would that be good to use?? Also, I'm wondering exactly what type of soil I should get. I know you said it needed grit but I'm not sure what I should get. Should I order some subtropical soil mix online, or should I mix my own? And if I do what should I use? I know I'm asking alot of questions. Sorry it's the newbie in me. I don't want to kill it. Also, when exactly should I repot it, I know that I should in the spring but I'm not sure when.

  • lucy
    17 years ago

    Questions are good... a lot better than "I just bought a tropical tree, cut all the roots off, put wire on all the branches, planted it in clay and put it outside in the snow - do you think it will live?"!
    I use a lot of the very small, glassy looking (vs painted) aquarium 'gravel' in mixes for fast drainage, plus a little compost, and see if you can find some kind of soil at a garden ctre that's NOT all peat... read the fine print, or ask the hortic. people working there for a coarse type with larger particles that drains fast, unless you have a bonsai place around that sells a readymade mix (to which I'd still add some grit). Online stuff is iffy unless you know who you're getting it from. Put it out in summer by all means, it'll love you for it, though you'll have to stay on top of watering there as it'll dry much faster. Don't know anything about a day spot bulb... does it say it's a 'daylight' one (which is good) or give the wattage, or lumen output?

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Yes it says it's a full spectrum daylight incandescent bulb. I could get a 60w or a 150w which says both should put out over 3000 lumens. I know it's alot less than you said, but I live in a small apartment and can't have one of those big hanging ones. Does that seem to be ok? or should I look for something better?

  • lucy
    17 years ago

    The 150w one should be great - no more than 6": from the tree for 14 hrs/day.

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    HELP!!! now that I have the light on it I see that the leaves are wilting and some look shriveled up. I did as you suggested for watering. Only watering once every 3-4 days and only if the top 1/2 was completly dry. Now there are dry shriveled up leaves in alot of places. When I first got it I pinched all the dead foliage off it so I know it's new. Also I have pics but not sure how to put them on here. Any suggestions??

  • lucy
    17 years ago

    Cally I said to water when MOST of the soil was dry, not the top 1/2(inch?). I also said to set up a humidity tray. If the light's too strong (maybe not yet acclimatized to it) move it away a few inches.

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    I just put the bonsai under the light today since I just got it. So it wasn't because of the light. Also, I meant 1/2 of the soil was dry, sometimes all the way dry (the bottom was only a little moist) not a 1/2 inch. Now I'm still looking for a humidity tray. Does it have to be a specific kind or can I use an old baking sheet??

  • lucy
    17 years ago

    Sometimes a 'little' water isn't a bad thing if lower soil is still damp, but new roots near the top need a drink - try it. And a baking sheet's the right idea, but has such short sides you'd be replacing water every 2 hrs! There's no specific kind otherwise. For one plant, a big ugly plastic drip saucer for big pots (like those used in offices or something) is good short term because they tend to have high sides, but make sure the stones keep the pot above water, and that the tray's as wide as the foliage spreads.

  • me-2
    17 years ago

    I just bought a bonsai tree and did not like the look of the soil. I had bought some peat free soil and was wondering is this good for the tree. I'm keeping it inside until I can find out what type of tree it is.

    I also have something called Bonsai Food Concentrate. Have you heard anything about this. I'm not sure if this will help or hurt my tree.

    Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.

  • lucy
    17 years ago

    Until you know what the tree is, I would do nothing to it one way or the other - can you post a picture (either here on this forum's gallery or use Photobucket, etc.? If you don't know what you have, you can't possibly take care of it properly.

  • gabro14
    17 years ago

    Hi Me-2. I know nothing about bonsai but find it very interesting, so I am always lurking around here. Anyway, I noticed you left 2 posts on 2 older threads. Just wanted to let you know you'd have better luck if you posted your own new thread when you have a question. Best of luck with your bonsai. I saw a picture of it in the other post and it looks like it has great potential...nice thick trunk.
    Gabi

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Ok it's official, I killed my first bonsai. I guess even after getting it out of the nasty soil it was in it was too far gone. Any suggestions on some beginner bonsai would be great. I've been looking online at some Japanese Maples, but I'm not sure if that would be too over my head. I definitly have learned from this experience. If any one can help me that would be great. Thanks.

  • tanyag
    17 years ago

    For indoors, you can stick to the tropicals. If you have a window to put it in, go with Ficus. I have a benjamina and a retusa that have been indoors for over a year and very happy. I also have a jade (crassula ovata), although many snub them as bonsai because they are difficult to wire and shape into anything other than upright and maybe broom style. I shape mine with pruning and keep the leaves small with defoliation of the leaves. Jade likes to be outdoors in the summer, and for that matter, so does ficus. I still keep mine indoors. I am starting a ilex vomitoria (dwarf yaupon holly) and a juniper that will live outdoors. They won't survive indoors. I am also trying an ivy. I know it is possible to get woody stems on them, so I have one stem growing, but I think it's going to take a while. I've only been at this for two years. I've killed two-a juniper because I tried it indoors against many's advice, and a Fukien Tea because I neglected to keep the soil moist. FT will also do well indoors I believe. I'd like another, but haven't found any at our local nurseries yet. Good luck and don't give up.

  • hawkja
    17 years ago

    Cally.
    Here is one way to tell why your first bonsai died: from overwatering or under. Root rot takes a long time to kill a plant, somewhat like a slow death akin to cancer. If the roots dried out it will take just a matter of days to lose your plant: a quick death like a cardiac arrest.
    Look at the condition of the roots. If they turn dark and appear smelly (putrifaction) then it is root rot. If they retain their natural grey color, they have been starved of water from underwatering.
    In more cases I believe that bonsai plants died from underwatering than overwatering, especially if they are tropicals like ficus.

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Tanyag,
    Thanks for the advice. I'll be moving soon to a place with a backyard, so I can have my bonsai outside so thats not a problem. I'll look into your suggestions.

    Hawkja,
    I know my problem was underwatering. I found after I repotted that the glued on rocks I pryed off when I got it made the top of the soil like cement. It seemed to wet the whole plant but all it did was wet the top and the sides. The water never made it to the roots below. When I repotted I found the center to be all dryed up peat. I wish I went with my gut and repotted right away instead of waiting. I won't make that mistake again. Do you have any suggestions on to what kind of bonsai would be good for beginners??

    Thanks for all your help.

  • hawkja
    17 years ago

    Hi, Cally.
    What types of plants are good for beginners? Certainly those that don't cost too much. So start with a 2-4 year old (smaller plants). For family varieties, you can choose ficus, styrax like the Japanee snowbell, cornus like the Cornellian Cherry and acer like the vine maple and a variety of fruit trees.
    I like the flowering or fruit trees as you can display the various forms of bonsai as well as flowers and fruits in their season. I would recommend a small snowbell and if you can get hold of one with red flowers, then you have a rare and beautiful speciment.

  • callygirl085
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Thanks for your suggestions hawkja, I'll look into them.

  • concertgrandsteinway
    16 years ago

    I have a flowering bonsai that I just bought and it's flowers have started to shrivel and or fall of. What is causing this? What can I do to stop this?

  • lucy
    16 years ago

    Please start your own thread - a new posting (no one is going to look at this old one, for starters!) and give the name of your tree, and how much sun it gets, how often you water and the method used, what kind of soil mix it's in (if you can tell by looking), whether it lives outdoors or not and what approx. area of the world you're in (which matters).

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