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dry, dying leaves on brand-new umbrella bonsai

15 years ago

Hello. About 2 weeks I received an umbrella bonsai as a gift by surprise. It saw it was healthy on the top, but many of the leaves at the bottom were dry, shriveled and falling off. I read the plant's instruction pamphlet which told me to water by misting the soil well, and apply mist to the plant often. It also suggested facing southern sunlight, to get plenty of it, and not let temperatures fall below 50 degrees F.

Apparently the person who sold the plant was very concerned about it traveling to my home that day, since the temperatures were in the 20s with high winds. On its journey it was wrapped up well, and had about a 25 minute journey home through the cold. The friend who bought it did not remember seeing dead leaves on it in the store. I wondered if they might have died on the way home in extreme temperatures.

Last week I was on vacation and I had another friend coming over to care for my plants. He was more familiar with bonsais and noticed that the soil was extremely dry so he soaked the pot in water, and said I had not been watering it enough. He also put the tree on a shallow tray of water to maintain humidity. The "soaking" was about 8 days ago and the soil is still moist, so I am guessing the plant isn't drinking much.

When I returned from vacation I saw that new leaves were sprouting on top (and a little growth in other places), while more leaves on the bottom of the plant had died, and are continuing to die. I still have only been misting the plant since it doesn't seem to need a drink (soil is moist), and it is always in a shallow tray of water. My apartment only gets southern light which is quite sparse since an 18 story apartment building is directly to the south. With the winter days I am guessing the tree sees no more than 6 hours of light a day, and many only 3-4 of it direct, if that.

I am hoping for an expert opinion on what I can do, and what may be causing the leaves to shrivel and die. Also, should I should remove the dead leaves or let them fall naturally? My friend already removed most of them. Should I re-pot it and look for rotten roots? The branches where the leaves are dried appear to be brittle and dead too. Should I remove these or give them more time to recover? I have read that pruning in "off-season" for growing may hurt the tree.

Any help is greatly appreciated. Please advise. Thank you!

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